In this season of giving, it becomes a time of reflection about our lives and being thankful for what we have.  We can also reflect on how to give back, how we can make an impact.  It is important to give monetary support, but it is equally important to give of yourself and your time.  If you can help, help others with whatever special skills you have. 

Giving money is very impactful.  Within the optometric profession there are many organizations to donate money to make a difference.  Find one that you support and donate.  VOSH/International can be one of those organizations.   Donated money goes 100% to VOSH/International projects.  These projects include local and international efforts.  Locally, money can help to provide support and loaned equipment to VOSH chapters and student involvement.  International projects include supporting optometric education at newly established optometry schools in developing countries through VOSH Corps.  VOSH Corps is a program where North American trained optometrists become faculty members at the newly established optometry schools.  VOSH/International also supports these developing optometry schools with equipment through the Technology Transfer Program (TTP).

Giving of your time is also very impactful.  The ability to see enables social interaction, education, employment.  Without vision these things become much more difficult.  It is easy as an optometrist to use our skills to help others.  Eye examinations, prescription of glasses, detection and treatment of eye conditions, detection of medical conditions through eye signs is what we do.  We don’t always remember the impact you can have on someone’s life, it can be profound.  Volunteer with your local VOSH chapter.   VOSH clinic trips can happen internationally or in your own community.  Some local VOSH activities include: clinics for populations at risk (homeless, refugees, uninsured, single mothers, struggling families), screening for glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, educational talks at schools, nursing homes, etc.  Find the way that works for you to be involved and jump in!

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