Latest news

Hi dad! Lin Jong's dad joins an emotional journey for our champion

Timor-Leste holds a special place in the heart of our ambassador Lin Jong. Lin's dad Vitor was born in Timor-Leste, but left for a new life when he was just a teenager. Vitor and his wife Fay made a life and raised their children in Australia.

Today Vitor arrived back in Timor-Leste, joining Lin and his partner Krista on their first ever visit to the country.

As well as learning more about our work, Lin will be meeting a lot of extended family for the first time.

It's going to be quite an emotional journey!

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page and other social accounts for more updates.

You can donate to mend a broken heart here.

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Our champion Lin Jong's tour of Timor-Leste

We're excited to have ambassador, Western Bulldogs champion LinJong his partner Krista join us Timor-Leste this week. Lin's dad Vitor was born in Timor-Leste but this is Lin's first visit. Lin will be visit our projects in Dili and in the remote districts to learn more about our work and meet some of our patients, including old friend Paulo. 

As well, Lin will be seeing where his father grew up, and catching up with some extended family that he has never met before.

It's going to be quite a journey!

Please follow our blog, Facebook page and other social channels for more updates about our champion's tour of Timor-Leste.

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Welcome to Timor-Leste Lin Jong!

He's arrived! A big "welcome to Timor-Leste" to our ambassador, Western Bulldogs champion Lin Jong (and his partner Krista). Lin's set for a busy week, meeting our patients, seeing our preventative penicillin program and meeting some long-lost relatives as well. More updates soon!

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Visit beautiful Toowomba with AirNorth, mend a heart

There's only a week to go until our third annual Swing into Action to Mend a Broken Heart golf day, and we're excited! Huge thanks to our friends Airnorth for donating the major auction prize - a flights and accommodation package in stunning Toowoomba. Check out this video for a taste of what the lucky bidder and friend are set for!

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It's official! An honour for our Dr Noel Bayley

Our honorary medical adviser and co-founder Dr Noel Bayley was conducting screening clinics in Timor-Leste when the Queen's Birthday honors were announced back in June. But today he was on hand at Government House to officially receive his Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Award from the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau AC.

Our CEO Stuart Thomson paid tribute to Dr Bayley's work.

“We are indebted to you for the work you have done and continue to do,” Stuart said. “It is an honour to work alongside you and I’m sure I speak for all the volunteers, staff and supporters in congratulating you on your much-deserved Order of Australia award.”

Find out more here.


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New heart for Olandina

Constant breathlessness and fatigue caused by untreated heart disease make daily life tough for mum of three Olandina. She struggles to find the energy care for baby Mimoza and to walk Octaviana and Aldo up the hill to their school.

Olandina arrives in Australia on the weekend for a heart procedure that promises to transform her life.

“When I become healthy I would like to continue my work as a mother at home and take care of my children and my husband,” Olandina told us.

Thank you to all of the generous supporters whose donations allow us to assist patients like Olandina. To help us mend another broken heart, you can make a tax-deductible donation.

We’ll be bringing you more updates about Olandina, so please keep an eye out for more news.



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Meet Nelsia - she's living proof

Our special guest at Run Melbourne is four-year-old Nelsia, now brimming with good health following her heart surgery only six months ago.

Nelsia’s life has been transformed since her surgery in March as part of our Operation GoodHearts paediatric surgical mission. No longer tired and breathless, Nelsia can play with her friends and siblings. She can look forward to a longer, healthier life.

Nelsia and her dad are participating in Run Melbourne to raise funds and awareness. Nelson said: “We encourage people to support East Timor Hearts Fund because they help many people with heart disease in our country Timor-Leste.”

This is a fantastic opportunity to see living proof of the impact of our work and your generosity.

Please donate to Nelsia’s Run Melbourne appeal online. You can find out more about her journey to health here.

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Welcome Olga and Marcelina!

Our latest patients Marcelina and Olga have arrived! Marcelina, 29, and Olga, 19, will have their heart operations at Royal Melbourne Hospital this week. They were happy to be in Melbourne after a warm welcome from our volunteer patient support team. "No amount of words will ever help us to express how thankful we are," Olga said.

Marcelina added: "We don’t have anything to give back. All we can do is pray that God can give each and everyone of you good health so that you can continue to help others in need." 

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Marquita's message: "I want to be happy and healthy"

Last year teenage student Marquita had a life-saving heart procedure in Australia. We caught up with her recently in Timor-Leste. No longer weak and breathless, and with health and energy to get on with her life, Marquita told us: "I feel so happy now!"

You can help us mend another broken heart like Marquita's. Please make a tax-time donation today.

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Something to report - we're winners!

We are very proud that our 2016 annual report has won a Bronze at the prestigious Australasian Reporting Awards (which are a bit like the Logies for annual reports). This is the first time we've entered, and we're super-thrilled, because we believe we are unique in having a report that is put together using one hundred per cent volunteer and pro bono resources. A massive thanks to our volunteer photographers (including the very talented Mathew Lynn, who took the beautiful cover photo), our excellent graphic design friends Struck & Spink Pty Ltd (who never fail to make our documents look beautiful) and the skilled writing and editing team at FullPoint Media.

You can read our report online here. Please check it out and let us know what you think of our award-winning report!

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Congratulations to Dr Noel: almost 20 years of mending hearts and building hope

A special message from our CEO

Congratulations to Dr Noel: almost 20 years of mending hearts and building hope

I have lived and worked in some of the poorest communities on the planet. From Asia to East and Southern Africa. I used to think poverty was something in far off lands. I was wrong. Nothing can prepare you for the short flight from Darwin to Dili, capital of Timor-Leste (East Timor) where some of the poorest communities in the world reside. Dili to Darwin is closer than Melbourne to Sydney. Australia ranks second in the world on the United Nations Human Development Index; Timor-Leste ranks 133 (out of 188 countries).

It shocked me the first time I travelled to Timor and it no doubt shocked East Timor Hearts Fund Dr Noel Bayley (now East Timor Hearts Fund co-founder and honorary medical adviser) when he hopped that short flight back in 2000, not long after the restoration of independence. He saw people dying of preventable illness so close to our shores. A proud nation that needed a hand up, not a hand out.

Now Noel could have done what most people would have done, thrown his hands in the air and said; ‘what can I do…’the problems here are too great’. But Noel being Noel (if you know him) came back to his friends and family and said we have to do something about this. He didn’t hold workshops, or seminars or found a think tank. He got on with it. He started one by one, sometimes two by two, bringing people to Australia for life-saving heart surgery. Almost 20 years on a band of professional volunteers and staff have rallied around Noel’s cause. We continue the work Noel started in mending the broken hearts of our brothers and sisters of Timor-Leste.

People often ask me why I took on the role of CEO for East Timor Hearts Fund. There are a few reasons but perhaps the greatest is that I was drawn to the work of someone like Noel. I like that Noel didn’t philosophise or conceptualise - he got on with it. He treated his patients in Dili just as he would any one of his patients in Warrnambool, a regional city in Australia where Noel lives and practices.

After working for many years in the international development sector I can tell you what people like Noel do. Beyond saving lives, they build trust with community. They build hope. When people truly see you as friend, willing to do what is required, then they will stay with you through the test of time.

This, I believe, is largely the reason why East Timor Hearts Fund is such an incredible organisation. When you meet people in Timor-Leste, whether in the streets of Dili or in government, they all remark that we are true friends of Timor-Leste. This friendship can’t be bought, or conceptualised or workshopped, it is only achieved through blood, sweat and tears. This is a culture Noel established and it will endure.

Today we learned that Dr Noel Bayley has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

Unsurprisingly, as I write this Noel is once again leading our volunteer medical team in Timor-Leste this Queen’s Birthday long weekend. No time for self-congratulation, or even relaxation, Noel is back out there helping our neighbours, saving lives and continuing the work he started almost 20 years ago.

Noel, we are indebted to you for the work you have done and the work you continue to do. It is an honour to work alongside you and I’m sure I speak for all the volunteers, staff and supporters of East Timor Hearts Fund in congratulating you on your much-deserved Order of Australia award.

- Stuart Thomson, CEO 

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Scaling mountains for healthy hearts

Our board chair Ingrid Svendsen explains why she's trekking across mountains for East Timor Hearts Fund

Walking 135km across mountains is one of the more unusual duties I’ve been called on to undertake as chair of the board of East Timor Hearts Fund. But I love a challenge, so in July I’ll once again don boots and backpack for the Trans-Timor Trek.

The inaugural event last year was an incredible experience, even for someone who has visited Timor-Leste numerous times and travelled to some of its most inaccessible beauty spots. The sunrise from the 2986 metre Mt Ramelau is all the more spectacular when you’ve travelled there on foot, carrying a 20-kilo backpack.

The trip is not just a holiday jaunt; its goal is to raise awareness of heart health issues in Timor-Leste, where one in 28 school children, and one in 20 girls, has treatable, preventable, rheumatic heart disease.

We also aim to raise $20,000 to help mend one of those broken hearts.

You can find out more about the trek on our website. Please go to the trek fundraising page to sponsor any of the six hardy souls who are putting their bodies on the line for heart health in Timor-Leste. And please – wish me luck!

– Ingrid Svendsen

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Making heart health history

Making heart health history

Like many in the international heart health community, we rejoiced this month when the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for a coordinated global response to end rheumatic heart disease (RHD) world-wide.

This was an historic decision – the first time that RHD has been recognised as a global health priority on the world stage.

It was also a proud moment for the government of Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste’s government representatives made a speech in front of the world in support of the resolution, reaffirming the government’s commitment to taking action on RHD. This commitment included the announcement in April by the Timor-Leste Ministério da Saúde (Ministry of Health) to partner with organisations including East Timor Hearts Fund and the World Health Organisation to develop and RHD action plan by the end of the year.

The government of Timor-Leste’s renewed focus on RHD follows the release in April of our landmark rheumatic heart disease prevalence study, which showed that Timor-Leste has amongst the world’s highest rates of this treatable, preventable condition.

East Timor Hearts Fund looks forward to working with our friends the Ministry of Health, and our partners in Timor-Leste, to help put an end to the rheumatic heart disease in Timor-Leste. In the meantime, we continue to partner on preventative health and education initiatives, such as our penicillin program, and to identify and offer surgery for the most critical cases.

Read CEO Stuart Thomson's special update.

Find out more about our work for healthy hearts in Timor-Leste.

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Mending broken equipment, so we can mend hearts

East Timor Hearts Fund has supported the establishment of Timor-Leste’s first cardiac care ward at Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares, with a

significant donation of specialist equipment, courtesy of our great friends Cardioscan.

