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.
consisted of seven Optometrists led by Dr Matthew Blondin and
Jerry Hardison(3rd VOSH-CT mission)
Brian Lynch(5th VOSH-CT mission)(CAO Legislative Liaison)
Quinn(4th VOSH-CT mission)
were joined by 11 first & second year optometry students from
University of California School of Optometry at Berkeley :
Garuna Chaisongkram(Team Leader)
Four students from the Netherlands School of Optometry:
Marjolein Meulenbroek(Team Leader)
One student from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine:
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
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.
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"
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
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.
four-day clinic period, we saw 2,283 patients broken down as follows:
514 572 684
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.
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 the Norwalk
, 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.
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.
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 to Dra. Rosa
Elena Bello and the rest will be brought back for use next year.
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
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.
Matthew Blondin, O.D., F.A.A.O.
January 24, 2006