VOSH-Connecticut held its fifth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 7-14, 2006. This was the eighth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the fifth 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. Alvin Chua
  •   Dr. Jerry Hardison(3rd VOSH-CT mission)
  •   Dr. Brian Lynch(5th VOSH-CT mission)(CAO Legislative Liaison)
  •   Dr. Martha Maietta
  •   Dr. Abby Quinn(4th VOSH-CT mission)
  •   Dr. Marissa Tutko

We were joined by 11 first & second year optometry students from the University of California School of Optometry at Berkeley :

  • Garuna Chaisongkram(Team Leader)
  • Alvaro Castillo
  • Audrey Chen
  • Gloria Chen
  • Roger Juarez
  • Alex Park
  • Travis Park
  • Monica Pinon
  • Christina Trifiletti
  • Henry Truong
  • Jasmine Wong

Four students from the Netherlands School of Optometry:

  • Marjolein Meulenbroek(Team Leader)
  •  Michelle Bouman
  •  Evelien Kooij
  •  Kim Kuppens

One student from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine:

  • Nick Blondin

The quality of the students this year was exceptionally outstanding. Everyone gave everything they had and more to their position as student doctors, and they all did an excellent job in every way. The students were assisted in their preparation for the mission by Dr. Jerry Hardison, and we appreciate his help & support very much.

In addition to the doctors and students, the following volunteers were included:

  • Seconda Jefa: Joyce Krinitsky(3rd VOSH-CT mission)
  • Chief Translator: Cecilia Suarez(3rd VOSH-CT mission)
  • Assistant: Michael Chang(2nd VOSH-CT mission)

Opticians/Dispensing Assistants

  • Dottie Byus(2nd VOSH-CT mission)
  • Mareshah Lynch(2nd VOSH-CT mission)
  • Olivia Quinn(3rd VOSH-CT mission)
  • Tommy Thompson(3rd VOSH-CT mission)


Pre-testing/Project Assistants

  • Joe Blondin
  • Rose Blondin(4th VOSH-CT mission)
  • Joe Lynch
  • Mike Shea

Joyce Krinitsky continues to do her outstanding job as second in command, and the mission would not be the success that it was without all of her help, assistance & support. Opticians Dottie Byus and Mareshah Lynch returned to run the dispensary and did an excellent job organizing things not only during the clinic but also in preparation for next year. Tommy Thompson & Olivia Quinn continue to be outstanding additions & helpers in the dispensary, and the pre-testing tasks and patient assistance were handled in a great way all around by 11th graders Rose Blondin & Mike Shea & seventh grader Joe Lynch. Joe Blondin, 2nd year Notre Dame, took almost 1,500 blood pressures during the 4 day clinic.

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 were purchased by VOSH-Connecticut from the Virginia Lions Club, as well as 2,000 pairs of sunglasses from Hart Eyewear. Additional readers were purchased and donated to the clinic by Dr. Brian Lynch. Also assisting with the over-all organization on the ground was local resident Chris Berry, Esq., along with his two assistants, Vilma Bustos & Oswaldo Meza, photographers Cesar & Dan, who took some wonderful photographs of the mission, and the entire helpful & knowledgeable Pelican staff, without whose service, knowledge, time and expertise this mission would not have been possible. We are also grateful to Jane Mirandette, Mike & the Villa Isabella for all of their help & assistance for many of the mission members who stayed there.

Because of the problems encountered with shipping last year, we took all our supplies with us, in excess of 40 boxes & suitcases. American Airlines & Director Tom Lewis continued with their generous past policy & allowed all of our items to go without additional charge, for which we continue to be very grateful & appreciative. Customs upon arrival in Managua continued to present issues similar to what we encountered last year. It took almost 2 hours to leave the airport, and this would not have been possible without the wonderful help & assistance of our Chief Translator Cecilia Suarez.

We have now received copies of the required official documentation for our mission, so hopefully we have less of a problem for future years going forward. Only half of our supplies arrived with us, and it wasn’t until Thursday with the on-going continued help of Chris Berry & staff that we were able to get most of the rest, although some boxes never arrived at all.

The clinic was held at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 8, 2006 with 5 examination rooms, a pre-testing room, dispensary & lunchroom. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 9, 2003 at 8:00 a.m.