Our volunteer biomedical engineer Gordon Szegi ensures that the equipment remains in good working order so that East Timor Hearts Fund and its partners can continue to deliver quality care to heart patients.

Gordon accompanied our volunteer medical team to Dili 15 months ago to assemble and set up the equipment at Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares. In June he will make a return visit, to do a check up on the donated patient monitors, ECG machines and diagnostic cardiac ultrasound units.

Maintaining sensitive medical equipment in a humid tropical environment is a test of resourcefulness, but Gordon is well prepared for the challenge.

“Working in a regional hospital in country Victoria, in Australia, there’s the expectation to try and get most devices up and running yourself, with phone support from the supplier. So it’s useful to have an understanding of how a device is to perform on a patient, “ Gordon says. “A background in electronics and being able to problem solve on the spot definitely helps as well.”

You can read Gordon’s profile, and keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates on his work in Dili.

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Historic moment for rheumatic heart disease battle

A special update from our CEO

Historic moment for rheumatic heart disease battle

I woke this morning to the most incredible news. Late last night eastern Australian time the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, unanimously adopted a resolution to end rheumatic heart disease (RHD) globally. This is an historic decision as it marks the first time that RHD has been recognised as a global health priority on the world stage. The resolution calls for a coordinated global response to tackle RHD.

It was also a proud moment for the government of Timor-Leste. Timor-Leste’s government representatives made a speech in front of the world in support of the resolution, reaffirming the government’s commitment to taking action on RHD. This commitment includes the announcement last month by the Timor-Leste Ministério da Saúde (Ministry of Health) to develop, by the end of the year, an action plan on RHD, in partnership with organisations including East Timor Hearts Fund and the World Health Organisation.

The government of Timor-Leste’s renewed focus on RHD follows the release last month of our landmark rheumatic heart disease prevalence study, which showed that Timor-Leste has amongst the world’s highest rates of this treatable, preventable condition. The study showed that one in 28 overall have rheumatic heart disease, and one in 20 girls.

I am looking forward to working with our friends the Ministry of Health, and our partners in Timor-Leste, to help put an end to the rheumatic heart disease in Timor-Leste. In the meantime, we continue to partner on preventative health and education initiatives, such as our penicillin program, and to identify and offer surgery for the most critical cases.

The World Health Assembly resolution is a great step forward – but it is just a first step. Now the hard work begins to ensure that this resolution is put into action.

Thank you for your support as we work together to mend broken hearts and put an end to the misery of rheumatic heart for our neighbours in Timor-Leste.

Stuart Thomson

CEO, East Timor Hearts Fund

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Dr Ari Horton, paediatric cardiology fellow

Dr Ari Horton

Paediatric cardiology fellow


How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

As a paediatric cardiac specialist I was asked to join East Timor Hearts Fund’s volunteer medical team to improve the capacity for care of children and education of local staff and families. Since participating in my first screening visit to Timor-Leste in 2017 I have become passionate about this work and have visited Timor-Leste numerous times. It has been eye-opening to see the vast health differences between Australia and its neighbour, as well as the absolute spirit, determination and joy of the Timorese people. 

What does your role entail?

I look after the heart health of children up to 18 years old. I specialise in congenital and inherited heart disease for all ages, as well as having a specific interest in rheumatic heart disease. I like to get to know the patients and their families and I support them to control symptoms, improve quality of life and, if possible, have surgery in Australia.

I'm involved in clinical research, the penicillin program and follow-up of rheumatic heart disease patients. I firmly believe in education, capacity building, empowerment and collaboration with local services and I enjoy supporting local teams to further develop their skills.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

I am a keen photographer and like capturing the unique moments and people that make a day special. I  am obsessed with good food and good coffee. I like making kids and families laugh. I remind myself every day that medicine is an art, we are all human, and each of us deserves a chance to make our dreams come true. 

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Arminda, portrait of a life transformed

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A simple wish for young mum Domingas

Living with heart disease is a big burden for young mum Domingas. Breathless and drained of energy, some days all she can do is “eat and sleep”.

Domingas flies out to Australia tomorrow, and will have a mitral valve balloon procedure with our friends Eastern Heart Clinic in Sydney next week. Afterwards, when she is healthy again, she is looking forward to some simple pleasures. “I hope I can be fit enough to do my activities at home; look after my kids and take them to school and help my husband and family with other work.”

“I would like to express many thanks to the doctors and donors from Australia who have worked so hard to save my life,” Domingas told us.

We’ll bring you more news about Domingas’s progress soon. Please follow our Facebook page for all the latest news.

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Aspect Skin Care - beautiful friends to have!

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We're hiring! Fundraising and events whiz needed!

We're hiring!

Fundraising and events whiz needed to help us mend more broken hearts.

Applications close on 25 May.

Find our more and apply at

View all of our volunteer and paid vacancies here.

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Top researcher and clinician Dr Josh Francis joins East Timor Hearts Fund

A message from our CEO

Top researcher and clinician Dr Josh Francis joins East Timor Hearts Fund

I am delighted that Australian researcher and clinician Dr Josh Francis has officially joined the East Timor Hearts Fund as our honorary rheumatic heart disease adviser. Dr Francis has a long history working on rheumatic heart disease in Australia and Timor-Leste, and is also a long-time East Timor Hearts Fund supporter and collaborator.

Dr Francis is a paediatric infectious disease specialist at Royal Darwin Hospital and an honorary clinical fellow with the Menzies School of Health Research, one of Australia’s leading medical research organisations.

Dr Francis was the project leader for the landmark rheumatic heart disease prevalence study that East Timor Hearts Fund funded and coordinated, along with project partners in Timor-Leste and Australia. The study’s peer-reviewed findings, published last month, confirmed that Timor-Leste has one of the world’s highest rates of rheumatic heart disease, with one in 28 people overall and one in 20 girls affected.


I am thrilled to have Dr Francis join us in this new role as we continue the fight to eliminate rheumatic heart disease in Timor-Leste. You can read more about Josh on our website.

Stuart Thomson


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An ANZAC Day reflection - helping to repay a debt of honour to the Timorese

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A special update from our CEO - mending the hearts of people, and a nation

A special update from our CEO

Mending the hearts of people, and a nation

What an incredible week it has been! It started with the publication of landmark research into rheumatic heart disease, a study that we proudly supported and funded.

The government of Timor-Leste has been quick to act on the study’s alarming findings that Timor-Leste has amongst the world’s highest rates of rheumatic heart disease (RHD), and that girls are worst affected, with one in 20 suffering from this treatable, preventable condition.

Along with representatives of the World Health Organisation Timor-Leste, senior government and non-government officials and a large media contingent, yesterday I attended an announcement by the Timor-Leste  Ministério da Saúde (Ministry of Health).

The rapid response from the Timor-Leste government should be commended. In a statement the Director-General for Health Services at the Ministry of Health described the findings as very troubling and said:


“There is no time for complacency, we must take action. Today we commit to working with partners including East Timor Hearts Fund to develop an action plan and guidelines for combatting RHD in Timor-Leste.”


The swift and decisive action taken by the Timorese government is timely, as global health leaders prepare to meet in Geneva next month at the World Health Assembly. One of the key agenda items will be a resolution for action on rheumatic heart disease. Congratulations to our friends at the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health for yesterday supporting action in their own country, as well as flagging support for a resolution.

Rheumatic heart disease is a preventable, treatable form of cardiovascular disease. According to World Heart Federation it claims 275,000 lives a year and affects more than 32 million people worldwide. Thanks to our prevalence study, we now know that in Timor-Leste this includes one in 28 people, and as many as one in 20 girls.

The meeting in Dili yesterday concluded with a powerful and moving statement by 12-year-old Tanizia. Tanizia has rheumatic heart disease but stays well because she receives life-saving penicillin through our work with our partners and the Ministry of Health. Tanizia said:


Thank you to the doctors and those who support my treatment. May God bless you.”


How you can help

We receive no government funding. Our campaign for healthy hearts in Timor-Leste relies entirely on donor support. You can help by making a tax-deductible donation today. And please check our website and our Facebook page to find out more about how we are helping to mend broken hearts, not just for individual patients like Tanizia, but for a nation.


Thank you for your support,

Stuart Thomson, CEO

East Timor Hearts Fund

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Komunikasaun empreza - Prevalênsia moras fuan reumátika aas tebes iha Timor-Leste: hato’o husi peskiza foun

Prevalênsia moras fuan reumátika aas tebes iha Timor-Leste: hato’o husi peskiza foun

16 Abril 2018

Timor-Leste nu’udar nasaun ida ne’ebé iha prevalênsia moras fuan reumátika (RHD) aas tebes iha mundu kompara ho nasaun sira seluk. Kada sidadaun 28, na’in ida sei kona moras ne’e, ho kada labarik feto 20, na’in ida sei kona.


Deskoberta ne’e sai husi peskiza majór ne’ebe involve labarik eskola na’in 1400, no hala’o husi ONG Australianu, ho apoiu husi parseiru Timorense, inklui Ospitál Nasionál Guido Valadares. Peskiza nu’udar primeiru iha rai laran ne’ebe sukat prevalênsia moras fuan reumátika (RHD) iha Timor-Leste.


Journal Médiku Australia-nian foin daudauk publika peskiza ne’e. Peskiza deskobre katak prevalênsia RHD iha Timor-Leste sai iguál ho nasaun sira ne’ebe sofre husi prevalênsia aas liu iha mundu. Nu’udar ezemplu, Timor-Leste-nia prevalênsia to’o kazu 35 kada populasaun 1000 (tantu kazu grave no mós kazu ‘kmaan’ ka ‘kazu ne’ebe kuaze la kualifika nu’udar RHD’.) Prevalênsia ne’e aas tebes kompara ho kazu ne’ebe mosu iha komunidade rai-na’in  Aboriginal iha Australia, ne’ebe to’o de’it na’in 25 kada populasaun na’in 1000.


Peskiza hato’o katak deskoberta ne’ebe mosu husi peskiza ‘konservadór’ ka ‘kapazde la inklui prevalênsia loloos’, tanba labarik sira ne’ebe moras demais no la tuir ona eskola loro-loron labele inklui iha peskiza-nia programa teste médiku ne’ebe hala’o iha fulan Outubru tinan 2017.


“Deskoberta hirak ne’e triste demais. La ho asaun urjente, dezastre bele mosu ba ita-nia viziñu sira iha Timor-Leste”. Hato’o Sr Stuart Thomson, Xefe Ezekutivu ONG East Timor Hearts Fund-nian.


“Moras RHD oho joven sira ne’ebe la simu tratamentu iha sira-nia idade ideal ba kontribui ba nasan (idade husi tinan 20 to’o 30) nune’e na’ok tiha Nasaun-nia kbiit no matenek, ho rezultadu katak tristeza ne’e da’et ba beibeik.”

