Like so many others, ​I ​have been watching the devastation unfold in Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In addition to personal accounts from family in the area, social media platforms such as Facebook have provided us all a personal glimpse into the lives of people that have had to evacuate their homes, lost their business, cars, the list goes on and on. 

VOSH stands for Volunteer Optometric Services to HUMANITY. There’s many definitions of humanity, but I like this one from Merriam-Webster “the quality or state of being kind to other people or animals”. VOSHer’s volunteer their time and talents because we care and get so much by giving of ourselves.  

Vision related injuries, including broken or lost glasses​, are often the product of such disasters.  The severity of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath call us once again to respond in desperate times. If you want to help with the recovery effort or know people affected by Hurricane Harvey, there’s a few sources to which we can guide you:

Remote Area Medical (RAM) will be launching a mission to the affected area in the coming weeks. They are looking for medical and veterinary volunteers to help them in this cause. Go to http://ramusa.org/disaster-relief/ to find out more.

The Eye Center of Houston, Vision Source has partnered with VSP and EyeMed Vision and plans to offer FREE Eye Exams and Glasses for First Responders or ANY disaster victims who have lost or damaged their glasses. If you have VSP or EyeMed, schedule your FREE exam today 713-777-2020. If you don’t have VSP or EyeMed, contact your local American Red Cross (redcross.org), as they are giving out VSP vouchers.

I’m sure there’s other resources and options that I don’t personally know about, feel free to post them on VOSH’s Facebook page. One word of caution against scams that crop up after an event like this. You can search non-profits and check their validity by going to www.guidestar.org.

Updated COVID-19 and VOSH Humanitarian Clinics Advice

Due to an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections, a new variant that is more contagious, and these being early days in the vaccination distribution, VOSH/International DOES NOT recommend that chapters participate in domestic or international eye and vision clinics at this time.

We reiterate that at a time when the coronavirus continues to spread quickly in many parts of the world and vaccinations are not yet available to local populations, the risk of close contact with patients in a crowded outpatient environment remains high.

If a VOSH Chapter or VOSH volunteer chooses to hold a clinic against our best guidance, this is done at your own risk, by your own decision and should be in line with current local/national government rules.  VOSH/International would like to reiterate that 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.  You can download VOSH/International clinic guidelines here

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 patience in these unprecedented times, hard work and dedication to improving vision and eye health throughout the world.

John Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, FAAO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

January 2021