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 VOSH-Connecticut from 1:00-2:00 p.m., along with a daily briefing meeting. Clinic then resumed from 2:00-5:00 p.m. This year VOSH-Connecticut decided to provide for all expenses relating to the clinic including breakfast, snack, lunch and the closing banquet. Over 90 people attended the closing banquet, including all mission members and local volunteers, the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and former City Councilwoman, which was very special and a great honor for us. Local entertainment was provided by Chris Berry, which was wonderful & enjoyed by all. All volunteers were presented with a Certificate of Recognition, and Dr. Brian Lynch, Dra. Rosa Elena Bello and Principal Anna Luisa Mora were presented with engraved 5 year appreciation plaques from VOSH-CT.

Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 2,283 patients broken down as follows:

Monday          Tuesday             Wednesday            Thursday           Total

1/9/06            1/10/06              1/11/06                1/12/06

514                572                    684                      513                  2,283

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 Nicole Rolli. As in years past, physical therapy students under the direction of Dr. David Gullette & Dr. Francisco Trilla provided additional patient services as well as translators for the clinic, for which we continue to be very grateful.

Many residents of San Juan del Sur and the surrounding areas were served, stretching as far as the Rivas area to the Costa Rican border, with many arriving by bus, taxi, horseback and push carts. On Wednesday, almost 60 children, orphans & adults came to the clinic by bus from Nagarote as part of theNorwalk , CT Sister-City Program under the direction of Tish Gibbs and Perry Maddox. It was a wonderful experience for everyone, and we hope to continue this for future years and expand with other Sister-City projects in the area as well. On Wednesday and Thursday, VOSH-CT paid for a bus to go out to the surrounding barrios and campos to bring patients to the clinic. This was arranged with the very grateful assistance of Kathleen Knight, Housing & Volunteer Project Coordinator for Pelican Eyes, at a cost to VOSH-CT of approximately $200, and is something we will plan to continue to do for future years. We continue to find that the need is as great as always, but there is difficulty at times in getting those most in need to the clinic. VOSH-CT is committed to helping & doing whatever it can to provide free eyecare to as many local residents as possible.

Throughout the mission, all communications were held in both English and Spanish, which worked well and again, would not have been possible without the continuing help & assistance of Cecilia Suarez. Pathologies encountered included cataracts, pterygia, glaucoma, corneal foreign bodies, toxoplasmosis, conjunctivitis, and retinal disease. This year blood pressures were taken & recorded for each patient, and the data will be used for a study on the incidence of hypertension in the Nicaraguan population being conducted by University of Connecticut School of Medicine 2nd year student Nick Blondin as part of his over-all clinic experience. Nick was also featured with photo in an article about the clinic in La Prensa, the national newspaper of Nicaragua . It was also interesting to note that a number of the patients indicated when, as part of this study, that they were returning patients from previous years, so we do feel that we are continuing to provide some on-going care to patients in need.

Now that we have gone to a full-time paid security staff, costing in excess of $500 for the 4 day clinic, at both the gate & for each exam room, crowd control and security were for the most part very manageable and the paid staff did an outstanding job in helping to keep the patient flow smooth and steady.

Numerous drugs were donated by Alcon Laboratories, Inc. and Allergan Pharmaceuticals, and were most appreciated and used throughout the mission. Some leftovers were donated at the conclusion of the clinic toDra. Rosa Elena Bello and the rest will be brought back for use next year.

Over-all we were very pleased with this years patient count of 2,283 and feel that this is a comfortable level of patient care for the 4 day clinic. We have reached our limit of 36  in terms of the number of mission members and this year for the first time we had to turn away prospective volunteers. Future missions will be limited to returning members only, with additional openings only if space allows and specific volunteer services are needed or required.

Changes and development continue to accelerate at a rapid pace in San Juan del Sur, although, as previously noted, the need for our services remains as strong as ever. We have been especially pleased and grateful for the on-going support of the local elected officials and community of San Juan del Sur, including Mayor Hollman & Deputy Mayor Carmona, along with Dr. Rosa Elena Bello & School Prinicipal Ana Luisa Mora. They have all continued to do everything they possibly can to make us feel welcome and assist us in helping those in need in their community & the surrounding areas. It would not be possible to continue to make this mission the success that it is without not only their help & guidance, but the support and outstanding work of each and every individual member of this years mission.

Respectfully submitted,

Matthew Blondin, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Clinic Director
January 24, 2006
Audrey B. Blondin, “La Jefa”
Clinic Director