Sr. Stuart Thomson dehan katak East Timor Hearts Fund kontribui rasik orsamentu ba peskiza, ho apoiu husi parseiru projetu-nian inklui Menzies School of Health Research ho Telethon Kids Institute, no mós organizasaun saúde Timor-nian, atu ezije asaun efikás liu tan kontra moras RHD.


East Timor Hearts Fund buka hetan fundus sufisiente atu harii peskiza ne’ebe haree kle’an ba deskoberta ne’ebe sai husi peskiza foin daudauk; katak moras RHD kona liu labarik feto duke labarik mane. Labarik feto-nia prevalênsia porsentu lima, kompara ho prevalênsia labarik mane porsentu rua.


Moras RHD nu’udar moras fuan ne’ebe bele prevene no kura, ne’ebe afeita ema na’in millaun 32 iha mundu klaran, no oho na’in rihun 275 kada tinan, tuir dadus husi World Heart Foundation. RHD sai ativu iha pasiente bainhira pasiente kona episódiu febre reumátika agudu ne’ebe, kauza husi bateria ‘strep’ iha kulit ka kakorok-laran.


Peskiza-nia lider no asesór ba East Timor Hearts Fund, Doutór Josh Francis, apoia asaun prevensaun.


“Inklui medidas atu hasoru risku fundamentál hanesan pobreza no ema barak okupa uma kloot; ho asesu ba medikamentu penicillin, ne’ebe bele kura infesaun lubuk ne’ebe se bainhira la trata, bele fó sai moras RHD.” Dehan Dr. Josh Francis.


Dr. Josh Francis husu netik asaun urjente atu hasoru prevalênsia RHD aas iha ema feto tantu adultu ho labarik iha Timor-Leste. “RHD nu’udar risku boot tebes ba inan-feto no bebé, no mós ba feto isin-rua. Tan ne’e, problema ne’e tenke fó prioridade urjente tebetebes.”


Sr Stuart Thomson ho Dr Josh Francis disponivel ba entrevista.

Enkerimentu media:


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Media release Rheumatic heart disease rampant in Timor-Leste: new study

Media release

Rheumatic heart disease rampant in Timor-Leste: new study

Monday 16 April 2018

Australia’s northern neighbour Timor-Leste has one of the world’s highest rates of rheumatic heart disease, with one in 28 people affected and as many as one in 20 girls, new research shows.


The findings come from landmark research involving 1400 school children. It was the first to measure the prevalence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD) in Timor-Leste.


The Medical Journal of Australia has just published the study. It found the incidence of RHD in Timor-Leste was equal to many of the countries that have the highest rates. Timor-Leste had 35 borderline and definite cases per thousand, compared to 25 per thousand in high-risk indigenous communities in Australia.


The study noted that the findings may be conservative, as some children with RHD may have been too unwell to attend school when heart screening for the research was conducted last October.


“These findings are devastating. Without urgent action this is a disaster in the making for our neighbours in Timor-Leste,” said Stuart Thomson, the CEO of Australian medical NGO East Timor Hearts Fund.


“Untreated rheumatic heart disease kills young people in their prime, in their teens and early 20s, robbing this young nation of its best and brightest and causing untold misery.”


Mr Thomson said East Timor Hearts Fund commissioned the study, with the support of project partners including Menzies School of Health Research and Telethon Kids Institute, to push for more effective action on RHD in Timor-Leste.


East Timor Hearts Fund was also seeking further funding to conduct more research into the unexpected finding that girls are significantly more likely to have RHD than boys. Five per cent (one in 20) of girls screened for the study had RHD, compared to 2 per cent of boys (one in 50).


RHD is a preventable, treatable form of cardiovascular disease that affects more than 32 million people worldwide, and claims 275,000 lives a year, according to the World Heart Federation. Episodes of acute rheumatic fever, caused by strep bacteria infections of the skin or throat, trigger it. This leads to inflammation that damages heart valves.

Study leader and East Timor Hearts Fund RHD adviser Dr Josh Francis supported action on preventative health.

“This includes measures to tackle underlying risks such as poverty and household crowding; and penicillin to treat the infections that can lead to RHD,” Dr Francis said.


Dr Francis called for urgent action tackle the high rate of RHD in women and girls in Timor-Leste. “RHD can be particularly dangerous for mothers and babies during pregnancy and childbirth so this is an urgent priority.”


Stuart Thomson is available for interview.

Media enquiries:

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Heartfelt happiness for dad and son patients

Last year we had our first ever dad and son patient double, with 14 year old Paulo and his dad Filomeno both having successful heart operations in Australia. This week our CEO Stuart Thomson caught up with Paulo and Filomeno. Paulo is back at school, working toward his dream of becoming an engineer; Filomeno is able to work again, and is enjoying renewed good health. The whole family is happy - and so are we!

You can help us mend more broken hearts by making a tax-deductible donation.

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That's a wrap for Operation GoodHearts!

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The importance of pre-and post surgical care.

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Observing health-care in Timor-Leste proves invaluable for Deakin medical students.

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Sharing knowledge for a healthier Timor-Leste

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Operation GoodHearts commences!

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Heart health checks take place in the town of Gleno.

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Pre-screening clinics held in Dili ahead of Operation GoodHearts.


Over the past two days, children have travelled from far and wide from around Timor-Leste to Dili’s Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares to be assessed by our volunteer medical team ahead of next week’s Operation GoodHearts.


Paediatric Cardiology Fellow Dr. Ari Horton reflected after the first day of clinical assessments.  



“I was really surprised because we’ve already found so many patients that would really benefit from the surgery…it’s the beginning of a process to try and prove that collaborative surgical missions would be possible in East Timor and strengthen Timor's ability to provide a future of  diagnostic care for Timorese children. One day regular missions, with a focus on sustainability and capacity building for local services, ensure that Timorese kids have access to the same care that children in Australia receive everyday,” said Dr Horton.


Operation GoodHearts involves a volunteer medical team working alongside staff at Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares, where they aim to perform high-tech keyhole surgery on up to 15 children over five days.


Learn more about Operation GoodHearts by reading our latest media release.


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A message from our ambassador Lin Jong - bon voyage Operation GoodHearts team!

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Media release - Australian volunteers arrive for major Timor cardiac surgery mission

Australian volunteers arrive for major Timor cardiac surgery mission

21 February 2018

A team of Australian cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and health workers will arrive in Timor-Leste later this month as part of a major heart surgery mission.

The volunteer team will work alongside local staff at Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares for five days between 26 February and 2 March, aiming to perform high-tech keyhole surgery on up to 15 children.

The CEO of Australian NGO East Timor Hearts Fund, Stuart Thomson, said the surgical mission was a first for the organisation, and would allow more patients to receive treatment.

“Until now we have been bringing patients to Australia for surgery one by one, which is expensive and time consuming,” Mr Thomson said.

“This surgical mission lets us operate on more patients in five days than we would usually treat in a year.”

Mr Thomson said East Timor Hearts Fund would continue to bring patients to Australia but hoped to increasingly offer surgery in Timor-Leste.

“We work to support the health system in Timor-Leste and eventually we would be overjoyed to see patients with complex heart conditions able to receive treatment by local surgeons in local hospitals,” Mr Thomson said.

Mr Thomson said the support for Operation GoodHearts was overwhelming in Australia, with top medicos volunteering their services, the public donating more than $10,000 in just five days to buy medical equipment, and Northern Oil & Gas Australia becoming a major partner.

Northern Oil & Gas Australia Managing Director Angus Karoll said his company was delighted to support the surgical mission.

“Our aim is to make a positive social contribution to the Timorese community, and being involved in a project like Operation GoodHearts is a great way to do this,” Mr Karoll said.

Surgical mission leader Professor Andrew Cochrane said the young patients urgently needed surgery, and were suffering from severe symptoms, including breathlessness and poor growth.

“They will recover quickly and feel a lot better almost straight away. They will have the chance to go on to live normal, healthy lives,” Professor Cochrane said.

This is the first heart surgery mission in Timor-Leste for six years, so there is a large backlog of patients needing assistance.


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Media release - Voluntáriu lubuk ida husi Australia to’o ona Timor hodi hala’o misaun sirurjia fuan 21 Fevreiru 2018

Voluntáriu lubuk ida husi Australia to’o ona Timor hodi hala’o misaun sirurjia fuan

21 Fevreiru 2018

Ekipa sirurjiaun husi Austrália, inklui sirurjiaun, enfermeira ho funsionáriu saúde, sei to’o Timor iha Fevreiru-nia remata hodi harii misaun majór ba sirurjia fuan.

Ekipa voluntáriu sei servisu hamutuk ho funsionáriu lokál iha Ospitál Nasionál Guido Valadares durante loron lima entre loron 29 fulan Fevreiru to’o loron 2 Marsu, ho objetivu atu halo sirurjia ‘keyhole’, ne’ebé presiza tékniku komplikadu, ba pasiente labarik lubuk ida to’o na’in 15.

Xefe ONG East Timor Hearts Fund, Sr. Stuart Thomson, dehan katak misaun sirurjia nu’udar primeiru misaun hanesan ne’e ne’ebé organizasaun halo, no kapazde ajuda pasiente barak liu simu tratamentu.

 “To’o agora, ami-nia oportunidade úniku mak hodi pasiente bá Austrália hodi hetan sirurjia ida-ba-idak, maneira tantu karun no mós demora kleur demais.” Dehan Sr. Thomson.

 “Ho misaun sirurjia ida-ne’e, ami bele halo operasaun ba pasiente barak liu iha loron lima-nia laran, ne’ebé uluk ami konsege trata pasiente kuantidade hanesan durante tinan ida tomak.  

Sr. Thomson dehan katak East Timor Hearts Fund sei kontinua hodi pasiente ba Austrália hodi simu tratamentu, maibé ninia esperansa ba futuru atu bele aumenta tan operasaun ne’ebé bele halo iha Timor-Leste-nia laran.

 “Ami koko atu apoia sistema saúde iha Timor-Leste, no ami hein katak aban bainrua, karik nasaun sei iha kapasidade rasik ba ajuda pasiente ho kondisaun fuan komplikadu liu husi tratamentu iha rai laran, husi sirurjiaun lokál, iha ospitál lokál.” Dehan Sr Thomson.

Sr Thomson dehan katak apoiu iha Austrália ba Operation Goodhearts maka’as tebetebes, ho profisionál médiku espertu liu sai voluntáriu hodi servisu gratis ba programa. Ho tan, doasaun husi komunidade iha loron lima-nia laran de’it liu tiha dolar 10. 000 dolar Australianu. Ho fundus ne’e, organizasaun sosa ekipamentu médiku. Apoiu mós mai husi kompañia Northern Oil & Gas Australia, ne’ebé sai doadór xave ba organizasaun.

