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VOSH-Connecticut held its sixteenth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 7-14, 2017. This was the nineteenth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the sixteenth under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO. The team consisted of 82 mission members, per below.

Directors UC Berkeley University
Audrey Blondin – La Jefa Negin Aboutorabian (2nd)
Nancy Schnyer – Asistente de La Jefa Rachel Choi (2nd)
Orlando Sevilla-Organizador de la Mision y los Autobuses Kristi Choy (2nd)
Brittany Heyano (2nd)
Optometrists Michelle Holmes (1st)
Dr. Matthew Blondin-Director de Clinicas Audrey Hudson (2nd)
Dr. Jerry Hardison – Organizador de Los Estudiantes Christina Kim (2nd)
Dr. Brian Lynch – Organizador de la Comunidad Christina Lim (2nd)
Dr. Robert Mingrone Kelly Liu (2nd)
Dr. Lawrence Nierman Thomas Lucas IV (2nd)
Dr. Kathleen O’Leary Stella Ma (2nd)
Dr. Peter Pegolo Cristal Maharaj (2nd)
Dr. Lee Robertson Malvika Narayanan (2nd)
Angela Ngo (2nd)
Volunteers Jacqueline Pan (2nd)
Colleen Creed Sheila Soltani (2nd) – Jefa de los Estudiantes
Kevin Creed Lilian Thoi (1st)
Olivia Gillette Connie Tran (1st)
Clark Robertson Joey Tran (2nd)
Ruth Robertson Mimia Wen (2nd)
Kevin Wu (3rd)
Assistant to Dr. Matthew Blondin Michelle Zaw (2nd)
Olivia Gillette – Asistente de  Dra. Matthew Blondin
Translators Huma Ahmad (3rd)
Evelyn Cabrera-Jefa de Traductores Hyder Almosawy (2nd)
Robert Cockrell Payal Bavishi (3rd)
Sylvia Cockrell Vidhi Bhatt (3rd)
Molly Fenaroli – Estudiante Jefa de Traductnes Deidre Cullen (3rd)
Kennett Gaitan Dellana Curtis (3rd)
Gary Goldstein Stephanie Hanson (3rd)
Andres Gonzales Rachel Hennen (3rd)
Juan Pablo Koldegaard Elizabeth Karns (3rd)
Pablo Rubio Joyce Rached (3rd) – Jefa de los Estudiantes
Uram Lee Kim Raucci (3rd)
Zion Lesesne Brittany Strebig (3rd)
Alejandra Buller Machado
Je Min State University of NY (SUNY)
Tristan Barrueco (3rd)-Jefe de los Estudiantes
Dispensary Emily Cheng (3rd)
Sara Bozzuto Michael Choi (3rd)
Myra Hise Sarah Gleason (3rd)
Judith Gorra Gauhar Kanimetova (3rd)
Grace Lee-Niosi Caroline Lee (3rd)
Sally Lee – Asistente de Optico Jennifer Lee (3rd)
Nora Lorion Jacqueline Molinda (3rd)
Mareshah Lynch – Optico Priya Patel (4th)
Allison Woodside Avi Yehudai (3rd)
Rosalina Lanzas

In addition to patients seen in and around the San Juan del Sur area, the following buses organized by Orlando Sevilla, Dra. Rosa Elena Bello and Lena Ruis, provided patients all 4 days at a cost of $4,525.

VOSH-CT Buses Towns Served & Fees paid
Monday – $710
Masatepe 2 Buses $380
Rivas $70
Rejega, Garagoza, Panpas $140
San Jorge $120
Tuesday – $535
Tola $125
Nandaime 2 Buses $340
Rivas $70
Wednesday – $770
Ostional $160
Pochote $190
Postosi $105
Tola $125
Rivas $70
Thursday – $1,750
San Jeronimo $160
Nandaime $125
Cardenas $125
Rivas $70
Tortuga – Coco $160
Monte Cristo San Antonio $180
Tola $125
Miguel Granja – Transportation of all the barrios and campsesinos surrounding San Juan del Sur for four days $760
Total $4,525

As in years past, approximately 60 local volunteers assisted with the mission. Dra. Rosa Elena Bello was back once again to supervise the mission and the local volunteers, along with her assistant Lena Ruis.

In addition to the 1800 pairs of glasses purchased by VOSH-Connecticut from the Virginia Lions Club, 4,000 pairs of sunglasses & 500 pairs of readers were purchased by VOSH-CT. The dispensary once again was run very organized and efficiently by long-time VOSH-CT member Optician Mareshah Lynch and her assistant Allison Woodside, and another long-time VOSH-CT member Chief Dispensary Assistant Sally Lee and her daughter Grace, along with the experienced Dispensary Assistant team listed above and local volunteers. Laura Bush, General Manager of Encore Optics, were very generous in donating lenses so personal prescriptions could be made here in the states by Mareshah and her staff and brought back to the patients in Nicaragua for distribution. Over 100 pairs of varying prescriptions were also made by our personal office staff and brought along, which was very helpful and useful in the dispensary.

Nancy Schnyer was invaluable in helping in every way she could throughout the week, and the mission would not have been the success that it was without all of her steady and kind leadership and support, along with her assistant Judith Gorra. Kevin Creed and his daughter Colleen were also very helpful, despite Kevin needing a few additional driving lessons on his motorcycle. Our three student leaders, Sheila Soltani, Joyce Rached and Tristan Barrueco provided excellent leadership and assistance with the students throughout the week, and we are very grateful for all they did to help before and during the mission. Evelyn Cabrera provided wonderful translating services throughout the week, along with Molly Fenaroli and her schoolmates and Robert & Sylvia Cockrell, and Olivia Gillette worked very hard pre-testing and helping with the patients.

