VOSH-Connecticut held its second annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 11-18 2003. This was the fifth year of service at this site to the San Juan de Sur area, the second under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO.

Photos from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

The team consisted of seven Optometrists led by Dr Matthew Blondin and included:

Dr. Carol Gordon, Madison, CT
Dr. Gregory Hagedorn, Henderson, KY
Dr. Mark Harris, Akron, IN (2nd VOSH-CT mission)
Dr. Brian Lynch, Branford, CT (2nd VOSH-CT mission) (CAO Legislative Liaison)
Dr. Abby Quinn, Wilton, CT
Dr. Julie Walsh, Wabasha, MN (2nd VOSH-CT mission)

We were joined by eighteen first, second, third and fourth year optometry students from the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry:

4th Year
Heidi Schauffele, Pleasant Hill, CA (3rd VOSH-CT/NECO mission)

3rd Year
Gaby Bulwa, Emeryville, CA
Melissa Dacumos, Berkeley, CA (2nd VOSH-CT mission)
Neda Jam, Berkeley, CA
Shawna Kuntz, Lafayette, CA (Student Team Leader)
Neeka Najmi, Berkeley, CA

2nd Year
Elaine Icban, Berkeley, CA
Valerie Lim, Castro Valley, CA
Fabian Luna, Emeryville, CA
Melissa McGowan, Kensington, CA (2nd VOSH-CT mission)
Shannon Olario, Berkeley, CA
Cathy Pham, Berkeley, CA
Chad Shimazaki, Berkeley, CA
Heather Teeter, Kensington, CA
Lydia Torres, Berkeley, CA

1st Year
Julia Dellaria, Berkeley, CA
Kyle Eaton, Berkeley, CA
Richard Petersen, Berkeley, CA

Dr. Julie Walsh directed the Dispensary, along with:

Dale Simmons, Wabasha, MN (2nd VOSH-CT mission)
Barbara Thompson, Quincy, MA
Robert Nucci, Old Saybrook, CT

Nicole Gordon, Oakland, CA
Deborah Bradford, Henderson, KY
Ginnie Pitler, Madison, CT

Rose Blondin, age 13, returned for her second VOSH-Connecticut mission and directed the pre-testing room, along with assistants Brian Lynch, age 14, son of Dr. Brian Lynch and Katie Harris, age 14, daughter of Dr. Mark Harris.

We were also assisted by members of the Akron United Methodist Church: Bernice Brown, Suzie Baker and Brianne Walgamuth, and Team PITPEARL members: Matthew Gordon, Brendan Manko, Cullen Pilter, and Paul Quinn. Manuel Bulwa, the father of 3rd year optometry student Gaby Bulwa did an outstanding job as “El Capitan” and without his help, assistance and excellent Spanish, it would have nearly impossible to complete this mission successfully, given the size of the crowds and the safety and security issues presented because of this situation.

Approximately 50 local residents assisted with the clinic duties, led a by local doctor Dra. Rosa Elena Bello. The overall mission and clinic was organized and directed by Audrey B. Blondin, Esq., aka “La Jefa”.

Three thousand pairs of glasses from the New Jersey Lions Club were shipped in June with the grateful assistance of Dr. David Gullette. Dr. Gullette also provided student translators throughout the week, which were very helpful to us. Also assisting with the over-all organization on the ground was local resident Chris Berry, Esq., without whose service, knowledge, time and expertise this mission would not have been possible.

One thousand additional pairs of readers and three thousand pairs of sunglasses were purchased by the Matthew and Audrey Blondin and brought along.

The clinic was held at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up on Sunday, January 12, 2003 with five examination rooms, a pre-testing room, dispensary and lunchroom. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 13, 2003 at 8:00 a.m. A brief meeting and opening prayer service began each morning led by Dr. Mark Harris. A room for physical therapists was also set up and used under the supervision of Dr. David Gullette.

Breakfast was provided each day by VOSH-Connecticut beginning at 7:00 a.m. 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.

On the last day, a collection was taken up with the grateful assistance of Suzie Baker. Mission members donated $300.00. This money was divided in thirds, and an additional $400.00 was donated by VOSH-Connecticut. $300.00 was presented to Dra. Rosa Elena Bello for her clinic, and Principal Ann Luisa Mornplan and Chris Berry on behalf of the A. Jean Brugger Project each received $200.00.

Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 3,158 patients broken down as follows:

Monday          Tuesday             Wednesday            Thursday             Total
1/13/03              1/14/03                 1/15/03                1/16/03
797                   734                       894                     733                  3,158

Each mission member received a complete mission packet consisting of a VOSH-Connecticut badge and badge holder, Legal Release, mission statement, mission protocol, mission schedule, clinic assignments, review survey, list of mission members and other relevant documents, all developed and designed by Audrey Blondin with the assistance of Nicholas Blondin and Sarai Druan.

Many residents of San Juan del Sur and the surrounding areas were served, stretching as far as the Revas area to the Costa Rican border, with many arriving by bus, taxi, horseback and push carts.

On Thursday evening, January 16, 2003, VOSH-Connecticut hosted a banquet for approximately 100 VOSH-Connecticut and local Nicaraguan volunteers. We were honored with several local dance presentations, a highlight of our program. Certificates of Appreciation were presented to all participants, as well as a gift of bead necklaces to each VOSH-Connecticut member from Dra. Rosa Elena Bello.

Throughout the mission, all communications were held in both English and Spanish, which worked well. Pathologies encountered included cataracts, pterygia, glaucoma, corneal foreign bodies, toxoplasmosis, conjunctivitis, and retinal disease. Crowd control and security presented a great challenge, and these issues will need to be further addressed prior to the next year’s mission.

We met with representatives of the Revas Rotary Club, who hope to develop ways of sending many of their school children to our clinic for examinations in future years techniques to tumble ethereum. Numerous drugs were donated by Alcon Laboratories, Inc. and Allergan Pharmaceuticals, and were most appreciated and used throughout the mission. Leftovers were donated at the conclusion of the clinic to Dra. Rosa Elena Bello and the National Health Clinic.

Our goal was to see 2,500 patients, a small increase over last year’s 2,402 patients. At the conclusion of our four-day clinic, we had seen 3,158 patients, far exceeding our goal and representing a 31% increase in patients over last year’s mission. We are fast approaching our limit both in terms of the number of mission members and the amount of patients that can be reasonably seen in a four-day period during our annual clinic to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Although it was a difficult mission, the rewards were great. The doctors, opticians, students and assistants were the best possible volunteers. They all 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 Dra. Rosa Elena Bello and all of the 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.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew Blondin, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Clinic Director
January 31, 2003

Audrey B. Blondin, “La Jefa”
Clinic Director