Diretór Jerál Northern Oil & Gas Australia-nian, Sr. Angus Karoll, dehan katak ninia kompañia haksolok tebetebes atu bele suporta misaun médiku ida-ne’e.

 “Ami-nia objetivu atu bele fó kontribuisaun pozitivu ba komunidade Timor-oan, no ami hanoin katak involve an ba projetu hanesan Operation Goodhearts nu’udar dalan di’ak ida ba atinje ami-nia objetivu ne’e.” Dehan Sr Karoll.

Xefe Misaun Sirurjia-nian, Profesór Andrew Cochrane, dehan katak pasiente joven sira presiza hetan sirurjia urjente, tanba sira sofre ho sintonas difisil tebetebes, hanesan dada iis difisil, ho labarik la to’o altura normál tuir sira-nia idade.

 “Sira sei rekupera lailais, no kuaze depois kedas pasiente hadeer depois sirurjia, sira sei sente di’ak. Sira bele hala’o sira-nia moris normál, ho saúde ne’ebé ótimu.” Dehan Prof. Cochrane.

Misaun ida-ne’e mak misaun sirurjia fuan úniku ne’ebé halo dezde tinan neen liubá, entaun kuantidade pasiente sei barak hela ne’ebé hein netik ba asisténsia.


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Thanks to you, it's bon voyage to the team

A message from our CEO

Late last year we asked for help to mount our first ever paediatric surgical mission to Timor-Leste. The response was truly astounding – we reached our $10,000 goal in just five days, and raised almost $14,000.

So now I am sharing the exciting news that our Operation GoodHearts surgical mission is about to happen!

Later this week our volunteer team of surgeons, anaesthetists and specialist nurses leave for Timor-Leste. 

The Operation GoodHearts team will work alongside their Timorese colleagues at Guido Valadares National Hospital for five days, between 26 February and 2 March. They’ll operate on up to 15 children, performing keyhole surgery to repair congenital heart defects, giving these children the chance to live normal, healthy lives.

This is a first for our organisation and a truly great milestone.

Until now we have been bringing patients to Australia for surgery one by one, which is expensive and time consuming.  This surgical mission lets us operate on more children in five days than we would usually treat in a year.

I’m truly overwhelmed at the response to Operation GoodHearts. From the top medicos who have volunteered, to the many generous Australians who have sent money and good wishes, people have opened their hearts.

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page and other social media channels to see Operation GoodHearts mending hearts and transforming lives.

Thank you for your support – we could not do this without you.

Stuart Thomson, CEO

PS: A big thanks to our project partner Northern Oil & Gas Australia for its support of Operation GoodHearts, including this fantastic billboard which will welcome our team when they arrive at Dili airport.

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Fun for Natalino

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After surgery, fun times for Natalino

Some post-surgery fun for our teenage patient Natalino and his mum Emaculada, courtesy of our amazingly dedicated patient support volunteers Ana and Inacio. As well as seeing the sights of Melbourne, Natalino enjoyed a visit to the Dandenong Ranges. He's feeling better every day, and is eager to return home so he can get back to school and work toward his dream of becoming a doctor.

Help us mend another broken heart - make a tax deductible donation.

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A healthy heart equals school and soccer for Natalino

We're thrilled to report that our patient Natalino is making an excellent recovery from his mitral valve repair. He's now looking forward to a healthy future, including being able to focus on his studies, and getting back to playing soccer. A big thanks to surgeon Michael O'Keefe (pictured here, along with our honorary medical adviser Dr Noel Bayley), and all of our friends at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Help us mend another broken heart - make a tax deductible donation online.

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Something to smile about!

Natalino looks sad now, but we're aiming to put a smile back on the teenager's face. Natalino arrives in Australia tomorrow and will have heart surgery next week. He's looking forward to being well enough to do his schoolwork, help his parents at home and kick a soccer ball with his mates.

Natalino asked us to pass on this message: "The only words that I would say from my heart is thank you for the donors and doctors that have made my surgery possible, because without your help I will die."

We're looking forward to a much brighter future for Natalino.

To help us mend another broken heart, please make a tax deductible donation.

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Thanks Cardioscan!

A big thanks to our excellent friends Cardioscan, who have donated this huge haul of medical equipment. The high-tech gear will soon be making its way to Timor-Leste, for use by our friends at Guido Valadares National Hospital in their new cardiac ward. Thanks Cardioscan - we really appreciate your support.

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New hearts and home in time for Christmas!

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Operation GoodHearts - a message from our CEO

A message from our CEO

Just five days ago we launched a fundraising campaign to support Operation GoodHearts, our first ever paediatric surgical mission to Timor-Leste. I'm thrilled to let you know that we have already reached our $10,000 target!

Thank you so much for supporting and sharing our campaign.

The funds raised will pay for medical equipment that our volunteer surgical team needs, including oxygen saturation monitors, ECG monitors and a paediatric ventilator. After the mission, most of the equipment will be donated to Guido Valadares National Hospital in Dili.

Our volunteers and staff will now spend the festive season preparing for the surgical mission, which will take place early next year. Our volunteers are so excited about the opportunity to work alongside their Timorese colleagues, to mend 15 broken hearts in five days.

I know that our supporters are excited too. The response to our campaign has been truly overwhelming; even though we have reached our goal, donations are still flowing in. 

We don’t want to cut off the goodwill of people who are so keen to make a difference for our neighbours in Timor-Leste. So we’ve decided to leave the appeal open, and let it run until Christmas eve. We are actively planning more surgical missions to Timor-Leste, and so any additional funds raised will go toward this.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Operation GoodHearts, including our generous sponsor Northern Oil and Gas Australia. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for updates. And please feel free to continue to share the Operation GoodHearts appeal page with family and friends, to help send our volunteer heart surgery team back to Timor-Leste in the future.

With best wishes to you and your family this festive season,

Stuart Thomson, CEO


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We did it! $10,000 raised in five days!

We did it!

Operation GoodHearts has reached its $10,000 target in just five days!

Thank you to everyone who donated. The appeal is still open, so if you haven't yet had a chance to contribute you can do so at the Operation GoodHearts campaign page.

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We're overwhelmed! 50% raised in 48 hours!

We're overwhelmed! Operation GoodHearts has reached 50 per cent of its $10,000 target in less than 48 hours! Help equip our volunteer surgical team to mend 15 broken hearts in five days: please go the Operation GoodHearts campaign page to make a tax -deductible donation.

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Operation GoodHearts - 33% raised in 24 hours!

THANK YOU! Less than 24 hours ago we launched Operation GoodHearts. We've raised 33 per cent of our target already!

Help our volunteer surgeons mend 15 broken hearts in five days. Please go the Operation GoodHearts campaign page to make a tax -deductible donation.

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Operation GoodHearts - mending 15 broken hearts in five days!

We’re running our first-ever paediatric surgical mission to Timor-Leste in the new year, Operation GoodHearts. Our volunteers will operate on up to 15 children, giving them the chance of a normal, healthy life. But we need to buy some expensive medical equipment, including oxygen saturation monitors, ECG monitors and a paediatric ventilator. Can you help?

Please go the Operation GoodHearts campaign page to make a tax -deductible donation.

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"When I get better I will be very happy"

When Marquita found out she had heart disease, she was sad because she thought she would die. Marquita arrives in Australia for surgery tomorrow, and she's already dreaming of her new life.

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Jose's heartfelt message - "don't be scared"

Our latest patient Jose, 17, arrives in Australia tomorrow for surgery. When he is better Jose is looking forward to being able to help his parents, finish his education - and spread the word about our work.

Help us mend another broken heart - go to to make a tax-deductible donation.

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Scholarship supports the one and only Dr Monteiro


Scholarship supports the one and only Dr Monteiro


As Timor-Leste's first and only cardiologist, Dr Andre Monteiro, 41, is pioneering the treatment of heart patients in his young nation. A generous donor enabled East Timor Hearts Fund to award Dr Monteiro its first annual $10,000 scholarship, as part of a commitment to supporting improved health capacity in Timor-Leste. Supported by the scholarship, in November 2016 Dr Monteiro spent three weeks at the leading Australian cardiac service, MonashHeart in Melbourne.

Dr Monteiro says the scholarship is already benefitting his practice and his patients since his return to Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares in Dili, Timor-Leste’s major public hospital.

"The scholarship gave me a valuable chance to experience Australia's healthcare system and it's amazing to see how well planned it is compared to our new country. Professionally, the training made me feel more experienced and self-confident in diagnosing heart cases through echocardiography. This technology uses ultrasound to view and take pictures of the heart while it's in motion. In Timor, we don't have technicians to do the echocardiography. I do it all – I see the patients and I do the echocardiograms myself, analyse the results and provide the diagnosis.

The MonashHeart course covered a broad range of areas in just three weeks, with simulator training, cardiology inpatient and outpatient clinics, echocardiography and paediatric cardiology. Since returning to Timor, the MonashHeart training enables me to diagnose the paediatric cardiology disease cases earlier, which means patients get referred for surgery sooner, with better outcomes.

With paediatric cardiology, frequently caused by rheumatic heart disease, it is distressing to see young lives held back by debilitating symptoms. After surgery, when the young patients see me for a check up, I always praise the Lord that their health is improving very quickly and they are able to live as normal children.

The scholarship also led to good relationships with fellow heart specialists in Melbourne, which will help when communicating with them about East Timor Hearts Fund cases. I would love to return to MonashHeart to take their formal course in intervention cardiology. My country needs this expertise the most, to save lives in cardiac arrest cases.

If I look back on my career, I see that scholarships enabled me to become a cardiologist. After high school, I became the only Timorese student to ever receive a full scholarship from the Indonesian government to study medicine at the prestigious University of Indonesia. After returning to Timor as a GP, I saw there was a critical lack of heart specialists to meet this overwhelming need. Then I received a scholarship funded by the Timor government to take the cardiology program at University of Padjajaran in Bandung, Indonesia. Now the East Timor Hearts Fund scholarship has opened more possibilities for me to improve heart treatment in Timor-Leste.

Scholarships have had many positive impacts on my life and, through my medical work, so many other lives. This raises an important question: If we can help others now, why wait until later? Helping young patients through East Timor Hearts Fund is the best way because it changes their lives, and especially their quality of life. And we can see the difference in how they are able to transform their lives in the future.

Donating to support scholarships that improve the capacity of local doctors in Timor-Leste will enable them to identify which patients are in most need of medical help, a critical decision in a country with very limited medical resources."