As we started last year, each mission member was asked to transport one supply bag and most mission members as part of the transport team arrived in Managua on the same day & time per our request to assure that everything got through at one time. Going forward there is no choice but to mandate that anyone transporting a bag must arrive with the group or whatever they have will be taken at customs. We also continue to be very appreciative of the generosity and kindness of Dr. Brian Lynch, who has donated thousands of readers at his own expense to our missions over the years and joined us again for his 16th VOSH-CT mission, as well as the return of veteran mission member Dr. Jerry Hardison who helped a great deal as always with the students. All of the doctors were great with all of the students, including Dr. Peter Pegolo on his first mission, and despite being the largest VOSH-CT mission ever, and seeing the most patients ever, everything ran very orderly and smoothly throughout the week despite some very windy conditions in the beginning of the week along with numerous power outages which made it difficult to care for patients as darkness approached. Dr. Robert Mingrone was assisted during the week in the dispensing area by Sara Bozzuto, who entered data regarding the lenses powers used, which will be very helpful for future missions going forward. Dr. Kathleen O’Leary, along with her helper Nora Lorion and Dr. Larry Nierman, along with his helper Gary Goldstein, provided great assistance and guidance to their students, and Dr. Lee Robertson and his wife Ruth brought along their son Clark, who at age 13 was our youngest mission member and served as the mission IT technical advisor as only a young person today can do!!

The Pelican Eyes Hotel where many of us stayed was under new management and John the new manager along with his assistant Jonathan could not have been nicer or more helpful. Both they and the entire Pelican staff did everything they could to help us in every way they could, and we are most grateful for all of the wonderful help & assistance they provided to us all week long. We also continue to receive excellent service from Richard Morales, owner of Gaby Transport, along with his drivers and helpers. Richard and his company provided safe and reliable transportation services to the group and its members throughout the mission, and we are very grateful for everything Richard did to help out on our behalf. We are also appreciative of the help provided by Richard and his wife Ruth in assisting us with needed mission supplies, tables and chairs for the clinic. In addition, Roger Mahieu, Jr., owner of True Value of Litchfield, once again donated 100 nail bags which were distributed to mission members and volunteers and used to hold eye glasses and sunglasses, and we are most appreciative of his continued kindness and generosity and support of our mission. We also continue to acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous amount of work our office assistant, Nicole Gaynor, as well as our foster son Orlando Sevilla, do each year throughout the year in preparation for the mission. In addition, due to some necessary mission personnel and administrative changes, Orlando, along with Lena, assumed responsibility for the outreach and organization of the buses so necessary to the success of the mission. Because of their great work and service, we saw an increase in 4 days of over 1,000 patients from years’ past. We also continue to be very appreciative of the support our mission has received from the local area Lions’ Clubs including Harwinton, Litchfield, Branford and Windsor among others.<p align=”>The clinic was held for the nineteenth year at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 8th, 2017 with 8 examination rooms, a dispensary & lunchroom. Lunch of 40 local pizzas and bakery goods was provided by VOSH-CT. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 9th, 2017 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-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 $2,000 for the 4 day mission. Certificates of appreciation and participation were given to all participating mission members. Our veteran security teams returned once again, providing great service to the clinic and all participants throughout the week. Group pictures were taken on Wednesday and a very nice dinner at the Pelican Eyes was hosted by VOSH-CT on Wednesday evening where we also celebrated the engagement of Orlando Sevilla to Rosalina Lanzas earlier that afternoon at the clinic.

Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 4,488 patients, a VOSH-CT record, broken down as follows:

Monday        Tuesday       Wednesday        Thursday     Total

1,133         1,123        1,170        1,170        4,488

Over the past 15 years, we have seen a total of 43,629 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) (2012-2,772) (2013-2,696) (2014-3,129) (2015-3,188) (2016-3,205) (2017-4,488).

Numerous drugs were requested for donation from Alcon Laboratories, Inc. and Allergan Pharmaceutical., but in the end only Alcon came through with their donations, leaving us a little short on drugs for the patients during the week. We have also 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 which all worked very well.

Escalating mission costs continue to present a challenge. Total mission expenditures now exceed $15,000 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.

San Juan del Sur and the surrounding area continues to grow and evolve, although from our continued observations, the need to provide eye care has not diminished in any way, and in fact continues to grow as we continue our efforts to outreach to the out-lying communities where the need is greatest. Because we had no idea we were going to see so many patients, we did run short on most supplies including sunglasses by the end of the mission. Next year we will be sure to purchase additional supplies so hopefully we will have enough supplies to last for the entire mission. Towards the end of the mission, we had a situation involving some choices made regarding personal safety which fortunately ended without incident. As mission leaders, we take our responsibilities regarding the safety and well-being of all mission members very seriously. Going forward, mission participation will be limited to members over the age of 21, unless accompanied by a parent or grandparent. We also intend to spend more time emphasizing the importance of individual and group safety measures in a third-world country, particularly when excessive alcohol use is involved.

It is our plan to continue to look for more places to outreach and provide services to, especially as we continue to have the amount of volunteer eye care provider support that we have the past several years from the doctors and students. Throughout each mission, we all try to 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. Up on You Tube now is a wonderful video taken and edited by Katie Brugger

Video of VOSH-CT Clinic in San Juan del Sur which captures the moment of the clinic is so many ways. I also was honored to search around and find 2 new pairs of shoes-work boots and sneakers-for the night security watchman at the clinic whose shoes were literally in threads. VOSH-CT continues to be grateful to all of those, both here and in Nicaragua, who work together as one to provide eye care services to so many who otherwise would have none.Respectfully submitted,

_____Matthew Blondin_______________________

Matthew Blondin, O.D., F.A.A.O. Clinic Director


Audrey B. Blondin, Esq., “La Jefa” Clinic Director January 30, 2017