Dr. Matthew & Attorney Audrey Blondin of Torrington, CT have completed their studies at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington and received their Masters of Public Health Degrees during virtual commencement activities held in Storrs on Monday, May 11th. Both Blondin’s received Certificates in Public Health in 2009 and resumed their studies in 2015. Audrey Blondin was also the recipient of the UCONN 2020 Susan S. Addiss Award in Applied Public Health Practice. This award recognizes the graduating M.P.H. student who best exemplifies the qualities of Susan Addiss: public health advocacy, leadership, demonstrated commitment to the community and academic performance. Audrey Blondin was also the recipient of the 2020 Citizen of the Law Award presented by the Connecticut Bar Association to an attorney who has made a significant contribution to a charitable or public service cause.
The Blondin’s have been active participants in VOSH for over 20 years. They began participating in VOSH missions in 1999 with VOSH-NECO in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. In 2001 they formed VOSH-Connecticut and have led yearly missions to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Over the last 20 years, they have helped to provide eye care to over 50,000 patients along with volunteer optometrists, optometry students, opticians and optical assistants, translators and many other local and resident volunteers. VOSH-Connecticut has been recognized as a VOSH Chapter of the Month and has also partnered with RAM-USA to provide eye care services to those in need in Emporia, VA in 2019.

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Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

VOSH/International recently consulted its US and International Chapters about the feasibility and timing to restart our humanitarian clinics. While the vaccination process continues with different levels of success depending on availability and acceptance, it is evident that vaccine inequity and the availability and reliability of data in several countries are issues we need to consider.

Even if already vaccinated, our chapters are still concerned about the wellbeing of our volunteers and patients.  Some chapters, are organizing clinics locally where they are better able to comply with the existing safety requirements and respective state/country regulations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is being experienced quite differently depending on state, region, country, vaccine availability, vaccine acceptance, and the spread of SARS-COV-2 variants. Most VOSH chapters are not holding clinics or traveling internationally in 2021.

Thus, VOSH/International is slightly moderating its overall guidance against clinics and travel issued in late March 2020 and renewed in January 2021. This will be reviewed and communicated on a quarterly basis.

If a VOSH Chapter choses to hold a clinic or travel internationally, we highly recommend that the chapter performs due diligence to comply fully with the requirements established by the visited country, ensures all VOSH volunteers are aware of and follow strict safety guidelines and all existing protocols and regulations of the country, and keeps the principle of “do no harm” embedded in all its decision making. As always, the wellbeing and safety for VOSH volunteers and our patients is of utmost importance and central to any decision-making process. We have published our updated clinic guidelines with best practices to be observed in this new context. VOSH chapters in specific countries are using protocols that need to be considered as well. You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here.

*VOSH/International is formed by autonomous US and international chapters that are fully and only responsible for their activities, fundraising and decision-making.  VOSH/International can only provide recommendations based on our best knowledge and information at the time.

Also please keep checking the following sites with official and most recent updates:

World Health Organisation: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

US CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/when-to-delay-travel.html

US Government Travel Advise: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

July 2021