Read Dr Andre's story in our 2016 annual report here.

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A volunteer driven by passion and compassion

Driven by passion and compassion

Health support volunteer Fatima Mendonca

During six years as a volunteer for East Timor Hearts Fund, health worker Fatima Mendonca, 30, has accompanied an astonishing 19 patients to Australia.

As an interpreter and health support worker, Fati (as she is affectionately known) puts her own life on hold several times a year to undertake the emotionally challenging task of guiding patients and their families through the sometimes frightening process of flying to Australia for surgery.

Fati’s dedication is truly extraordinary. When young patient Alia had an unexpectedly long stay in Australia, extending over Christmas 2016, Fati had to choose between remaining to support the 15-year-old and her mother Octavia, or returning to spend Christmas with her own family.

She chose Alia.

“I felt quite sad for me, and my own family, especially my mum, but I realise that Alia’s life needed to be saved,” Fati said.

“She is the future of Timor-Leste,” Fati added, about her young charge, who aspires to be a doctor.

This was by no means an isolated act of selfless professionalism. When Fati was asked to accompany Nelson, a farmer and father of three, to Australia in August 2016, she did not hesitate, even though it meant spending her birthday in Sydney, far from family and friends.

Travelling to Australia for weeks, or occasionally months, with a patient she may have only met a few times before, can be emotionally draining. But Fati says even though the patients may come from very different regions or circumstances, “when we are going to a big country like Australia, we are family”.

Fati’s work with East Timor Hearts Fund also includes supporting the volunteer medical team when it conducts screening clinics at Bairo Pite Clinic, the non-government service in Dili where she works. Fatima interprets for patients and medical and administrative volunteer staff, helping the process run smoothly.

In her day job, Fati is officially a “treatment room assistant”, a title that belies the skill and complexity of her tasks. Although she is not a nurse, patients at Bairo Pite Clinic flock to Fati for her wound care expertise. She is renowned for her abilities to suture wounds, cleanly and as painlessly as possible.

“My typical work every day would involve things like dressing wounds, suturing small wounds and doing observations for the patients,” Fati said.

“I also do translating work, helping our volunteers such as internationals doctors in the treatment room.

“I normally see five to 10 patients a day. Sometimes I go out to the districts to pick up patients if they have got a problem with wound care. That’s our job.”

Fati is driven by passion and compassion – in her work at Bairo Pite Clinic, and with East Timor Hearts Fund.

“I am incredibly compassionate and I have a way of instantly putting patients at ease,” Fati says, without any false modesty.

“If I can’t perform a task myself, I can be found at the patient’s bedside holding a hand or playing with a scared child.

“I am passionate about work and passionate about helping improve the health of the Timorese people.”

Read Fati's story in our 2016 annual report here.

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Volunteer Inacio helps patients feel at home

Volunteer Inacio helps patients feel 'at home'

Patient support volunteer Inacio Carvalho

When patients land at Melbourne Airport, Inacio Carvalho is highly likely to be one of the welcoming party, ready to take them safely to their accommodation.

As a Timor-Leste born member of the volunteer patient support team, Inacio provides vulnerable patients with a soft landing and warm reassurance, as they recover from their arduous journey and prepare for imminent heart surgery.

Inacio understands what patients need, having shared many of their experiences, both through his own background and his work with East Timor Hearts Fund.

When he arrived in Australia in 1985, it was the end of a 10-year journey that started when his family fled war-torn Timor-Leste and became refugees in Indonesia. In 1977, the Red Cross helped his family move to Portugal, once again, as refugees. "In 1985 a new chapter of my life started when I arrived in Australia," he said.

 He recalls the challenges of adapting to his adopted country: language, culture, environment, relationships and more. "Now, I can honestly say that Australia is one of the best countries in the world," he said. "From the moment that I meet the new patients I make sure that they feel at 'home away from their home' as I have experienced the same thing when I first arrived in Australia."

Inacio has personally helped every East Timor Hearts Fund patient treated in Victoria since 2011. He has also provided moral support via phone calls to the Sydney patients, their interpreters and their accompanying carers and family members. "In most cases, the patients just want to hear encouragement from another Timorese person, speaking the same language." Along with Tetum and English, Inacio speaks fluent Portuguese and basic Indonesian.

Like many of the patients he assists, Inacio has had open-heart surgery, in 2013, to repair suspected damage from rheumatic heart disease. This increased his ability to support patients, he says. "The surgery gave me a second chance in life, without it I would not be here today. I am lucky to live in Australia and I could not imagine having to go through a major surgery in a foreign country.

"I have found that speaking to the patients about my experience helps to calm them down before the operation, as many of them are, understandably, very anxious."

When patients are in Australia, Inacio is on call '24-7”, covering anything from Timorese meals, to hospital visits, interpreting and, post-treatment, offering fun experiences, like shopping and sightseeing.

Inacio juggles this around his full-time job as a storeman and his role in the family Timorese food business, Sabores de Timor, working with his wife, Ana Saldanha, also a long-term East Timor Hearts Fund volunteer. Sabores de Timor is well known for providing delicious East Timorese catering, cooking classes and food event stalls, sometimes also raising funds for East Timor Hearts Fund. Family is also very important to them: Inacio and Ana have a "beautiful daughter", now 26, who also frequently volunteers assisting heart patients.


Inacio says his voluntary work is motivated by his love of helping people and his passion for East Timor Hearts Fund’s life-saving impact. He has a simple message: "Heart disease does not discriminate so please come on board and help this amazing organisation."

Read Inacio's story in our 2016 annual report here.

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When a plan comes together: our volunteer logistics whiz

Volunteer Liam's logistics feats at the heart of landmark study

Clinic administrative volunteer Liam Callaghan

For administration volunteer Liam Callaghan, it was the culmination of three months of meticulous preparation: six trucks arriving safely in remote Letefoho in Ermera District, in south-western Timor-Leste, in October 2016. The convoy had crawled up bumpy mountain roads, a four-hour trip to cover 70 kilometres from Dili, to deliver its precious cargo of 25 rheumatic heart disease (RHD) study volunteers and all their essential equipment.

The group quickly set up a screening operation to gather data for the landmark research study into the prevalence of RHD among school children in Timor-Leste. East Timor Hearts Fund played a lead role in the organisation of the study, which involved a multi-disciplinary team that also visited Dili, and Bakhita village, also in Ermera district. After five marathon days, they had screened 1400 children. This provided a credible basis for the study, which will inform treatment and prevention strategies and resource allocation for battling RHD in the years ahead. (For more, see page 16]

Liam emphasises the team effort that drove the project, involving many skilled practitioners from around Australia and Timor-Leste, including five cardiologists, nurses, indispensable local 'fixer' Eddie De Pina, local translators and many others.

Liam's professional expertise in logistics helped ensure that everything ran smoothly, enabling the researchers to work efficiently. Although his key concern was meeting their minimum quota of 1000 children, ironically, the only 'hitch' was that they ran well ahead of plan, requiring some swift rescheduling.

A civil engineer, Liam joined Metro Trains as a train engineer, and is now Asset Development Manager. He leads a team of strategists who decide how best to invest in rail infrastructure. Logistics and project management are key functions of his work.

In the context of the RHD study, what did 'logistics' cover? Almost everything, it would seem: project planning, anticipation, coordination, communication, and negotiation, both in Australia and Timor-Leste. "My job was to ensure that everything would be ready for everyone when they arrived," Liam says, "That we were going to all the right places, had all the right supplies, that everyone knew their role and everyone's movements, and what the programs entailed, the trip schedules, accommodation and food, and that we were making the most of every hour."

For the school children, the screening was an exciting diversion – with the novelty of seeing their hearts beating, via the echocardiograph. For 50 whose screening revealed RHD, it led to discussion with their parents and life-saving penicillin treatment.

Liam had heard about East Timor Hearts Fund’s work through his neighbour, its honorary medical adviser, Dr Noel Bayley, who invited him to come on board. Liam has now worked supporting the volunteer medical team in Timor-Leste five times over the past three years.

Dr Bayley has been effusive about Liam's other major project: helping to tailor a purpose-built database to support their clinic’s needs on location. "The medicos simply enter the patient’s ID into an iPad and all prior examinations, procedures and plans for future treatment are at our fingertips," Dr Bayley says.

Liam's voluntary work for revealed another reality. "I get to feel part of a pretty important team that saves lives. And I get a perspective of what's going on in other areas of the world."

He says East Timor Hearts Fund is "an incredibly worthwhile organisation" to donate to. "When you're on the ground you can see how much it benefits the lives of the people there and how much it's appreciated."  

Read Liam's story in our 2016 annual report here.

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Our annual report is out now!

Our 2016 annual report is out now!

Read it online or download from our website!

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New life for Lucas - read about it in our annual report

Three years ago Lucas had surgery to correct a heart condition he was born with, something that would have been operated on in his infancy if he lived in a developed country. In our latest annual report we catch up with Lucas and some other patients to find out how healthy hearts have changed their lives.

You can read it online or download a copy.

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Join us for afternoon tea

One for our fans in Warrnambool and the south-west - come and meet our honorary medical adviser and co-founder, Dr Noel Bayley, and CEO Stuart Thomson, at this special event on Wednesday 8 November. Learn more about our work and find out how you can get involved. This is a free event but RSVPs are essential to

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Charity tick of approval

We are a proud recipient of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Charity Tick. The tick tells donors that we are registered by the ACNC, and that our accounts and other information that donors want to know about is publicly available via the online Charity Register.We couldn't do what we do without the support of our donors, so we thank the ACNC for helping us to give donors confidence.

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Help you can bank on

Congrats to the team from ANZ Australia who snatched the coveted perpetual trophy away from last year's winners, rival bank NAB, at yesterday's Swing into Action to Mend a Broken Heart golf day. But of course the real winners are the young people with untreated heart disease in Timor-Leste, who rely on our services. The day raised more than $16,000, which will support a patient's life-saving heart surgery. Thanks to all the players, and our sponsors ANZ, 8bit, ConnectPM, Intech3 and Plan Management Partners.

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Swinging into action to mend a broken heart

A fantastic turnout for our second annual Swing into Action to Mend a Broken Heart golf day today. We raised more than $16,000! A big thanks to our generous supporters, Plan Management Partners, ANZ, 8bit, ConnectPM and Intech3, and our official sunscreen supplier Vitality Brands, who helped us stay sun smart all day.

