At the beginning of this year, I set two goals. The first was to increase our outreach with our SVOSH chapters. Our SVOSH visits to each of the schools by board or committee members are coming along nicely, and the student enthusiasm is contagious. VOSH was blessed with student interns that helped us in so many ways this past year. We also hosted successful student reception in Boston in June, in conjunction with AOA, and in Anaheim at our annual meeting. If you didn’t get a chance, check out our student video contest winners on our Facebook page.

My second priority was to support the expansion of VOSH chapters in Mexico. The VOSH board has a wonderful resource in member Marcela Frazier, and with the addition of Cecilia Denny from Mexico to our VOSH/SVOSH International chapters committee and I see great potential for VOSH expanding throughout Mexico.

Following are a few other 2016 VOSH accomplishments I want to highlight….

Our newly formed VOSH chapters in Ghana, ably led by Dr. Abena Ntim, held two outreach missions.  Dr. Ntim and VOSH Ghana, in conjunction with Rotary Club of Accra west, organized a free eye screening and education for the people of Kitase and the surrounding community on March 19, 2016. VOSH and the Rotarians, 24 optometry students from KNUST School of Optometry and local dignitaries worked together on this historical event.

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I had the pleasure of representing VOSH at the American Partner’s Forum for Our Children’s Vision during the Vision Expo West meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to bring VOSH, Essilor Vision Foundation, Vision Impact Institute, Eyelliance, VSP, Optometry Giving Sight, World Council of Optometry, Charity Vision, Special Olympics and others together to join forces and address the lack of eyecare for children in the United States. While there, Greg Pearl and I met with Kim Schuy, president of Essilor Vision Foundation-Americas and Sam Hahn from Kids Vision for Life to brainstorm more about domestic missions and resources regarding US school kids. From this meeting, VOSH has created a calendar on our website highlighting the domestic missions and contact people, to better coordinate timing, personnel, and supplies.

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In October I attended the IAPB meeting in Durban, S. Africa, where I presented a poster on the VOSH Technology Transfer Program (TTP). The speakers were excellent and the networking opportunities on behalf of VOSH immense.

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In November VOSH held their annual meeting in Anaheim. We had a great line of speakers at our annual meeting this year, and panel presentations on our TTP (Technology Transfer Program) and VOSH Corps. In addition to our award winners, I had the pleasure of presenting Michel Listenberger, OD, FVI who is the VOSH historian,  where I had the pleasure of presenting a Presidential Circle Award for his book “Bringing The World Into Focus. The Story of VOSH. Volunteer Optometric Services To Humanity”. Prior to the meeting, I presented at the International Optometric Educators SIG luncheon.

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My job as president is to guide, provide feedback, and delegate. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, but together we’re a wonderful organization. I greatly admire our volunteer board and the time and effort they put into making VOSH the great organization that it is.

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Save the Date! Our VOSH Annual Meeting this next year will be Saturday, October 14, 2017 in Chicago, with the theme “Winning Together”.

 

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