VOSH-Connecticut held its thirteenth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 4-11, 2014. This was the sixteenth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the thirteenth under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO. The team consisted of 52 mission members, our largest mission to date, per below.
Mission Members VOSH-CT 2014
Dra. Rosa Elena Bello
Audrey Blondin – La Jefa
Joyce Krinitsky – Asistente de Segunda
Dr. Matthew Blondin
Dr. Josephine (Abby) Quinn
Dr. Brian Lynch
Dr. Robert Mingrone
Dr. LaMar Gunnarson
Dr. Patrick Doyle
Dr. Michele Ming
Dr. Thomas Margius
Optometric Assistant to Dr. Blondin
Sally Lee – Ladies Home Journal
– Chief Assistant Leader
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 continue to be extremely grateful to her in this regard. Joyce coordinates her efforts with San Juan del Sur City Councilwoman Heidy Herrara, who has worked as a volunteer mission member for VOSH-CT for every mission since the beginning in 1999. For 10 years now, Miguel Granja’s local bus has provided transportation services for all 4 days in and around the San Juan del Sur area, which has worked extremely well and we continue to be very grateful for his excellent and reliable service every year. VOSH-CT also provided bus transportation throughout southern Nicaragua per below and were able to add an additional bus from Ostional due to the high school fundraising efforts of 5 year VOSH-CT member 11th grader Grace Lee-Niosi.
As in years past, approximately 75 local volunteers assisted with the mission. It is very helpful that our mission sponsor, Dra. Rosa Elena Bello, now serves as the Mayor of San Juan del Sur. Her leadership was very helpful not only in the set-up and running of the clinic, but also in arranging for a smooth transition for all mission members through customs. It’s unlikely the mission could continue without the assistance and oversight provided by Mayor Bello and those who work under her and help with the mission, including Lena Ruiz, the new Director of Medical Services. Mayor Bello was also presented with a state certificate of appreciation and congratulations on behalf of State Representative Michelle Cook of Torrington, CT by 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. The dispensary once again was run very organized and efficiently by long-time VOSH-CT member Optician Mareshah Lynch, along with Optician Kay Gunnarson and another long-time VOSH-CT member Chief Dispensary Assistant Sally Lee and the experienced Dispensary Assistant teams listed above. Optician Mareshah Lynch received generous donations of lenses from Encore Optics LLC, Hoya Vision Care in Lewiston, Maine and McLeod Optical in Augusta, Maine for which we are very grateful and allowed us to have a few hundred pairs of brand new glasses to give to patients with corresponding prescriptions. We were also fortunate this mission to have the services of another long-time VOSH-CT member, newly graduated Nurse Olivia Quinn, R.N., as well as pre-med college student Sheena Song and three terrific translators, Cornell college students Brittany(3rd VOSH-CT mission) and Christopher Hamlin and our foster son Orlando Sevilla(14th VOSH-CT mission).
As we started last year, each mission member was asked to transport one supply bag and this worked well despite several lost bags from UPS, 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. We will continue to do this, but again, we cannot stress enough that without the intervention and oversight of Mayor Bello, it is remote at best that few if any mission supplies would get through customs the way things are now set up by the Nicaraguan government. 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. We also received 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. 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 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 does each year throughout the year in preparation for the mission.
The clinic was held for the sixteenth year at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 5, 2014 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 6, 2014 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 $1,500 for the 4 day mission. Certificates of appreciation and participation were given to all participating mission members, along with 5 year recognition certificates to Dr. Tom Marguis, Kevin Creed and Grace Lee-Niosi.
Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 3,129 patients broken down as follows:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Total
1/06/14 1/07/14 1/08/14 1/09/14
697 823 900 709 3,129
Over the past 12 years, we have seen at total of 32,748 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) (2014-3129). 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.
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 Miguel Salinas, 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. The Berkeley optometry students all worked very well together, and our three new doctors, Drs. Michele Ming, Patrick Doyle and Lamar Gunnarson, all worked great together and with the students. Student Leaders Calista Ming & Monica Rodriguez did a great job organizing the students and helping in any way they could which was very much appreciated.
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, as well as our 60th Birthday celebration, where we asked for donations to VOSH-CT in lieu of any gifts, which worked out very nicely. 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 as a whole is trying hard to lift up and improve, and there is definitely more going on in San Juan del Sur and throughout Nicaragua than had been in the past. There is a great focus now on tourism, but the infrastructure is still somewhat lacking and the huge disparity between the rich and the poor continues. From our observations, the need to provide eye care has not diminished in any way, and in fact is growing as we continue our efforts to outreach to the out-lying communities where the need is greatest. Unfortunately, as primary care providers, we can only provide care for the basic eye care needs including glaucoma treatment, but any type of needed surgical care is most often impossible to obtain. 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.
February 7, 2014
Audrey B. Blondin, Esq., “La Jefa”