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A revolutionary volunteer

Today’s East Timor Hearts Fund herogram goes to our hardworking clinic coordinator Nicki Mock. As well as organising our clinics when our volunteer medical team is in Timor-Leste, Nicki has revolutionised our clinical records, allowing us to go completely paperless. Nicki’s quiet dedication shows the value that professional volunteers bring to East Timor Hearts Fund. We are a small organisation, but through the efforts of people like Nicki, who volunteer countless hours to support our work, we make our donor dollars go a long way.  Please donate to help us mend more broken hearts.

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Farmer Nelson's wish fulfilled

Nelson's simple wish was to be well enough to return to farming, and to give his family a happy life. It was fulfilled when he had a high-tech mitral balloon procedure in Australia last year. This week cardiologist Dr Simon Eggleton caught up with Nelson in Timor-Leste, and got to see and hear about how his life has been transformed. More of the back story here.

Please help us mend more broken hearts - make a tax deductible donation.


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The smiles that say it all

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A shocking heart

It takes a lot to shock our volunteer medicos. But cardiologist Dr Simon Eggleton was stunned when he looked at the ultrasound of Timotio’s heart valve, and the damage caused by rheumatic heart disease. The narrowing was the most severe he had seen – so it’s no surprise that Timotio had been weak, breathless and struggling to go to school and study. All of that is in the past now, following a high-tech mitral balloon procedure Eastern Heart Clinic last week. Yesterday, the 21-year-old had a check-up and this time, the results were a pleasant surprise. Timotio will soon be back to Timor-Leste, and with renewed good health, can work toward his dream of studying to become a doctor.

Please help us mend more broken hearts - make a tax deductible donation.


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A healthy grin

A healthy grin from our patient Timotio, after his successful mitral balloon procedure this week. The 21-year-old will now be able to get back to his studies, and work toward his dream of becoming a health professional.

Our thanks to doctors Virag Kushwaha and Simon Eggleton, our partners Eastern Heart Clinic and Prince of Wales Private Hospital and health support worker Ricky, who accompanied Timotio to Australia.

Please help us mend more broken hearts - make a tax deductible donation.


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A dream of good health coming true for Timotio

Timotio, 21, is studying science and aspires to be a doctor or nurse. But with worsening heart disease symptoms, including a racing heart and breathlessness, daily life has been hard. “I am unhappy because I have no energy to work, study and play with my friends,” Timotio said. Early in the year Timotio, who lives in Baucau, east of Dili, was referred to our volunteer medical team; on Monday he arrives in Australia, where he will have a high-tech mitral balloon procedure at Eastern Heart Clinic in Sydney. We’re looking forward to welcoming Timotio; and giving him good health to chase his dream of becoming a health professional and helping others.

Please donate to help us mend more broken hearts.


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'You saved my husband and my son'

Dad of six Filomeno continues to make a great recovery after his heart tumour operation last week. His family back home (including 14 year old Paulo, who last year also had heart surgery in Australia) are counting down the days until his return.

Filomeno’s wife Regina asked us to pass on thanks to all of the supporters who made surgery possible for her husband.

"I thank you not only for myself but on behalf of our six children and our extended family and our many friends. The gratitude we feel today will remain with us for the rest of our lives,” Regina told us.

“We don't have anything to pay back but our family will always pray to God to give you all good health and strength so that you can continue to do the wonderful work that you are doing in saving Timorese lives.

“You did not only save my husband's life but, you did also save my son Paulo and many other Timorese lives as well.

“God Bless you all. Obrigada barak!"

Your tax deductible donation will allow us to mend another broken heart.


Photo credit: Hugh Miley

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Bulldogs champion Lin Jong pays a visit

Our patient Filomeno, who is recovering well after heart tumour surgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital last Friday, had a very special visitor today, our ambassador, Western Bulldogs champion Lin Jong. 

Filomeno is one half of our first ever “dad and son double” – a year ago we gave his 13-year-old son Paulo life-saving surgery in Australia, and when a routine check-up with our volunteer medical team revealed Filomeno’s tumour, we were delighted to be able to help him as well.

"There are no amount of words for me to express the extreme gratitude I have in my new healthy heart,” Filomeno told us.

“May God richly bless you and protect you so that you can continue to save more lives in my dear homeland Timor-Leste." 

Your tax deductible donation will allow us to mend another broken heart.


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An update from our CEO – East Timor Hearts Fund services not affected by restructure at Bairo Pite Clinic

An update from our CEO  East Timor Hearts Fund services not affected by restructure at Bairo Pite Clinic

The CEO of Bairo Pite Clinic Australia has briefed me about the restructure of its services, which is now underway.

I wish Bairo Pite Clinic Australia every success in continuing to work to an outcome that is positive for the people and the health system in Timor-Leste.

In the meantime, our focus is on the continued smooth running of our heart-health activities in Timor-Leste, including cardiac screening clinics, patient scheduling and pre-surgery logistics and our early-intervention penicillin program.

There is no interruption to the services we provide in Timor-Leste and Australia. Our patient surgery program continues, as does planning for our September round of cardiac screening clinics, which will take place at Guido Valadares National Hospital and also in the districts.

We continue to monitor progress and receive updates from Bairo Pite Clinic Australia. I wish all parties strength and wisdom in working to a solution focused on ensuring the best health services for those who need it most in Timor-Leste.

– Stuart Thomson, CEO

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Timorese dad and son in heart health double act

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Goat tracks, comradeship and an awe-inspiring sunrise - the Trans-Timor Trek

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Meliana's seven great reasons to strive for health

We’re hugely excited to let you know that our patient Meliana is making a great recovery from this week’s heart procedure. Meliana (pictured here with interventional cardiologist Dr Will Wilson) has now been discharged from Royal Melbourne Hospital, and if her recovery continues to go well, will soon be returning to sunny Timor-Leste. Meliana has many reasons to strive for good health – her seven children (aged between two and 13) and her ambition to return to university studies amongst them. Meliana told us: “I want to say thank you very much to the doctors, donors and everyone else who has helped me.” We’re also hugely grateful to Dr Wilson and all of the nursing and medical colleagues at Royal Melbourne Hospital who have contributed to this outstanding result for Meliana. Thank you for your support; together we are mending broken hearts.

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Landmark heart health study launched


Last October we partnered to deliver a landmark rheumatic heart disease study, as part of our commitment to tackle the root cases of poor heart heath in Timor-Leste. Today researcher Kim Davis of Royal Darwin Hospital presented the findings at the 7th World Congress of Paediatric Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery in Barcelona. The bad news is that the findings confirm that Timor-Leste has amongst the world's highest rates of this treatable, preventable form of heart disease. The good news is that, along with our project partners, we plan to use the study as a platform for greater action to tackle this devastating disease

More background about the study here.




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From cows to celebrities, it's all in a day's work for this trek medic

Meet Damo Liddy, official medic to the Trans-Timor Trek


Dysentery, sprains, infections and dehydration – it will be all in a day’s work Damo Liddy, the official medic for the inaugural 100km Trans-Timor Trek. Damo’s job will be to help keep the 11 trekkers taking part in the healthy and mobile as they traverse Timor-Leste on the 13-day heart health hike in July and August 2017. The Queensland paramedic has treated celebrities and centenarians, delivered babies and once got asked to help a cow having a seizure, so he’s prepared for anything!


What does the role of trek medic involve?

In a trek medic’s perfect tour, you carry a kit full of everything you may need to use, but never have to open your kit. I am prepared to provide varied levels of first aid care for our team and for any locals that may need our attention along the way.   


What sort of medical issues are you expecting to see?

The risks we face as a trekking team vary, but include exposure to mosquito-borne illness; dysentery; dehydration; electrolyte illnesses; sprains, strains and musculo-skeletal injuries; and blisters. And also potentially some of the most emotionally-challenging moments people may have had in their adventure-bound lives! I am prepared for anything, yet extremely hopeful for the individual team members’ sakes, that none of it occurs. Our goal at Earth Trails is to get every team member from Dili in the north to the beach at Betano in the south of Timor-Leste with an amazing story to tell.


Will it be difficult to be the official medic on a trip where there are so many other paramedics? Do medics make good patients?

Medics are all individuals, and therefore all come with their own personalities, attitudes and levels of resilience.

I believe that everyone has something to offer in 95 per cent of all circumstances in life, and so I plan on acting as the glue that helps this team bond together and look after each other throughout our amazing time together in Timor-Leste.

In my time on-road working as a paramedic, I have treated celebrities, famous athletes, my own supervisors and their families, and plenty of doctors, nurses and key community figures, as well as delivered babies and treated three separate 104-year-old patients. I have no challenge providing care to anyone that requires my attention throughout this trek. It is almost impossible to speculate if our team of medics themselves will be good, bad or indifferent as patients if things turn bad for any one individual on the team. In my personal experience, tough times tend to produce unlikely heroes, and you can see amazing things happen when a team work together for a common purpose. Earth Trails has already laid down a proven track record of success in every previous expedition region they have focused on, and I have a feeling that Timor-Leste is going to quickly become one of their absolute best.   


What made you decide to volunteer for the role?

I am inspired by the work that the team at Earth Trails does, and have a strong desire to continue to contribute toward good outcomes for underprivileged people whenever I can afford to do so. Sometimes that means raising money and paying for equipment, medications, infrastructure and basic needs, and sometimes that means simply donating your time to contribute toward good outcomes. This trip is a bit of a dream for me, to be able to support a team of people with my knowledge and dedication, that are supporting such a great cause themselves.

Every day in a developing world country in my previous traveling experiences has been a life changing day, with the things you see, and the lessons that the circumstances of these peoples lives accidently teach you.

It is my first ever trip to Timor Leste, but the passion that trek leader Mick Stuth from trek organiser  Earth Trails Adventures has for the region when he speaks about it, makes me feel like I almost already owe this region something, before we even lay down footprints on the Trans-Timor Trek trail.

I feel honored to have been selected for the medic role on the Earth Trails Trans-Timor Trek.    


Why were you keen to support the trek for East Timor Hearts Fund?

I think the work East Timor Hearts Fund does is incredible, and I can speak from personal experience also in saying that it is one of the biggest gifts you could ever receive in this world when you get to save someone’s life through the simple actions you take performing the work that you do. ETHF regularly saves the lives of young East Timorese who otherwise would never have had a second chance. The donation of my time and efforts is a simple way for me to say thank you to the East Timor Hearts Fund team for their incredibly generous gift to Timor-Leste.


What's the strangest/most interesting thing that's happened to you as a wilderness medic?

Several years ago we were on a trek in the deep north of New Zealand when we came across a giant eagle trapped in a bear claw wildlife trap. He had one of his legs caught in a large sprung metal trap and looked exhausted and in severe distress. We carefully approached him and he tried to fly away, but couldn’t move to far. We were very keen to let the bird go free, so we set about doing that, but we had no idea about how to use the trap. A few of us just wrestled it open and the eagle skipped off through the scrub, made a few awkward flaps of his giant wings and then soared off into the sky above us. We were so excited to be a part of that. The coolest part was that the eagle hung around and hovered above us for almost the next half an hour, almost as if to say thank you to us for freeing him. That was a pretty special moment in life, even though it wasn’t your typical medic thing.

