Published February 18, 2013
VOSH-Connecticut held its eleventh annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 5-12, 2013. This was the fifteenth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the twelfth under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO. The team consisted of six Optometrists led by Dr. Matthew Blondin and included: Dr. Josephine (Abby) Quinn, Dr. Thomas Margius, Dr. Brian Lynch, Dr. Jerry Hardison, and Dr. Robert Mingrone
The mission members were as follows:
Audrey Blondin – La Jefa
Dra. Rosa Elena Bello
Joyce Krinitsky – Asistente de Segunda
Berkeley/NECO Optometry Students
Stephanie Chen – Leader
Jacqueline Thao Thi Mai
Sally Lee -Editor and Chief –
Ladies Home Journal
Chief Assistant 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. Joyce coordinates her efforts with newly elected San Juan del Sur City Councilwoman Heidy Herrara, who has worked as a volunteer mission member for VOSH-CT for many years. In addition to a local bus for all 4 days in and around the San Juan del Sur area, we provided bus transportation as follows:
Monday: La virgen
Tuesday: Escamequita Tola
Parcelas San Jorge
Las brisas Masatepe
Wednesday: Bernardino San Jorge
San Antonio San jeronimo
Thursday: San Rafael del Valle Nagarote
El remanso Rivas
Through the generosity of Kelli Schaller of Torrington, CT, an additional $250 was provided for new and extra buses from family donations collected by her in memory of her Aunt Tina Sokolik, mother of Hartford area Optometrist Dr. Andrew Sokolik.
As in years past, approximately 50 local residents assisted with the clinic duties, led for the fifteenth time by local doctor Dra. Rosa Elena Bello, recently and newly elected Mayor of San Juan del Sur. Many of these local volunteers have been with us for all 15 years. A number of the volunteers now speak some English, and that has been helpful to us and to them as well. Sergio Ortiz served as our Chief Translator for the mission. He was extremely helpful at customs and throughout the week, and we are very grateful for his services on our behalf. During the opening of the clinic, Dra. Rosa Elena Bello was presented with a certificate of appreciation and congratulations from First Selectman Leo Paul, Jr. of Litchfield, CT, hometown of Clinic Directors Dr. Matthew & Audrey Blondin.
In addition to the 1800 pairs of glasses purchased by VOSH-Connecticut from the Virginia Lions Club, 3,000 pairs of sunglasses & 300 pairs of readers were purchased by VOSH-CT. Each mission member was asked to transport one supply bag and this worked well despite some initial difficulties at customs and is something we will continue for future missions, with the caveat that all members part of the transport team arrive in Managua on the same day & time to assure that everything gets through at one time. 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, as well as Gabriel Holt, Kathy Knight and the entire staff at Pelican Eyes who were very gracious and helpful to us throughout the entire week we were there. We are also very appreciative of Kelvin Marshall and the Del Sur News, www.delsurnewsonline.com for providing information and coverage to the local area about the mission and also to Cesar Paniamogan, Jr. www.DanCesar.com for helping with some beautiful pictures of the mission. In addition, Roger Mahieu, Jr., owner of True Value of Litchfield, 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 kindness and generosity and support of our mission. We also continue to acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous amount of work our office assistant, Nicole Rolli Gaynor does each year throughout the year in preparation for the mission.
The clinic was held for the fifteenth year at the newly painted and spruced up with red clay flooring (red dust everywhere!!) Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 6, 2013 with 6 examination rooms, a dispensary & lunchroom. Lunch of local pizza and bakery goods was provided by VOSH-CT. The clinic officially opened on Monday, January 7, 2013 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 $1,450 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, as well as VOSH-CT pins donated by the Blondin’s, and recognition of the 5 and 10 year volunteer mission members-5 Years: Dr. Robert Mingrone, Sally Lee & Joseph Lynch and 10 Years: Dr. Jerry Hardison and Joyce Krinitsky.
Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 2,696 patients broken down as follows:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Total
1/07/13 1/08/13 1/09/13 1/10/13 2,696
584 640 827 645
Over the past 11 years, we have seen at total of 29,619 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) (2013-2,696). 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.
Numerous drugs were donated by Alcon Laboratories, Inc. and Allergan Pharmaceutical., and were very helpful & very much appreciated by the patients throughout the week. 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 Berkeley Optometry students, who while young for the most part, were 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 there 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 Stephanie Chan for the excellent job she did in organizing the students for the mission.
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 Elizabeth Renner. We also welcomed Cmdo. Roberto Gaiton Hostson, 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, as well as Optician Dottie Byus and Paul Zito of Encore Optical, with the assistance of Jane Mirandette and her assistant Heidy Herrara. Dr. Jerry Hardison also provides assistance to the optometry students before and during the mission, and we are very appreciative of his services here as well.
Escalating mission costs continue to present a challenge. Total mission expenditures are now over $11,000 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. It has been very fortunate for the mission that our original sponsor, Dr. Rosa Elena Bello, who continues to be our wonderful sponsor to this day, will now be also serving as the Mayor of San Juan del Sur for the next four years, along with City Councilwoman Heidy Herrera. This should help to facilitate the issues we continue to face upon arrival at customs and hopefully things will go smoother there over the next few years with Dra. Mayor Bello in charge. 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. 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, 2013