Tag Archives: Millennium Campus Conference

An Important Lesson Learned Through Timor-Leste

Everyday Ambassador

Being a part of Project Plus One has had an impact on my life like almost nothing else. Our work supporting health care systems in Timor-Leste has brought together incredible people across Timor-Leste and the United States to take on some really challenging work. Since 2011, we’ve worked on various efforts, had our ups and downs as an organization, and will soon be announcing our largest, most important project yet (stay tuned).

As we approach three years since our founding, I was invited back in August by EverydayAmbassador.org to share the most valuable lesson I’ve learned through Project Plus One. With the Millennium Campus Conference happening this weekend at Northeastern University, I’d like to reshare that story now. This is a story about the how we’ve learned just how important the human connection is in our sector.

Project Plus One's Paul Sukijthamapan

To the young and inspired activist, ready to start a non-profit, build a hospital, or save a life, I want to ask you to pause for a minute. This is a critical pause that most of us in the social sector at first overlook, myself included.

For two years, I have helped run a 501(c)(3) organization called Project Plus One (PP1). I was aware of unreasonable hardship around the world and had always wanted to dedicate my time to reducing burdens of disease and poverty in the world. In 2011, together with a great team of friends, I learned about the Southeast Asian nation Timor-Leste, and the challenges their healthcare system faces.

Timor-Leste is a small island country off the coast of the Australia that gained its independence from Indonesia in 1999. The nation’s young healthcare infrastructure often lacks the structure and resources to fully care for the sick. Oftentimes prematurely born babies do not have incubators to protect them or children lack access to vital vaccines easily available here in the U.S. Despite these difficulties, local nurses and international doctors still treat patients for a variety of diseases, conditions, and traumas – up to 500 per day at some hospitals.

You can imagine how much my team and I wanted to make a difference. In the summer of 2011, two of our members touched down in Timor-Leste, fully energized, with the rest of us back in the United States feeling gung-ho and ready to gather for them whatever money or tools they needed to start making an impact.

Paul and Donny began working at the Bairo Pite Hospital with great enthusiasm, but their energies dampened as they grew overwhelmed by the nature of the cases, their lack of formal education to administer advanced care, and the general unknown. “I have no clue about the people, the language, the culture, or the system of the Hospital” Paul told me via e-mail. “How am I supposed to do this?”

Read the conclusion at Everyday Ambassador.