RMS AND THE US NMCB3 (Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 3 better known as THE SEABEES).

The solution to our cleaners nightmare.


Timor Leste can be hot, hot, hot, and very dry, it can also be wet, wet, wet and very muddy.

Either condition is not so great if you have a yard made basically of river shingle.  Our yard was made of river shingle and in the dry season, it would be a dust bowl, and every time our vehicles returned from transporting patients to essential appointments at the National Hospital, or bringing in a labouring Mum to maternity, a great cloud of dust would kick up and drift into our patient areas; Dr Dans consult rooms, the Treatment Room and the in patient facilities for general patients and TB patients. Patients, their families and staff would be trying to work in this dust cloud, shielding their eyes and noses from the dust.  The cleaners would conduct their sweeping and mopping routine literally morning noon and night and still never seeming to get on top of the dust.

Then the rains would come, the dust turns to mud, vehicles would churn up pot holes and they become puddles.  The feet of 300 patients a day, their family members and and all our staff would trample the sticky mud into our buildings.  The cleaners then have a valiant battle to keep the floors of the patient areas and administration office, dust and mud free. Staff dashing here and there, leaving muddy foot prints as they hop over the cleaners mops and brooms.  ‘Sorry about the mess!’ we would say, as we observe our cleaners sigh, take a deep breath and start again, with the mop.

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In addition to the mud problem, we had the slip and skid hazard as busy Nurses and Doctors move from building to building, sliding in the squishy mud, or getting their feet wet as they puddle hop from building to building. We have known for a long time we had to ‘do something’ but what to do?.  All the funding we can raise is spent on patient care, staff and essential bills.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and after moaning about this to friends at Rotary Club of Dili, a solution began to evolve.

Firstly RMS offered to assess the situation and provide some suggested fixes; plain concrete, tarmac blacktop or paving? Finally after much discussion and weighing pros and cons of each solution a plan began to form. The Seabees, who regular readers may remember, for their heroic water tank repairs offered to provide labour, to level the site and prepare the ground and lay the pavers, RC Dili offered a contribution to budget and RMS offered to provide technical advice and a good price for materials, our Board had to find a budget, but we moved forward, from an astronomical dream to an achievable reality.


Then it was Christmas and several of the key players had other commitments. But we had a date locked in to commence, 4th January 2016.  Consultation with local community chiefs were necessary as we had to park off site for at least two weeks.  Our Chefe Aldeia agreed we could park on the Chefe Aldeia office site during the day.  But we had to be off there by early evening as the local footie team had practice after work on that site. Meanwhile what to do if we needed to transfer patients, we negotiated with our SEABEE friends about the schedule and pattern of work so we could always access the wards and maternity with our ambulance if there was an emergency. ‘Sorry about he disruption’ became our mantra, but the staff and patients could see this was work in progress to enhance our facility and the patience of our patients was an added bonus.

First the site was roped off with safety tape to keep the staff and patients away from any risk, then the bobcats and diggers arrived. Patients and staff patiently negotiated the perimetre of the cordon to keep off the newly prepared areas.

The site was stripped back and levelled, then special ‘moon dust’ (a magical mix of river silt and concrete) was applied to a specific depth.  Who would have thought it could get so technical. Next the octagonal pavers were laid, tapped into the bed of moon dust and levelled with straight edges to achieve an even cover. The Seabees then had to run over the pavers with a special compacter machine, like a giant vibrating smoothing iron, and next a thin layer of ‘moon dust’ was applied on top, vibrated into the cracks and compacted, then dampened with water to set.

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Gradually over the course of two weeks we began to see the transformation from, messy shale to attractive and clean yard.

Finally, the edges. So anyone who ever played with shaped tiles knows you cannot get a straight edge with octagonal tiles, so our yard has some frilly edges.  This week RMS will comes along and in fill the frilly edges with concrete upto the gutters and edges of the yard area.

Even whilst we wait for the final infill of concrete we have seen a couple of big rains.  Magically the water bounces off our paved yard, and slides into the gutters and drains and we have no mud and no puddles.

This great collaboration has made a difference already. Bairo Pite Clinic team is so grateful to the generous spirit of our friends from Rotary, RMS and those hard working SEABEES. Our cleaners, our team and our patients salute you all.


  • by Helen Moorfoot
  • Filed under Uncategorized.

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