VOSH-Connecticut held its fourth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 8-15, 2005. This was the seventh year of service at this site to the San Juan de Sur area, the fourth under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO.
The team consisted of seven Optometrists led by Dr Matthew Blondin and included:
- Dr. Leora Berns
- Dr. Jerry Hardison
- Dr. David Kendrick
- Dr. Brian Lynch
- Dr. Abby Quinn
- Dr. Heidi Schauffelle
We were joined by fourteen second, third and fourth year optometry students:
- Anke Brooijmans
- Remko van Hierden
- Winny Pepping
- Angelique Rotteveel
- Paul Atwal
- Marisa Chung
- Roger Kline
- Liz Lee(Student Leader)
- Tam-An Nguyen
- Jenny Clark
- Kyle Dohm
- Eric Bella
- Jason Ding
- Adam Huff
Additional mission members joining us:
- Secondo Jefa: Joyce Krnitsky
- R.N.: Marsha Hunter
- Chief Translator: Cecilia Suarez
- Asst. Translator: Michael Chang
Opticians & Techs/Dispensing:
- Dottie Byus
- John Nowak
- Allison Hardison
- Christine Stewart
- Paul Kendrick
- Tommy Thompson
- Mareshah Lynch
- Frank Zdanowicz
- Rose Blondin
- Olivia Quinn
Prior to our departure, VOSH-CT received some wonderful television coverage by news reporter DeborahBogstie of our local channel NBC 30, who profiled our upcoming mission and the work of our volunteers on behalf of VOSH-CT. This year, our mission had an international part not only with the 4 optometry students from the Netherlands, but our 4 returning(except for Paul-1st mission) multiple-time Canadian volunteers from TWECS(Third World Eyecare Society)-Dr. David Kendrick, Paul Kendrick, Esq., Optician Christine Stewart & Assistant Tommy Thompson, and we are very appreciative for their efforts & continuing support of VOSH-CT. Approximately 50 local residents assisted with the clinic duties, led as always by the dedicated local doctorDra. Rosa Elena Bello. The overall mission and clinic was organized and directed by Audrey B. Blondin, Esq., aka "La Jefa".
This was our seventh mission to San Juan del Sur, and definitely the most challenging. We lost our shipper of the last few years & attempted to send 35 boxes of eyeglasses and supplies in October with a new shipper down to Leon for pick-up & storage in San Juan del Sur. Great problems arose and we ended up having to re-order 3,500 pairs of sunglasses and 1,600 of the original 3,000 pairs of eyeglasses we had ordered from the Virginia Lions Club, along with re-purchasing a sufficient amount of readers. Through the generosity of American Airlines and Director Tom Lewis at Bradley International Airport, we were allowed 5 boxes per volunteer, and since we had 10 volunteers departing from Bradley, we were able to bring everything we needed with us without additional cost. We are very grateful for the continued consideration and generosity of Tom Lewis & American Airlines and we look forward to continuing to work with and count on their generosity for future missions. Problems continued upon arrival in Managua, when we were held up in customs for an hour until Cecilia Suarez showed her United Nations credentials and we were finally allowed to pass through. Both on the way down from Managua and back, our bus was pulled off the road and detained for a short time until allowed to continue.
The clinic was held at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up on Sunday, January 9, 2005 with five examination rooms, a pre-testing room, dispensary and lunchroom. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 10, 2005 at 8:00 a.m.
Breakfast was provided each day by VOSH-Connecticut beginning at 7:00 a.m. and a snack provided each day at 10:00 a.m. We continue to be very thankful for the dedicated & excellent services of both Marina &Guadelupe in providing wonderful & delicious local foods for our clinic members & volunteers. Patients were seen from 8 a.m.-1 p.m., with a break for lunch provided by Dra. Rosa Elena Bello from 1:00-2:00 p.m., along with a daily briefing meeting. Clinic then resumed from 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 2,607 patients broken down as follows:
Each mission member received a complete mission packet consisting of a VOSH-Connecticut badge and badge holder, legal release, mission protocol, mission schedule, clinic assignments, list of mission members and other relevant documents, as well as a VOSH-CT T-shirt & True Value pocket holder which works well for holding readers & sunglasses & other needed items during the day.
