Visit to Teun, Nila and Serua Island

Teun, Nila and Serua, often referred to as the Forgotten Islands are small, remote volcanic islands located in the Banda Sea. They are the kind of islands where you will feel as if you have reached the ends of the earth.

The earth under these islands is still moving. Earthquakes are common and the last major volcano eruption was in 1969. In 1978 the government moved the population to Ceram, central Maluku and now considers the islands uninhabited.

There are no schools, health posts or any government support. Once a month and only if the sea is calm a ferry stops off the islands which villagers can reach with their dugouts to trade for basic necessities like rice, sugar or flour. Food-wise the islands are pretty much self-sufficient from subsistence farming and fishing.

But not all is paradise. Village leader Pak Hecki of Nila island has little in the way of official training. He was an assistant to the last official health worker who left in 1978 and has been forced by circumstances to keep learning as best he can. When he showed us his “tools” we were shocked. There was really nothing in his kit other than a few old glass syringes and several boxes of double-sided razor blades.

His stock of medications was just as bad. That said the man has done some amazing operations in his time, like two years ago when two excited boys were out hunting wild pigs and one managed to put an arrow in his friend. “I started at 7 PM and ended at about 3 AM”, says Pak Hecki, “That was a 5 razor blade job. The hardest part was the sharp arrowhead right against his intestines”. The operation was a success and the patient even lived.

Considering there has been no official health care since 1978,  we hope to find a young volunteer Indonesian doctor to accompany us next year holding clinics along the route and immunizing the children. Your help will really be appreciated when the time comes.

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