VOSH-Connecticut held its eleventh annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 7-14, 2012. This was the fourteenth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the eleventh 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. Jerry Hardison (9th VOSH-CT mission), Dr. Brian Lynch (11th VOSH-CT mission)(CAO Legislative Liaison), Dr. Abby Quinn (10th VOSH-CT mission), Dr. Robert Mingrone(4th VOSH-CT mission), Dr. Thomas Margius(3rdVOSH-CT mission) and Dr. Danielle LeFever(1st VOSH-CT mission).
The additional mission members were as follows:
Joyce Krinitsky-Jefa Segunda-Assistant Director
Sally Lee-Editor in Chief-Ladies Home Journal Magazine – Dispensing Chief
Grace Lee-Niosi – Dispensary Assistant
Annie Hill – Dispensary Assistant
Patrick Cudahy – Dispensary Assistant
Monica Liou (2) – Student Leader
Glen Ong (2)
Henry Duong (2)
Jasmine Chen (3)
Daniel Cheng (2)
Charmine Trajano (2)
Melissa Lester (3) – Assistant Leader
Andrew Magnum (3)
Sonia Menchavez (3)
Megan Lee (3) – Assistant Leader
Leslie Small (1)
Gloria Lin (1)
Jared Hayashi (2)
Jill Yuzuriha (2)
Olga Mukha (2)
Jenn Truong (1)
Cecilia Hatton-Chief Translator/Community Liaison Leader
Kevin Creed – Assistant-Director
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 prove 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 Tola, Cardenas, Rivas, San Jorge and Buenos Aires, as well as many of the towns surrounding the San Juan del Sur area and beyond. Despite having no certified Optician, the Dispensary was run most efficiently and kept in excellent shape by our Dispensary Chief Sally Lee and her assistant 9th grade daughter Grace Lee- Niosi, along with Annie Hill, Patrick Cudahy, Joe Lynch, Joe Mingrone & Tyler Hatton. Brittany Hamlin and Olivia Kumro, both pre-med students from Cornell University, provided outstanding translating and pretesting services throughout the mission, as did Kevin Creed(pre-testing) and Deanna Margius and Laura Margherio(translators). We continue to be so grateful to Cecilia Hatton for her outstanding Chief translating services and providing invaluable community relations services on behalf of the mission to the local San Juan del Sur community. We are also very grateful for all of the help and assistance of Pelican Eyes Manager Gabriel Holt, his assistant Alexandra Galan and all of the wonderful employees at the Pelican Eyes for their help with the mission member transportation and everything they all did throughout the mission to help make the mission the success that it was.
As in years past, approximately 50 local residents assisted with the clinic duties, led for the twelfth time by local doctor Dra. Rosa Elena Bello. Many of these local volunteers have been with us for all 14 years. A number of the volunteers now speak some English, and that has been helpful to us and to them as well! 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 many years of service in and around San Juan del Sur. Dra. Rosa Elena also took several of the high school and college student volunteers to the local clinic and women’s shelter for a view of health care and social services in Nicaragua, which the students appreciated it very much.
As in years past, we are very appreciative of the help and assistance of Drs. David & Margaret Gullette for help in providing translating services, along with the help of Simmons College students as well. Kelvin Marshall provided great pre-mission coverage in his Del Sur News & we continue to be very grateful to him in continuing to spread the word for our clinic.
My assistant Nicole Rolli continues to give many hours of her time & terrific graphic design skills in support of the mission and Angelo LaMonica continues to be very generous in support of our mission, both financially and with donations of candy for the patients. We also enjoyed many delicious and gracious evenings with owner/host Mary Jane at her beautiful outdoor El Colibri’s Restaurant where the food, drink and ambiance are just the best there is!!
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 by VOSH-CT. A number of the supplies were transported by Jane Mirandette for which we are extremely grateful, but continuing problems & issues with customs forced us to transport a number of supply bags ourselves with the assistance of several mission members. Going forward, each mission member will be asked to transport one supply bag and hopefully this will allow us to continue with the mission going forward without too much more difficulty. We also continue to be very appreciative of the generosity and kindness of Dr. Lynch, who has donated thousands of readers at his own expense to our missions over the years. We are also very appreciative of the services that Jane Mirandette provides to the mission members staying at her Hotel Isabella and also for her assistance and those of her library members in helping throughout the entire mission process.
