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.
Nila island is an active stratovolcano. The last major eruption was in 1968. The government considers the island uninhabited, yet there are still three villages with approximately 150 people.
Nilas villagers were not only delighted by the prospect of receiving medical supplies, but Vega crewmember Alexis put smiles on their faces when she managed to help them repair the valves in their trumpet so it would play again.
There is no school on the island. Children attend informal classes at the village church until they are 7 or 8 years old. After which they move to relatives working in the city Ambon or to Ceram.
Captains Jamie and Shane were able to find out the needs of this community and also discussed other areas where VEGA could make a difference.
Pak Hecki is the headman of Lakotani Village and is also the local “Needleman” a local way of saying “Health Worker”.
We were able to assist Pak Hecki with bandages, surgical supplies, sutures, and disposable syringes with needles, among other things.
Pak Jop is the headman of the second village on Pulau Nila. His wife, Mama Ross, is the island midwife who also acts as a nurse when Pak Hecki must address important problems or surgery.
Her modest needs consisted of a sphygmomanometer and several medications used for infections. Next year we will be topping up her kit with more supplies to care for her community.
There has been no official health worker on Nila since 1978.
The village decided that a “Separation Party” was in order. We bought the pig and they did the cooking, fun-loving bunch. We might not have always understood what was being said, but the laughter which surrounded us was contagious.
Pulau Teun (Teun Island) Teun is one of the Indonesian Barat Daya Islands in the Banda Sea. In the centre of Teun lies the active volcano Serawerna with an altitude of 655m.
Pulau Teun delivery of medical and educational supplies
Steaming beaches, burning volcanic sand and hot water bubbling out of the mud made it difficult to land with our dingy.
On the day of our departure, dugouts arrive with a lot of fish. What you don't see is Pak Jimmis 10 kilo tuna in his boat. “I went fishing for you, for your journey...”. We were speechless.
Testing the ancient methods of preserving fish - salting & drying. And it is delicious
Historic Vessel Vega sailing off to the next island.