While on the theme of animals too, I have also been asked to stop a cow from having a seizure at a camp draft event in central Queensland. It is nice to think that people put that much faith in what you can do as a medic, that you could stop a traumatic seizure in a 700kg animal! There is never a dull day in your life as a paramedic. I am sure during the long nights on our Trans-Timor Trek we will all share stories about then random moments our jobs have delivered us throughout the years.   


What's the most used item in your medic kit?

On a trip like this, I think the blister tape will get a solid workout. Not everyone has the opportunity in their everyday life to apply the right preparation for these types of trips, and the weather is always the unpredictable factor on these excursions. It can be glorious for the entire time, and people will still get banged up, but when it decides to pour its heart out with rain like only the tropics know how to deliver, the way we humans move and the way we negotiate trekking hazards, changes dramatically, and it opens the team up to a significantly increased risk of rubs, bumps and bust ups. Not everything is minor trauma based issues though. Mental health and medical condition management are just as important to keep a good handle on throughout the trek. Almost everyone on the Trans-Timor Trek has some form of medical background, so I would imagine that most of our team will take pride (and some kind of bragging rights) on not needing any assistance for the duration of our trek.  


This is your first trip to Timor-Leste – what are you expecting?

I have endeavored to do a fair amount of research into the region, and also into the amazing service that East Timor Hearts Fund supplies. I don’t want to turn up as the stranger in the crowd, and be unprepared for what we have ahead of us.

As a trek medic, you just have to prepare yourself to deal with every circumstance as it arises, and this has always proven to be the best approach. To just have a rough idea of the potential for complications, but at the same time, to not have any preconceived ideas or expectations of what may or may not occur.


Donate to the trek and find out more here.


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Where to find us at Run Melbourne

If you're joining us at the Run Melbourne fun run and walk, this is where you'll find us on the morning.

Our marquee is on River Terrace, behind Federation Square.

Please come past at 8.30, before your event, to meet our special guest, patient Bete, and be in the big team photo.

There's still time to sign up and support our team to reach our goal of raising $20,000 for a patient's life-saving heart surgery. Or use the link below for more information.

Hope to see you there!


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Big-hearted by design - thanks Smith+Tracey Architects!

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Our Run Melbourne ambassador Bete's running for healthy hearts

Eight months after life-saving heart surgery in Australia, Timorese sports teacher Bete Naben is returning to Melbourne to thank donors and show off her newfound health at a fun run.

The mother of three was born with Ventricular Septal Defect or “hole in the heart”. She was too sick to teach, and feared not seeing her children grow up. East Timor Hearts Fund came to her aid last November, flying her to Australia for complex surgery at University Hospital Geelong.

Now well, and able to return to work and play soccer and volleyball, Bete said she wanted to do Run Melbourne to inspire future patients, and to raise awareness about East Timor Hearts Fund’s “amazing” work.

“For me, it will be a great challenge and achievement, because when I was so sick I had given up hope,” Bete said.

“I never thought that I would ever be healthy again, let alone running five kilometres.”

East Timor Hearts Fund CEO Stuart Thomson said Bete was living proof of the value of the fund’s work, which was made possible by donors and medical, community and corporate partners across Australia.

“To see the burden of critical heart disease lifted from Bete and her family is very humbling,” Mr Thomson said.

“It is not just Bete and her family who benefit – as a teacher Bete is shaping the next generation of young Timorese and making an invaluable contribution to her community and country.”

Mr Thomson said an independent social return on investment study had found that every dollar invested in the organisation’s program returned nine dollars in health and social benefits.

“By changing one life, we can help build a better future for our neighbours in Timor-Leste,” he said.

Mr Thomson said he hoped supporters who had donated to help fund surgery for Bete and patients like her would turn out in force to meet her at Run Melbourne on 30 July.

As well as her first ever fun run, Bete said she was keen to try AFL football while in Melbourne. “I've never played AFL but would love to try. I think it will be a great experience and maybe something that I can take back to Timor and teach my kids.”

Donate to Bete's Run Melbourne fundraising effort.

Sincere thanks to our Run Melbourne 2017 sponsors Russell Kennedy Lawyers and Smith + Tracey architects, whose generous support is allowing Bete to travel to Melbourne.


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Media release Russell Kennedy Lawyers helping to mend broken hearts

Media release

Russell Kennedy Lawyers helping to mend broken hearts

21 June 2017

East Timor Hearts Fund is delighted to welcome leading law firm Russell Kennedy Lawyers as a major sponsor of its 2017 Run Melbourne team.

CEO Stuart Thomson Russell Kennedy’s decision to get on board with the team was just of the myriad of ways the firm was supporting East Timor Hearts Fund.

“Russell Kennedy is a quiet hero in the East Timor Hearts Fund story.  Since 2012, Russell Kennedy has partnered with East Timor Hearts Fund, way beyond an allocation of ‘six-minute billing units’,” Mr Thomson said.

"As well as solving our legal and tax issues, Russell Kennedy provides CBD office accommodation; meeting and event venues; catering and event support; networking opportunities; administrative support and more.

“This practical support is a key reason we’ve been able to transform in just five short years from charity start-up to an emerging development-focussed medical NGO.”

Mr Thomson said support from partners including Russell Kennedy would see former patient Bete Naben return to join the East Timor Hearts Fund team at Run Melbourne.

Since successful surgery last November to repair a “hole in the heart”, the mother of three and sports teacher had resumed teaching and playing soccer and volleyball.

Mr Thomson said he met with Bete and her family on a recent visit to Timor-Leste and Bete was keenly looking forward to showing off her newfound health at the run.

“We are truly fortunate to have a friend like Russell Kennedy. I’m looking forward to seeing staff from the firm out in force at Run Melbourne on 30 July, alongside our volunteers, medicos and our event ambassador Bete.”

Paul Gleeson, Managing Director at Russell Kennedy Lawyers, said he was very proud of the way that staff at the firm actively engaged in initiatives that directly benefited community partners, such as fundraising or donating time to undertake legal work for organisations such as East Timor Hearts Fund.

“I hope the Run Melbourne fundraising drive will be successful for the Fund and I look forward to seeing a large contingent of staff at the start line,” Mr Gleeson said.


Media enquiries

Ingrid Svendsen, volunteer communications adviser, East Timor Hearts Fund,


Kerry Riordan, Business Development Consultant, Russell Kennedy Lawyers, + 61 3 9609 1528,


About Russell Kennedy Lawyers Russell Kennedy is a law firm that delivers expert legal solutions and provides market leading expertise in our sectors of focus. We are committed to making a difference for our clients, providing opportunities for our people and creating positive and lasting changes within our community. We have offices in Melbourne, Geelong and Canberra and over 200 staff members.




About East Timor Hearts Fund East Timor Hearts Fund is a volunteer-powered medical NGO dedicated to providing life-saving heart surgery in Australia for young Timorese, as well as heart-health research, education and prevention projects.

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Medicos depart; now to work on funds and operations

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For the record - we're so grateful to our admin volunteers

An update from Timor-Leste,  from our honorary medical adviser Dr Noel Bayley

Hello from Dili,

Today the team is looking forward to the fifth and final day of this clinical trip.

Yesterday we were at Guido Valadares National Hospital, where we worked in cooperation with the local paediatricians and cardiologist Dr Andre Monteiro. My colleague, paediatric cardiologist Dr Ari Horton, was again kept busy seeing children with complex congenital disease.

While I mostly talk about the medical aspects of our work in these missives, I'd like to highlight something a bit different – our volunteer clinic admin team.

Administrator Nick Mock and cardiac nurse Charis Brown have been running the "front of house" during this visit. This involves meeting patients and their families, securing the necessary personal details and creating a medical record. All of these tasks are crucial to having accurate, and retrievable, clinical information.

A great deal of work has gone into creating a purpose-built database tailored to meet the clinic’s needs.

We've now reached the point where the medicos simply enter the patient’s ID into an iPad, and all prior examinations, procedures and plans for future treatment are at our fingertips. The system works rather better than at any of the hospitals I've worked at over the years.

The doctors, and the patients, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Nicki, Charis, and our entire clinic administrative team.

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Run Melbourne - it's a family affair!

Our Run Melbourne team is making the most of a sparkling autumn long weekend morning in Melbourne town! Volunteer board director Nicki has the whole clan in training. Kids Gemma and Patrick and sister Anne have all signed up to do the event with Nicki on 30 July. Legends!

You can be a legend too! Pop over to our Run Melbourne web page for all the info and links you need to register, join our team and help raise $20,000 to mend a broken heart. With options including a scenic 5km walk along the Yarra, a 10k fun run and a half marathon, there's something to suit most.

Hope to see you there!


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'Delight and joy' for our volunteer medicos

An update from Timor-Leste,  from our honorary medical adviser Dr Noel Bayley

The team is well into the June clinical trip.

After an early arrival last Friday morning, medical team members Dr Louise Creati, Dr Ari Horton and Dr Andre Monteiro (Timor’s first cardiologist), along with the support team of clinic administrator Nicki Mock and cardiac nurse Charis Brown, made the gruelling four-hour drive to Baucau, 120km east of Dili, for the first clinic.

It was a busy day, with around 50 patients seen, including many children. Ari's expertise as a paediatric cardiologist was extremely welcome and valuable. He has filled a longstanding gap in our range of services to the young people of Timor-Leste.

We had a late return to Dili, then back into it today at our partner, non-government health service Bairo Pite Clinic.  Again, it was a busy day. We saw about 30 patients, including a lot of kids with congenital disease who were in need of Ari’s input.

The day yielded the usual array of new patients, including three young adults who are outstanding candidates for surgical intervention in Australia.

As always, the whole team took delight, and indeed joy, in seeing patients who have been operated on in the recent past, all doing well.

It was a particular pleasure to see teenager Olga, who had extremely severe mitral stenosis, and was near death before her mitral balloon procedure at Royal Melbourne Hospital last July, now in robust health. Likewise, sports teacher and mother of three Bete, who had a complex “hole in the heart” operation at University Hospital Geelong last November, is also doing very well.

I am looking forward to another busy day of clinics tomorrow.

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Working long weekend for our volunteers

While Australians prepare for a relaxing Queen’s Birthday long weekend, East Timor Hearts Fund volunteers are gearing up for another busy round of heart screening clinics in Timor-Leste.

