VOSH-Connecticut held its sixth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del
Sur, Nicaragua on January 6-13, 2007. This was the ninth year of service at
this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the sixth under the auspices of
VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of
VOSH-NECO.The team consisted of five Optometrists
led by Dr. Matthew Blondin and included: Dr.
Jerry Hardison (4th VOSH-CT mission), Dr. Brian
Lynch(6th VOSH-CT mission)(CAO Legislative Liaison), Dr. Abby
Quinn (5th VOSH-CT mission) and Dr. David Kendrick of British
Columbia, Canada(4th VOSH-CT mission).
We were joined by
16 first, second and third year optometry students from the University of
California School of Optometry at Berkeley: Premilla
Banwait, Andrea Buitrago,
Alvaro Castillo (Student Leader), Benjamin Cheung, Kandy Guan, Kelly Kao, Charis Lau, Jimin Lee, Sarah Lewis,
Selene Lum, Jessica Neuville,
Eileen Ng, Melody Tavakoli, Matthew Wilkening, Grace Young and Way Yu., as well as Nick Blondin (2nd VOSH-CT Mission), 3rd year
UCONN Medical School.
Alvaro Castillo did a
terrific job as student leader under some difficult circumstances, and
displayed a maturity and professionalism resulting in tremendous respect
& appreciation from the mission leaders. While the clinical skills of
the students this year was excellent, several of the 2nd year
Berkeley Optometry students failed to grasp an understanding of the
cultural differences between our two countries. Future students
participating in missions will be more thoroughly screened, and will
clearly understand and respect the cultural differences & mission protocol
prior to being allowed to participate in the mission.
In addition to
the doctors and students, the following volunteers were included: “La Jefa” Segunda: Joyce Krinitsky (4th VOSH-CT mission), Translators:
Mary Beth Manley, Susi Ruiz & Katie Harrison (rising 1st
year optometry student), Opticians/Dispensing Assistants:
Dottie Byus(3rd VOSH-CT mission), Mareshah Lynch (3rd VOSH-CT mission), Olivia Quinn(4th
VOSH-CT mission) and Tommy Thompson(4th VOSH-CT mission) and Pre-testing/Project
Assistants: Joe Blondin (Notre Dame
senior & rising 1st year UCONN Dental School student, 2nd
VOSH-CT mission) Lyndsey Piehl
(3rd year St. Mary’s College nursing student), Joe Lynch (8th
grade-2nd VOSH-CT mission) and Robyn Kendrick, daughter of Dr.
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, particularly at the beginning of the mission when
supplies were short. Tommy Thompson & Olivia Quinn continue to be
outstanding additions & helpers in the dispensary. The pre-testing
tasks and patient assistance were handled in a great way all around by
eighth grader Joe Lynch, as well as Joe Blondin
& Lyndsey Piehl.
Joe & Lyndsey together took almost 2,000
blood pressures, heights & weights during the 4 day clinic. Robyn
Kendrick provided outstanding help & assistance with a portable lensometer, and excellent translating services by both
Marybeth Manley & Katie Harrison were a great help to us throughout the
entire mission. Approximately 50 local residents assisted with the clinic
duties, led for the ninth time by local doctor Dra.
Rosa Elena Bello, with assistance by school Principal Ana Luisa Mora.
pairs of glasses were purchased by VOSH-Connecticut from the Virginia Lions
Club, along with 3,000 pairs of sunglasses & 1,000 pairs
of readers. 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, Pelican Project Director Kathy Knight,
and photographer Cesar, who took some wonderful photographs. Cesar prepared
a power-point presentation of the mission. We also thank the entire helpful
& knowledgeable Pelican staff, without whose service,
knowledge, time and expertise this mission would not have been possible.
