VOSH-Connecticut held its fourteenth annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 10-17, 2015. This was the seventeenth year of service at this site to the San Juan del Sur area, the fourteenth under the auspices of VOSH-Connecticut, along with three previous missions under the auspices of VOSH-NECO. The team consisted of 45 mission members, per below.
Dr.Matthew Blondin – Clinic Director MCPHS University
Dr. Michael Shea – Assistant Clinic Director
Dra. Rosa Elena Bello Heather Bell – Student Leader
Lena Ruiz Tiffany Khoo
Audrey Blondin – La Jefa Emilee Nehring
Rose Blondin – La Jefa Pequeña Korab Spahiu
Joyce Krinitsky – Asistente de Segunda Katherine Nguyen
Dr. Josephine (Abby) Quinn State University of NY (SUNY)
Dr. Brian Lynch – Community Liason
Dr. Robert Mingrone Tea Avdic
Dr. Thomas Margius Rebecca Chariop
Dr. Jerry Hardison – Student Liaison Heema Desai
Dr. Anthony Rao Amy Lam
Optician Samantha Rao – Student Leader
Mareshah Lynch Alexandria Tilley
Dispensary Assistants Darren Sham
Sally Lee -(Chief Optician Assistant) Linda Shi
Katherine Minsinger (NYC Grad Student)
Reshma Patel (UCONN Junior)
Allison Woodside (University of Maine)
Alina Pechko – Student Leader
Joyce Krinitsky continues to do her outstanding job regarding the coordination of various bus transports throughout the local and southern Nicaraguan area, and we continue to be extremely grateful to her in this regard. Joyce coordinates her efforts with San Juan del Sur City Councilwoman Heidy Herrera, who has worked as a volunteer mission member for VOSH-CT for every mission since the beginning in 1999 and was presented with a Citation for her efforts from the Connecticut Legislature, along with Miguel Granja whose 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 additional buses due to a very generous personal donation of $400 from Dr. Erica Nierendorf from Bloomfield and a $500 donation from the Windsor Lions Club on behalf of mission member Dr. Jerry Hardison.
As in years past, approximately 50 local volunteers assisted with the mission. It is very helpful that our mission sponsor, Dra. Rosa Elena Bello, continues to serve 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 again 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, which recognized not only her efforts but the tremendous efforts of Director Lena Ruis who was wonderful in every way before and during the clinic.
In addition to the 1800 pairs of glasses purchased by VOSH-Connecticut from the Virginia Lions Club, 3,000 pairs of sunglasses & 400 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, who was recognized for her 10 years of service to VOSH-CT, and another long-time VOSH-CT member Chief Dispensary Assistant Sally Lee and her daughter Grace, along with the experienced Dispensary Assistant teams listed above. Optician Mareshah Lynch received generous donations of lenses from Encore Optics LLC 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.
As we started last year, each mission member was asked to transport one supply bag and this worked well despite numerous bags being held in customs until they were satisfied with the paperwork, 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, along with Director Lena Ruiz and the efforts of our son Orlando Sevilla and our office assistant Nicole Gaynor 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 would like to give a special acknowledgement to the new Food & Beverage Manager at the Pelican Eyes Arya Motalebi, who along with his staff proved excellent service throughout the time we were there, and especially his thanks for setting up the “POSH-VOSH” event on Dr. Brian Lynch’s behalf!!!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 our local photographer Dany Espinoza 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. We are also appreciative of the help provided by Richard’s wife Ruth Perez in assisting us with needed mission supplies and tables 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 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 noted above, does each year throughout the year in preparation for the mission.
The clinic was held for the seventeenth year at the Centro Escolar Enmanuel Mongalo y Rubio. It was set up Sunday, January 11th, 2015 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 12, 2015 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 a 10 year recognition pin and certificate to Optician Mareshah Lynch and a 15 year recognition pin and certificate to Orlando Sevilla.
Over the four-day clinic period, we saw 3,188 patients broken down as follows:
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Total
1/12/15 1/13/15 1/14/15 1/15/15
741 904 775 768 3,188
Over the past 13 years, we have seen at total of 35,936 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) (2015-3,188). This year was our second busiest year, and everything went as smoothly as it did in large part thanks to the outstanding group of students we had with us. 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.
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 30 children from the Barrio Planta Project under the direction of Project Director Elizabeth Renner. This year Berkeley optometry students were joined by optometry students from SUNY-New York and the MCSPH in Worchester, Mass, 20 optometry students total, from 1st-4th year, and each and every one of these students was excellent and helped to make the mission the great success that it was, and we definitely hope all 3 groups of these optometry schools will continue to participate in future missions.
Escalating mission costs continue to present a challenge. Total mission expenditures are now over $12,000 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 my mother’s 85th 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 continues to be more going on in San Juan del Sur and throughout Nicaragua than had been in the past. A huge source of controversy is the proposed new canal through Lake Nicaragua, which will come across above San Juan del Sur in Rivas. Should this canal ever come to pass, the environmental costs would be devastating, but as is often the case, the debate between providing jobs and economic growth and development but at what cost and expense continues unabated. 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 some effort is now being made to provide the types of needed surgical care. 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”
February 10, 2015