Our honorary medical adviser, Dr Noel Bayley, and volunteer medical team are about to head up to Timor-Leste, where they’ll spend the long weekend hard at work. Over four days our team will see hundreds of patients, identifying new candidates for treatment in Australia, and doing check-ups on patients who have previously had surgery to ensure their recovery is on track.

Our team will be doing clinics in Dili, at Guido Valadares National Hospital and with our partner, non-government health service Bairo Pite Clinic. They will also travel to Baucau, 120 kilometres east of the capital, to screen patients there.

As well as the medical team, our CEO Stuart Thomson, and voluntary board member and board committee chair Bill Appleby (who is the CEO of Jewish Care Victoria in his day job) are also Dili-bound. Stu and Bill will attend some of our clinics to meet the patients and support the volunteer clinic staff. They’ll also be meeting with some of our most important partners in Timor-Leste.

Our team will once again be achieving some amazing things in Timor-Leste, so stand by for some exciting updates from the field!

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Latest news!

Our latest enews is out now and you won't want to miss a word!

In this issue:

- Dr Noel Bayley's gearing up

- CEO Stuart Thomson's lacing up

- Board chair Ingrid Svendsen's tackling mountains

- New faces!

- Volunteer Liam Callaghan shares his unique gardening philosophy

- And best of all, Alisia's mum Rosalina, is now healthy again!

Please enjoy.

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New directors bring health and research boost

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Our patient 'angel'

Our patient 'angel'


Our volunteer patient support coordinator Ana Saldanha is inspired by the patients we help.


Adaptability a big asset 


Ana Saldanha has shown a remarkable capacity to adapt to any situation she has encountered since she started volunteering for the East Timor Hearts Fund in 2011.


Officially, Ana is patient support coordinator but this title belies the skills and personal strengths she applies to help cardiac patients throughout their treatment journey.


Unofficially, Ana may at times be a diplomat, den mother, cultural and political consultant, expert translator and interpreter, logistical tactician, patient carer and confidante, and 'team captain' of 15 volunteer patient supporters.


As patient support coordinator, she must be ready to step in if volunteers are unavailable due to their unexpected personal commitments. "I have to be both flexible and reliable," she says. "Otherwise things can go in the wrong direction."


She oversees the individual needs of patients, which range from a warm welcome from volunteers at Melbourne Airport, to Timorese home cooking, bedside visits in hospital, and homestays and recreational activities afterwards.


Gaining patients' trust requires a high level of empathy and, having immigrated to Australia in 1988, Ana knows how intimidating it can feel to cope with a strange language and culture. "Patients talk to me as their family. To me also, they are not just numbers or patients. I look at them as my own family."


These commitments are deftly juggled around her 'real' full-time job with the Australian Defence Force’s School of Languages. She also has a Timorese catering business, Sabores de Timor, and enjoys sharing spare time with her family


Ana has accompanied ETHF's medical teams to Timor-Leste to translate, interpret and facilitate at the cardiac assessment clinics in Dili and outlying districts. Once patients have been selected as cardiac treatment candidates, Ana briefs them about what to expect. This includes interpreting complex concepts in Tetum that may not have direct translations for technical medical terms.


She also translates cultural, political and social issues for both the medical teams and the board. In remote districts, for example, many people rely on fortune-tellers for healthcare advice. The parents' decision to have their critically ill child receive ETHF's treatment in Australia can spark strong opposition within their family – another hurdle to overcome, in addition to the gruelling travel to Dili. This helps explain why some patients can seem ambivalent about taking up a life-saving opportunity.


Ana's reward is the joy of helping young patients regain their health and their hopes of building tomorrow's Timor-Leste. "They can't wait to go back to school and achieve their dreams. They want to become architects, engineers, doctors, teachers, scientists. I tell them that with their determination, they will get better every day and be able to achieve that."


"I am really honoured to be part of such a wonderful organisation."


Source: 2015 East Timor Hearts Fund annual report

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Media release - Health and research boost for East Timor Heart Fund board

Media release                                     

Health and research boost for East Timor Heart Fund board

31 May 2017

The board of East Timor Hearts Fund has significantly expanded its skills base in key areas including public health and research following the election of four new directors.


The additions to the board, following a rigorous skills audit, recruitment and selection process, are part of East Timor Hearts Fund’s continued expansion into research, education and prevention projects that aim to tackle the root causes of poor heart health in Timor-Leste.


“While we will continue to provide life-saving heart surgery in Australia for those who need it, our focus will increasingly be on earlier intervention and tackling some of the systemic issues behind the high rate of rheumatic and other heart disease in Timor-Leste,” board chair Ingrid Svendsen said.


“These new board appointments, combined with the strengths of longer-serving directors, give us a diverse and high-skill board that is well-equipped to oversee the implementation of our very ambitious strategic plan.”


East Timor Hearts Fund’s annual general meeting last night (30 May 2017) elected new directors:

Dr Brett Sutton, a public health expert who is Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer, who has previously worked on public health projects in Timor-Leste and as a volunteer with Médecins Sans Frontières.

Julianne Scenna, who leads The Social Economy Group, a social impact consultancy, and has a background in international and community development and cross-sector partnerships.

Nick Oats, who manages a Victorian Government international program and has had significant involvement in projects in Timor-Leste.

Dr Vijaya Joshi, a research partnerships manager at Menzies School of Health Research, who has lived and worked in Timor-Leste and has considerable expertise working on rheumatic heart disease projects.


“Last year we funded and partnered to screen 1500 Timorese school children, as part of a landmark prevalence study, which identified some of the highest rates of rheumatic heart disease in the world,” Ingrid said.


“Rheumatic heart disease is preventable and it is treatable in its early stages. So we are now partnering to roll out a range of preventative and public health projects, including funding an outreach health worker to deliver a penicillin program targeting those with early symptoms.


“Our board is now better placed than ever to provide governance oversight to manage risk and effectively deliver these more complex projects and service delivery areas.”


Ingrid noted that the East Timor Hearts Fund board now had greater gender diversity than most Australian corporate boards and many in the not for profit sector.


“At a time when many corporate boards still have little or no female representation, it is very pleasing to now have a board that is 60 per cent women,” Ingrid said.


Other board members are Andrew Cochrane, Bill Appleby, Nicki Patten (company secretary), Sarah Danne and Sophie Clarkson.


Ingrid paid tribute to the outstanding service of retiring directors Philip Fitzpatrick and Ana Saldanha, a foundation board member who will remain with the organisation as volunteer patient support coordinator.


The board is currently filling one final position, and is advertising for a finance-qualified director, with applications closing on 12 June.


More information about the board is at

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Susan and Nina - our Run Melbourne heroes

Our Run Melbourne Heroes!

As we prepare for another great event on 30 July, we're re-living some of the highlights from previous years.

In 2014, businesswoman Susan heard that our patient Nina wanted to come to Australia to do Run Melbourne. So she paid her airfare!

Before her operation Nina had been too sick to walk a block, but as our guest of honour at the event she impressed the whole team with her run.

And as you can see, she didn't forget to show Mana Susan how happy she was to be part of the fun!

There's still eight weeks to go, so plenty of time to sign up and join in. All the info and links you need are on our website. 

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Join CEO Stu at Run Melbourne

This unseasonably warm weather has put a spring into the step of our CEO Stuart Thomson, who's in training for Run Melbourne. Here he is taking a brief selfie break, between pounding out the ks.

Stu would love to see you at the event and to have your help in our mission to raise $20,000 to mend a broken heart.

Please pop across to our website to get all the info you need about signing up for the run or walk, and joining our team.



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Happy birthday to our champion, Lin Jong!

Happy birthday to our favourite AFL player, our ambassador Lin Jong of Western Bulldogs. Number 46 turns 24 today! 

You can find out more about our champion Lin on our website.

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We're recruiting! Volunteer finance board role

We're recruiting!

If you're a qualified finance whiz with director experience and a passion for our mission of mending broken hearts and heart-health prevention, research and education projects, please apply for a voluntary role on our board.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join a dynamic, growing organisation that has an exceptional CEO, skilled board with positive board culture and a strong strategic plan.

Applications close 12 June. Apply here.

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Run Melbourne Dili!

While we'll be shivering in chilly Melbourne doing Run Melbourne, our friends in Dili will be sweating it out at this unofficial event, Run Melbourne Dili!

Join the easygoing team of friends of East Timor Hearts Fund for a relaxed foreshore run, starting at Pertamina Wharf to Beachside, and hopefully finishing with coffee.

We're raising $20,000 to give a patient life-saving heart surgery in Australia.

Create your fundraising profile and join our team here

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Rosalina on the mend

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Rosalina all smiles ahead of surgery

Our latest patient Rosalina, 22, is in great spirits ahead of her mitral balloon procedure this week at Eastern Heart Clinic in Sydney.

Our CEO Stuart Thomson popped in today to visit Rosalina, and health support worker Simoa, from Bairo Pite Clinic in Dili.

This life-saving procedure cannot come soon enough for Rosalina, whose debilitating symptoms have left her too weak to play with her five month old daughter Alisia, and to work and study.

“I can’t wait to be healthy. I want to see my baby girl grow up and be there for her,” Rosalina told us.

More news soon!

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400,000 reasons to be grateful to our volunteers

Did you know - the value of work contributed by our medical and medical administration volunteers alone is an estimated $400,000 each year? But that’s just a fraction of the unpaid contribution that keeps our organisation going, as we also have volunteer accountants, administrative staff, committee and board members, patient support workers, marketing professionals and more. It’s how we deliver exceptional value for donor dollars, and exceptional service for the community we serve.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we have 400,000 reasons to be grateful.


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Running for my brother

As Team Mending Broken Hearts gears up for another fantastic Run Melbourne event on Sunday 30 July, we're celebrating some of our Run Melbourne heroes.

This is our volunteer Chico, who ran the event in honour of his brother, who tragically passed away from heart disease aged only 46, leaving behind young children. Chico says his family could not afford to fly his brother overseas for treatment, and the right care was not available in Timor-Leste.

For Chico, volunteering, and doing the fun run, is a "fitting way to honour the memory of my brother and help to make sure that other Timorese people can lead a healthy and happy life with their families".

Everyone has a different reason for doing the run or walk, but we can all contribute to the goal of raising $20,000 to give a young patient life-saving heart surgery in Australia.

All the information and links you need to sign up and join our team are here.

Look forward to seeing you there!


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Our CEO's lesson for Melbourne Uni students


It was a lecture worth turning up to for University of Melbourne Masters in International Development students this morning, with our CEO Stuart Thomson doing a guest spot. With his background with agencies such as Oxfam and World Vision, as well as his work with East Timor Hearts Fund, we're sure Stuart gave the students some great insights.

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