Many residents of San Juan del Sur and the surrounding areas were served, stretching as far as the Masaya area to the Costa Rican border, with many arriving by bus, taxi, horseback and push carts. This year VOSH-CT began a program of community outreach which will continue to be developed & expanded for subsequent missions. This community outreach program would not be possible without the tremendous energy & efforts of Secondo Jefa Joyce Krinitsky, as well Pastor James Smith & the newly elected officials of San Juan del Sur, including Mayor Eduardo Hollman & Deputy Mayor Denis Carmona. As part of our community outreach program, local truck announcements were purchased for both the local & outlying areas, as well as contracting for a school bus to pick up patients in the surrounding areas outside of San Juan del Sur. We hope to continue these outreach efforts and expand our efforts in order to serve as much of the needy population as we can during our clinic days. We are most grateful in particular for the support of the newly elected officials in San Juan del Sur & very much look forward to continuing to work together for future missions in service to the residents of San Juan del Sur.
On Thursday evening, January 16, 2003, VOSH-Connecticut hosted a banquet for approximately 100 VOSH-Connecticut and local Nicaraguan volunteers at the beautiful Pelican Eyes Hotel under the watchful eye & direction of Chris Berry, who has been instrumental in the success of our VOSH missions over the past seven years. No VOSH mission can be successful without the help & assistance of local contacts, and we continue to be very grateful to Chris Berry & his excellent & dedicated staff for all of their time, efforts & organization on behalf of VOSH-CT. At the banquet, we were honored with several local dance presentations, a highlight of our program. Certificates of Appreciation were presented to all participants.
Throughout the mission, all communications were held in both English and Spanish, which worked well. Our great communication would not have been possible without the wonderful volunteer efforts of our Chief Translator, Cecilia Suarez, who was invaluable in helping us throughout the week whenever and wherever translations were necessary. Pathologies encountered included cataracts, pterygia, glaucoma, corneal foreign bodies, coloboma, toxoplasmosis, conjunctivitis, and retinal disease. Once again, volunteers from Simmons College set-up a physical therapy room which provided additional services to those in need & also assisted with translating, for which we are very grateful.
We would like to extend a special thank-you to Dra. Rosa Elena Bello & her designated security staff. For the first time, we encountered no security problems by having four paid security guards at the gate & a paid security guard outside each of the five examination rooms. Everything was excellent, & we are very grateful to Dra. Rosa Elena & the security personnel she selected to assist us with this mission. We would also like to thank Secondo Jefa Joyce Krinitsky for her assistance in obtaining our four paid translators. This also worked very well & we again thank Joyce & the translators for their excellent efforts, as well as all the volunteer translators who assisted us throughout the week. It would be impossible to run this clinic without the dedication & time of all of those who came & volunteered their time to help us at the clinic as translators & we are very appreciative of their efforts. We would also like to extend a special acknowledgement & thanks to our school principal Ana Luisa Mora, who for seven years has been the "Keeper of the Keys", and has always been there tirelessly with great dedication and commitment on our behalf during the clinic. We would also like to again thank Alcon Laboratories, Inc. for their generous donations to help those in need.
As we have noted over the past several years, San Juan del Sur is undergoing some rapid developmental changes affecting the local population in varying degrees. Despite some of these changes, there continues to be a great need for our services, particularly in the areas surrounding San Juan del Sur. Although at times it was a difficult mission, with our largest number of volunteers to date, we were fortunate to have an outstanding group of mission members, a number of whom were returning with us multiple times and a very mature and hard-working group of students, who all made any difficulties we encountered easy to overcome.
Everyone worked together with their Nicaraguan counterparts to provide eye care services to those in need unselfishly and with a dedication and spirit that exemplifies in every aspect the true meaning of a VOSH-Connecticut volunteer. We at VOSH-Connecticut continue to be most grateful to Mayor Eduardo Hollman, Deputy Mayor Denis Carmona, all the local elected officials, Dra. Rosa Elena Bello and all of the volunteers and residents of the San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua area for working along with us, and allowing us the continued opportunity to be of service to such a kind, generous and deserving people.
Matthew Blondin, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Audrey B. Blondin, "La Jefa"