Volunteering in Timor Leste

Dr Peta Leigh in Timor Leste

Did you know our very own Dr Peta Leigh spent over a year volunteering as a dentist in Timor Leste during the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission?
During this time Peta was the only female dentist in the country and she travelled to all 13 districts working in schools, orphanages, prisons and village medical centres. A lot of her work was providing basic dental care, but she also taught in schools as well as trained nurses and other dental providers.
East Timor, locally known as Timor Leste (Portuguese) is an island country in the eastern Lesser Sunda Islands, at the southern extreme of the Malay Archipelago, it continues to be one of the world’s poorest countries. 
We were often working out of small village medical buildings which could be burnt out buildings.
Dr Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Dr Peta Leigh - Timor Leste

Patients queued to be treated by Peta!

Almost the whole village would queue patiently for hours to be treated, and watched on with fascination as others went before them.

I get so emotional talking about my time there, I am extremely proud of everything we were able to achieve.
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Some of the remote areas Peta visited were only accessible by 4-wheel drive or boat and occasionally, she was air-lifted and dropped in by helicopter!
Liaising with UN military medical personnel she helped connect communities with support services. She can be seen here with the Korean UN dental team in Oecusse.
Her other roles were diverse. She provided general first-aid services, surgical care, worked in Tuberculosis wards, gave immunisations, promoted oral health care in schools, midwifery clinics and even delivered babies!
It was very unusual to have any electricity. We would boil our instruments for sterilisation when outside the main capital city.
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Peta Leigh Timor Leste

Peta worked with the United Nations Serious Crimes Unit,  helping to age the victims from a mass grave based on the skeletal remains and dental ages. Once her reputation was more widely known, she was invited to be the Dental Advisor to the Ministry of Health and met with WHO and government officials to promote dental care as part of the Public Health initiative.

The dental clinic I helped establish in the capital Dili is still operating today and I really hope to return to visit one day!
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Peta Leigh Timor Leste
Since moving to London Peta has established herself as a skilled cosmetic dentist and has now won several UK awards for her work.
What makes a great dentist? We say one with a rich life and career experience who is passionate about making the world a better place!
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