Jeanette Kaae Hansen – West Timor, June 2017

As a public health student on my master’s degree I contacted “Foundation of Mother and Child Health” to see if I could spend 4 weeks in Indonesia as their intern, luckily they approved my application and I got the privilege to experience how a small NGO in Indonesia works and what impact they have. One of the thing that I will remember the best is the field trip to West Timor where I got the inside experience of the organization’s work and the impact they have there. I spend four nights in West Timor and had three full days with the YBS health team there, which I would like to tell about.

Day 1

The plan for the first day was the launching of a motorcycle library in the village Oelnasi. I have to admit that before going to the village myself, the concept of a motorcycle library did not make much sense to me.
But after a two-hour car-drive, in steep places and roads where I would have sworn it was impossible for any four-wheeled vehicle to access (at least without a very experienced driver), I was convinced that this
motorcycle library was the greatest idea of all, giving the people in the village better opportunities to lend and read books. The library are planned to visit the villages in the area once a week and the kids can then
register and borrow a book. The concept of the motorcycle library makes the library more consistent and sustainable as the motorcycle has more easy access to the villages.
The launching itself started with lunch, traditional food from West Timor, very delicious and unlike food I have tasted elsewhere. After the lunch, everyone went to the church and the official ceremony started. The
health team, the head of… ? and some of the teachers from the village school participated. After the welcome to the team, formal speeches, prayers and information about the library, we went outside where
the motorcycle library was launched and everybody could choose a book to read in.

The team had arranged different activities throughout the launching, for the youngest kids, the teachers read out loud. For the bigger kids the health team had arranged a quiz regarding the motorcycle library,
and a competition where the head of the…(I don’t really know who he was) mentioned a phrase from a specific page and the kids had to compete about being the first one finding the specific page and read the next sentence. For the little competitions that the health team had prepared, the children was rewarded with solar lights donated by (Australian ?) or the books that was donated by (…..?)

I was so happy to see the eager that all the children had for both participating in the competitions, but also to just sit on their own and immerse in the book they had chosen. They all seemed so engaged in this and was so concentrated and wanted to read and educate themselves.

Day 2

On day two, we went to the village Nunleu where they had a big graduation ceremony for the pre-school kids. They had 4 different pre-schools participating in the ceremony and everyone had their traditional
clothing on. Everyone there, was in the most wonderful and colorful clothing and it was obvious to see how this day was a big day for everyone. On arrival, we were greeted by a group of children and their teachers
singing a traditional welcome-song, and during the ceremony, there was different speeches.

Marsya from the health team had a speech about YBS, and Ardi Benu (head of…..) had a speech where he talked about the importance of health and education. I did not understand everything off course, but one
part that was translated for me was how Ardi Benu, used my story to promote education for the village people; a 34-year old physiotherapist that suddenly after 8 years of service quits her job because she
wanted to study Public Health instead. After the ceremony one pre-school at a time came to the front and all the graduation children got their diplomas for their accomplishments. I had the honor of giving a group
of 5 kids their diploma and to congratulate them. After the ceremony, everyone in the village was invited for lunch, more of the delicious traditional food from West Timor. It was such a enjoyable experience for
me to see how the entire villages gathered around this ceremony to celebrate the children, and how they all support each other in this.

After the Graduation ceremony and the lunch, I followed the team on a few home visits to mothers who recently gave birth. Two of these women had given birth in the hospital which is what YBS is aiming for in their pregnancy classes. The third one, did not get to the hospital in time, and gave birth in her home. The nurse and midwife of the YBS team visits these women to talk to the women about both contraceptives but especially nutrition and health of the newborn baby. All three women was given one of the handmade blankets that YBS got from Australia… these was to keep the baby warm. The team furthermore visited a mother with a
malnourished child who was seeking advice for her baby.

It is such an experience to see the major significance it has for these women that the YBS health team comes to their house and answers the questions that every woman who have given birth has, but not always can get an answer for. I am positive that when these women give birth in hospitals and has check-ups from YBS health teams afterwards, the health of their kids and themselves are improved significantly.

Day 3

The third day of my adventure in West Timor consisted of participating in the pregnancy class for 16 women in the village Fenun. All the women participating in the pregnancy class has their own personal journal-book. In this book, they can read about contraceptives, pregnancy, birth, maternal health, infants health, nutrition, motoric skills of infants and much more, furthermore the YBS health team uses it to register measures and health information on the mother during pregnancy, plus measure schemes for the
infant’s weight and height, in order to follow the growth of the infant after the birth. Every woman that shows up to the pregnancy class gets weighed, gets their blood pressure and height measured and talks to the nurses. The midwifes checks the women for anemia, listens to the baby’s heartrate, and feels the position of the baby.

When everyone had their individual examination, the teaching started. During the pregnancy classes the women have lectures regarding all of the topics in their book. The lecture I witnessed had such a great atmosphere, it seemed that the women could talk openly and honestly about everything in the class, and the midwife that did the teaching performed with a glimpse in her eye, which often made the room often burst into laughter.

After the lecture regarding their pregnancy, the women had a class of physical activity, here they did different physical movements that should help them during their activity. The women ended the day with a
cooking class focusing on the nutrition of children. We all had lunch together after the pregnancy class, and while eating I reflected upon the impact the pregnancy class has for the pregnant women in the rural areas.
Some of them were very young and was expecting their first baby, and I had the impression that they felt very safe being able to contact the YBS health team if they had any problem. Actually, the impact does not
only affect the pregnant women, but the entire family. During the pregnancy class, a father from the village came to the nurse asking for medicine as his infant had sores over the entire body.

The nurse helped him with the correct medicine and how to treat the sores. The pregnancy classes in the rural areas in West Timor helps woman to go through a better pregnancy, ensures children getting a better start on their life and help families to take care of their infants in the best possible way.

My trip to West Timor was a huge experience, I felt very welcome on my trip and I was honored by the way they all welcomed me to their villages. It was very educational to follow the YBS health team in their job
there, there is no doubt a great need for the organization and their projects out there, but I felt they’d come a long way already with the improved number of women giving birth at the hospital and the education among not only pregnant women, but also the new opportunity for the children to read books when their new library visits their villages. I will never forget my visit in beautiful West Timor.

Jeanette Kaae Hansen – 2017
Masters student in Public Health
Lund University – Sweden