The clinic was held for the fourteenth year at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 8, 2012 with 6 examination rooms, a pre-testing room for height and weight, dispensary & lunchroom. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 9, 2012 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 2:00-5:00 p.m. 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 $1,200 for the 4 day mission. Certificates of appreciation and participation 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 2,772 patients broken down as follows:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Total
1/09/12 1/10/12 1/11/12 1/12/12
555 700 759 758 2,772
Over the past 10 years, we have seen at total of 26,923 patients broken down as follows:
(2003-3,158) (2004-2,530) (2005-2,607) (2006-2,283) (2007-2,359) (2008-2,428) (2009-2,674)
(2010-2,853) (2011-3,259) (2012-2772). We now see many of the same patients year after year, as our yearly clinic remains the only source of eye health care for a large part of the southern Nicaraguan population, and we are all very appreciative of the opportunity to provide continuing care to those in need.
Conditions throughout the southern Nicaraguan area and in the San Juan del Sur area in particular are glum at best. There are no jobs and little if any hope for economic improvement.
Despite the constitutional calls for democratic elections and term limits, Daniel Ortega once again was sworn in as President while we were there and it’s very interesting to see how the entire satellite television spectrum-every channel-were shut down during the inauguration only carrying that one event for an entire day.
Numerous drugs were donated by Alcon Laboratories, Inc.and Allergan Pharmaceutical., although not as many as in the past and by the end our supplies were quite limited. For next year, we will try to make earlier and additional requests to insure that we have sufficient quantities for those patients in need. Leftover drugs were donated at the conclusion of the clinic to Dra. Rosa Elena Bello.
The weather was sunny and calm and not overly hot throughout the mission. Overall, this year’s mission went extremely well, with a minimum amount of problems and concerns, due mostly to the fact that it is such a gifted and experienced group of volunteers, who now all run the mission together as part of a very well-oiled machine, along with our returning and new Berkeley Optometry students who are outstanding in every way possible. It is a pleasure for all of us to work with such terrific students and these students from Berkeley are the best these is when it comes to participating in the mission. They give and give, and work so well with others. They are eager to learn and appreciative of the help they receive from the other mission doctors. They truly are a part of the Optometric Team in every way and I would especially like to acknowledge the student leader Monica Liou for the excellent job she did in organizing the students for the mission, as well as Megan Lee & Melissa Lester who both returned for their 3rd missions with us, along with Daniel Cheng who returned for his second mission. Once again we did not have any optometry students from the Netherlands, but we are hoping perhaps for next year to have some return with us once again.
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 Velez, which all worked very well. In addition, once again we saw approximately 70 children from the Barrio Planta Project under the direction of Project Director Emily Calder. We also welcomed Cmdo. Justo Zamora, Police Chief of San Juan del Sur, along with numerous members of his local police department.
Common pathologies continue to be encountered including cataracts, pterygia, glaucoma, corneal foreign bodies, toxoplasmosis,tape worms, dry eye syndrome, 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, patients often remain untreated with little or no further treatment options available. Patients with special needs were provided additional eyeglass services through the generosity of Drs. Hardison & Lynch, with the assistance of Jane Mirandette and her assistant Heidy.
Escalating mission costs continue to present a challenge. Total mission expenditures are now over $10,000 per mission, funded solely through volunteer donations solicited primarily by myself through the CAO, as well as through our yearly mission fees and the generosity of our close friends and associates. We continue to be appreciative of the generosity of the members of the CAO and others, as well as our mission members who give so generously not only of their time but financially as well.
Nicaragua continues to struggle in these on-going difficult economic times with no good end in sight. As the world-wide economy has continued to deteriorate and stagnate, the poor get poorer and the divide between the rich and poor grows ever wider, especially in a place of huge economic and cultural disparity like Nicaragua. 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 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”
January 31, 2012