Because of the current global situation, it is no longer possible to transport
any mission supplies with us. This mission is only able to continue because
of the generosity & support of Chris Berry & Pelican Eyes, who
allowed us space on their shipment container. We cannot emphasize enough
how appreciative & grateful we are to Chris Berry, because as stated,
without him, this mission will cease to exist. In addition, because of the
changing political climate in Nicaragua, we are extremely grateful for the
support & assistance of San Juan del Sur Mayor Eduardo Hollmann, who arranged for us to be met at the airport
by a Representative from MINSA, allowing us to avoid the lengthly time spent in customs during the last several
missions. 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. We also appreciate Angelo LaMonica for his generous donation of candy supplies
for the patients, John Hudson for his translating assistance
and Nicole Rolli for her help &
assistance with all aspects of this mission.
The clinic was
held for the ninth year at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel
Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 7, 2007 with 5 examination rooms,
a pre-testing room, dispensary & lunchroom. The clinic officially opened
on Monday, January 8, 2007 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. 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 and the closing banquet. Over 90 people
attended the closing banquet, with terrific local entertainment provided by
Pelican Eyes, and Dr. Abby Quinn was presented with engraved 5 year
appreciation plaque from VOSH-CT.
Over the four-day clinic period, we saw
2,359 patients broken down as follows:
We are at a
comfortable level of approximately 500-600 per day for each of the 4 clinic
days, and this serves as a general guide for an average pace going forward
for the future. As in years’ past, physical therapy students under the
direction of Dr. David Gullette of Simmons
College provided additional patient services as well as translators for the
clinic, for which we continue to be very grateful.
Throughout the mission, all
communications were held in both English and Spanish, as in years’ past.
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.
were donated by Alcon Laboratories, Inc., Allergan Pharmaceuticals and Dr.
Bradley Rosenberg, and were most appreciated and used throughout the
mission. Leftovers were donated at the conclusion of the clinic to Dra. Rosa Elena Bello. Encore Optical continues to be
very generous in their donation of lenses & services to patients with
special needs, for which we are very grateful.
Over-all, we were
very pleased with this year’s patient count of 2,359, an increase of 76
patients over last year’s count of 2,283. This can be attributed not only
to the on-going need for our services, especially in the out-lying areas
surrounding San Juan del Sur, but also the tireless efforts of Joyce Krinitsky, Kathy Knight & Jane Mirandette
who worked so hard to make needed arrangements for transporting patients to
the clinic. VOSH-CT hired a bus to bring patients in from the local &
surrounding areas for all 4 days, arranged for public announcements
throughout the area & provided for a 2nd day of bus service
from San Jorge, which will be increased to all 4 clinic days next year.
While the immediate San Juan del Sur area is showing some signs of economic
growth & improvement, the areas surrounding San Juan del Sur continue
to suffer extreme poverty & need, and this year’s efforts led by Joyce,
Kathy & Jane proved immensely successful in our goal to provide
services & help as many people in need as possible during the 4 day
As noted above
& has been the case for the past several years, change and development
continues to accelerate at a rapid pace in San Juan del Sur.
Infrastructure issues, including lack of electricity & water supply
continue to present challenges for both mission members & residents, as
well as a 4.0 earthquake that was experienced early in the morning of
January 11th. One student suffered a stingray bite at the beach,
and several other students experienced severe bug bites, necessitating
treatment with antibiotics. In addition, Wednesday, January 10th,
was a national holiday to celebrate the inauguration of the new President
Daniel Ortega, and many residents spent the day at home watching the events
unfold on television.
continues to be the success that it is, not because of what is done by the
mission directors, but because of the generosity & support of all our
wonderful mission members, as well as all of our local volunteers. Many of
these returning volunteers will be celebrating with us next year in our
upcoming 10th year of service to the San Juan del Sur community.
Service above self is taken to heart by each & every mission volunteer,
and for that we remain extremely committed & grateful to all those who
give so unselfishly & generously of their time, energy, experience
& knowledge not only to us personally, but to the kind & grateful
residents of San Juan del Sur and surrounding communities.