VOSH-Connecticut held its tenth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 8-15, 2011. This was the thirteenth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the tenth under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO. The team consisted of the following:
Audrey Blondin Clinic Director
Joyce Krinitsky (8th mission) Assistant Clinic Director
Dr. Matthew Blondin Clinic Director
Dr. Brian Lynch (10th mission)
Dr. Jerry Hardison (8th mission) Optometry Student Director
Dr. Josephine Quinn (9th mission)
Dr. Thomas Margius (2nd mission)
Dr. Robert Mingrone (3rd mission)
Dr. Chu Luan Nguyen
Mareshah Lynch (7th mission) Optician –Dispensary Director
Daniel Lynch (4th mission)
Sally Lee (3rd mission) Assistant Dispensary Director
Grace Lee-Niosi (2nd mission)
Cecilia Hatton Head Translator
Emily Hatton (3rd mission) Assistant Head Translator
Kevin Creed (2nd mission)
U.C. Berkeley Students
Megan Lee (2nd mission) Student Leader
Melissa Lester (2nd mission)
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 continued help, assistance & support. The coordination of various bus transports throughout the local and southern Nicaraguan area continues to be extremely successful due to Joyce’s efforts, and we are extremely grateful to her in this regard. In addition to a local bus for all 4 days in and around the San Juan del Sur area, we provided bus transportation to patients from others towns including Tola, Cardenas, Rivas, Escamequinta, San Jorge and Buenos Aires, as well as many of the areas surrounding San Juan del Sur and beyond. Optician Mareshah Lynch, along with her able helpers and Assistant Sally Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Ladies Home Journal Magazine, returned once again to run the dispensary and did an excellent job as always. The dispensary part of this mission continues to be completely self-sufficient, and for that we are eternally grateful for the leadership & Mareshah, Sally and their helpers. In addition, the 3,000 pairs of eyeglasses that were purchased by VOSH-CT from the Virginia Lions Club were augmented by a private donation of glasses from Encore Optics obtained by Dottie Byus, for which we are all very grateful and appreciative, and were a great asset to the dispensary and patients.
As in years past, approximately 50 local residents assisted with the clinic duties, led for the thirteenth time by local doctor Dra. Rosa Elena Bello. Many of these local volunteers have been with us for all 13 years, and they all do a wonderful job. Dra. Rosa Elena Bello continues to do a terrific job in getting and coordinating the patients for the clinic, and we continue to be very grateful for all of the help and assistance she has provided to us over the years. In appreciation of her service on behalf of VOSH-CT, she was awarded a Legislative Citation from the State of Connecticut. Dr. Brian Lynch was also awarded a Legislative Citation from the State of Connecticut in appreciation of his 10 years of service and dedication to VOSH-CT.
In addition to the three thousand pairs of glasses were purchased by VOSH-Connecticut from the Virginia Lions Club, 3,000 pairs of sunglasses & 300 pairs of readers were purchased and donated to the mission by the Blondin’s, due to a lack of funding for this year’s mission. An additional 1,200 additional pairs of readers were very generously donated as have been in the past by Dr. Brian Lynch.
This year the supplies were transported via Colorado to Jane Mirandette, who has worked tirelessly with us over the years from the Villa Isabella and allowed our mission supplies to be transported through her shipment with American Airlines. This worked out well & we are extremely grateful to Jane and her helpers because without their ability to help and transport our supplies, we would be unable to continue with the mission. Kathy Knight and Alexandra Galan from the Pelican Eyes were also very helpful in providing support and assistance as needed throughout the mission, and we continue to be very grateful for their services on our behalf as well. We also continue to be very appreciative of the coverage of our mission provided to us by Editor Kelvin Marshall, photographer Heather (Blue) van Doorninck and the Del Sur News www.delsurnewsonline.com , and to Mary O’Hanlon for providing us with some great evening food & drink at her wonderful El Colibri Restaurant.
The clinic was held for the thirteenth year at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 9, 2011 with 6 examination rooms, a pre-testing room for height and weight, dispensary & lunchroom. A very nice pizza lunch was made possible through a generous donation by Angelo LaMonica, who also donated several large bags of candy for the patients during the mission. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 10, 2011 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. Clinic then resumed from 2:00-6:00 p.m or later. Despite intermittent electrical power and light, each day the clinic was not finished until dark. As in the past, VOSH-Connecticut provided for all expenses for both mission members and local volunteers relating to the clinic including breakfast, snack, lunch, at a cost to VOSH-CT of $1,100 for the 4 day mission. Certificates were given to all participating mission members, both local and VOSH-CT, at the end of the clinic.
Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 3,259 patients broken down as follows:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Total
1/10/11 1/11/11 1/12/11 1/13/11
691 830 833 905 3,259
In 2007 we saw 2,359 patients, 2008 we saw 2,428 patients, 2009 we saw 2,674, 2010 we saw 2,853 patients, and now in 2011 we saw 3,259 patients. In five years we have increased our patient load during the 4 day clinic by 1,000 patients.
Conditions throughout the southern Nicaraguan area and in the San Juan del Sur area in particular continue to be dire for the most part due to the difficult global economic situation. There continues to be an increasing level of poverty and need for all types of medical and dental care, including eye care, due to the continuing harsh global economic picture and limited financial investments being made world-wide. As in years’ past, university students under the direction of Dr. David Gullette of Simmons College provided translating services for the clinic, for which we continue to be very grateful. We also had a number of American and foreign students providing help & translating services including Leonard Mathias, Sarai Desauw, Pieter Timmermans, Nelly Mohr Reinert, Devin Jelinek, Devon Vawter, Brian Beck, Jacqueline Chunghey Park, and Nichole Hadley, a student nurse.
Throughout the mission, all communications were held in both English and Spanish, as in years’ past, and we wish to particularly acknowledge the assistance of once again mission members Cecilia Hatton, who followed in her late mother’s footsteps as our Chief Translator and her daughter Emily Hatton, who both provided tremendous translating services throughout the mission. This year’s mission was dedicated to the honor and memory of 5 time mission member Cecilia Suarez, who very sadly passed away last April after joining us for last year’s mission in January.
Common pathologies continue to be encountered including cataracts, pterygia, glaucoma, corneal foreign bodies, toxoplasmosis, conjunctivitis, retinal disease, hypertension and some cancers. Our paid security staff returned once again, and provided excellent & safe services for all not only at the gate but at each exam room as well. Follow-up treatment facilities continue to be lacking, and while lists of names were kept of needed patient cataract surgeries, other medical conditions such as goiters, heart problems and possible carcinomas remain untreated with little or no further treatment options.
Numerous drugs were donated by Alcon Laboratories, Inc.and Allergan Pharmaceutical, providing great help to the patients. After going missing for a time after the final day of clinic, and causing a great deal of angst and panic, the leftover drugs were recovered and donated to Dra. Rosa Elena Bello.
We have continued our relationship with the Norwalk, CT Sister Cities program under the direction of Tish Gibbs who once again provided a bus this year from Nagarote under the direction of Ramon Sepulveda, which all worked very well. In addition, we saw approximately 100 children over a 2 day period from the Barrio Planta Project under the direction of Project Director Emily Calder.
Overall, this year’s mission went very well, and the weather was very pleasant-hot and dry-for the most part. This mission continues to be successful due in large part to the fact that so many mission members have worked so often and so well together in the past, and continue to recognize service above self. We are very grateful to have the continuing support of the Berkeley optometry students who have been with us all 13 years of this mission, and without whom this ongoing mission would not be possible. This year the Optometry Students from the Netherlands were not able to join us, and we are hopeful that next year they will be returning to assist us once again. It is also an absolute pleasure to work alongside so many caring, giving individuals, both as returning mission members and locally in San Juan del Sur, who all work together in a team spirit second to none.
Escalating mission costs continue to present a challenge. Total mission expenditures are now approximately $10,000 per mission, funded solely through volunteer donations solicited primarily by myself through the CAO, as well as through our yearly mission fees. As stated above, fundraising was down due to the terrible economy, necessitating our personal contributions in order to have sufficient supplies for the mission. We will continue to examine ways to enhance and improve our fundraising activities, in order to ensure the ongoing viability and success of the mission.
Nicaragua is facing some uncertain times in the upcoming months. President Daniel Ortega will soon decide whether or not he will stand again for election this coming November, despite the fact that he is prohibited from doing so by the Constitution that was in place before he forced changes to be made last Fall. During the mission, he appeared for a long speech on television, and all other broadcasting was terminated during the time he was on. It appears likely that he will attempt to remain as President, so it is unknown how this will affect the mission going forward. Nicaragua continues to be the poorest country in Central American and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti, so certainly the need for assistance continues to be great as ever.
We remain hopeful that politics will not interfere with our ability to provide services for those in need. We all try and do the best that we can with the limited resources available to us, and once again, as our mission came to a close, mission members came away with a great deal of self satisfaction knowing that a great many in need were helped by their generous and unselfish efforts. VOSH-CT continues to be grateful to all of those, both here and in Nicaragua, who work together as one to provide eye care to so many who otherwise would have none.
Matthew Blondin, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Audrey B. Blondin, Esq., “La Jefa”
February 7, 2011