VOSH Annual Meeting

VOSH/International held its 26th Annual Meeting on October 13, 2018 in Montreal, Canada in collaboration with VOSH- Santa Cruz hosts of this event.  Eighty people from six countries, including India, Romania, Mexico, UK, USA and Canada, attended a full day of inspiring speakers, chapter update sessions, exhibitors and networking. 

Father Pierre Labine and VOSH-Santa Cruz, https://voshohv.org/, have been an incredibly active VOSH chapter for over 20 years, helping people in their own community and around the world.  Their special guests to the meeting-Mrs. DÌaz and her son Gustavo- had been doing humanitarian work in their hometown and surrounding area in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico and  collaborating with VOSH-Santa Cruz for over 20 years ago to provide eyecare and glasses to those in need.   Gustavo Diaz, gave a passionate and powerful presentation at the VOSH annual meeting about the impact of the work of this VOSH chapter on his community highlighting the important networks of local support that VOSH chapters are able to build with local community leaders . 

Many other speakers also provided motivation and important information.  These included:

  • Dr. Luigi Bilotto (BHVI) spoke on Sustainable Eye Health and Enhancing Optometry Around the World
  • Dr. Yogita Rajgandhi (VOSH-India) spoke on the State of Optometric Care in India and how VOSH Can Help
  • Dr. Vicki Weiss (VOSH-VA) spoke on VOSH Efforts Domestically and Keys to Success
  • Catherine Lamorena and Yatzie Ponce provided information on Surgical Eye Expedition International and Partnership Opportunities
  • Dr. Asa Morton, MD, spoke on Ophthalmological Collaboration with HELPS International
  • Andrea Haymore and Kirstin Jones presented on the Essilor Vision Foundation’s New Programs to help VOSH for Local Outreach
  • All present VOSH Chapters were also invited to report on chapter activities, strengths and challenges.

At the Annual Meeting, there were two awards given for exemplary service.  The Humanitarian of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Jordan Kassalow founder of Vision Spring, http://visionspring.org/.  Dr. Kassalow went on a VOSH trip as a student and spoke of the impact of placing a pair of highly myopic glasses on a young boy that had never had glasses.  For the first time the boy was able to see and Dr. Kassalow found his vision.  Since then Dr. Kassalow has dedicated his life to the provision of glasses and vision to people worldwide.  The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. V.E. (Bud) Falkenhain, OD of VOSH-Missouri.  Dr. Falkenhain was a good friend of VOSH founder Dr. Franklin Harms.  Dr. Falkenhain was the second president of VOSH/International and longtime president of VOSH-Missouri.  He has done VOSH service for over 40 years and sums up the VOSH experience perfectly with:  “A VOSH mission can be a life changing experience, not only for the person receiving the care, but also for the person giving the care.”

Exhibitors included Joseph Villari from Good-Lite and Essilor Vision Foundation.  The meeting was sponsored by the generous support from National Vision, Inc.  To read more about the 2018 speakers and meeting please visit:


The VOSH family gave a warm farewell and showed their appreciation for an outstanding work to Natalie Venezia as departing Executive Director and welcomed Maria Arce-Moreira to the post.  

Mark your calendars for the next VOSH Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida on Sunday October 27, 2019 to be held immediately after the 3rdWorld Congress of Optometry presented by the World Council of Optometry in partnership with the American Academy of Optometry (Oct. 23-26, 2019) .  Our theme at the VOSH Annual Meeting will be “Big Vision, Small World”, looking at optometry globally. I hope you can all join us there. 


Tracy Matchinski, OD, FAAO, FVI

President VOSH/International

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 and boosted, 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 and its variants are 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 or 2022.

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 Organization: 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.

Michael Ciszek, OD, dipl ABO, FVI

President, VOSH/International

December 2021