A Journey into the ‘Unknown’
Just 400km off Darwin, Timor-Leste (Timor) is one of Australia’s closest neighbouring countries, most Australians couldn’t even place it on a map.
The InsideOut team was in this category up until a few weeks ago when I embarked on an unforgettable journey into the ‘unknown’.
Before delving into more details about why we went, you should know a few things about Timor…
Firstly, if you’re looking for a five star, beachfront, cocktails by the pool kind of holiday then this isn’t the place.
Secondly, don’t think you will be able to get your way around the country on your own, the roads are shocking! You should look into hiring a Timorese driver that knows where half the road has fallen down the cliff, how to manoeuvre around a water buffalo and how to successfully drive through shallow rivers.
Finally, as soon as you step out of the plane and onto the tarmac expect the unexpected, you will experience something unlike any other country.
You are still probably thinking, how is this relevant to Public Relations and why did we go?
Well, Timor is a country of 1.2 million people and has an infant and maternal death rate that is the highest in South East Asia and the Pacific
Curable and treatable diseases are among the leading causes of death, with an average life expectancy in Timor of 56 years, compared with 82 years in Australia. The current total healthcare budget of Timor-Leste, including all related services, amounts to 10 cents each person, per day.
The purpose of the trip was to film a documentary and create marketing materials to raise funds for Bairo Pite Hospital. This Hospital was constructed in 1999 by a talented and inspirational man, Dr Dan Murphy who came to Timor with an aim to contribute to reducing human suffering.
Dr Murphy has committed his life to building and developing this Hospital and has made a significant impact to the Timorese community over the last decade.
Last year an Australian not-for-profit organisation made an agreement with Dan Murphy to turn Bairo Pite Clinic into Bairo Pite Hospital. The long term vision is to raise funds to build a Hospital – and this is where we stepped in and agreed to do what we do best, make them known to the public!
With a team of four consisting of people in the Public Relations and film-making industries, we embarked on a journey into the unknown. Spending seven unforgettable days in the hospital, conducting patient case studies, following ward rounds, interviewing staff and playing with the children, was emotionally challenging.
This was heightened by the fact that we were coming from Australia, a country that has one of the top rated health care systems in the world. Comparing our resources to the hospital in Timor-Leste, where they don’t even have minimal resources such as pain killers and x-ray machines, is frustrating!
50 hours of footage later, we decided it was time to discover Timor in all its forms. With our trusty driver, Afonso, we retreated to the opposite end of Timor, Jaco Island for four remarkable days.
During the drive we experienced a combination of Indonesian rice paddocks, African Water Buffalos and villages with houses made of bamboo. The locals were stunned to see foreigners in their villages, especially when we played a few games of soccer with them along the way.
Arriving at Jaco Island, we were given one of the bamboo huts to rest our heads at night. These huts had no doors, no fresh water and squatting toilets – an enjoyable challenge of moving back to basics.
The crystal clear water, freshly caught fish for dinner and an isolated island made Jaco Island one of the most magical places in the world.
We were sad to leave a country that had such a huge impact on us – with such beautiful people and such magnificent surroundings, we made a deal to come back and do it all again next year.
The documentary will be available in the coming months so keep an eye on our Twitter for the link!