Cited for their continuity in serving the population of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua throughout the years since its founding in 2001, VOSH-Connecticut is the October Chapter of the Month.
 
 
 
Nicole Gaynor submitted the the following description of what VOSH is and what VOSHers do:
 
VOSH-CT was founded in 2001 by Dr. Matthew Blondin & his wife, Attorney Audrey Blondin. Members of VOSH/Connecticut and support staff run a yearly eye clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua providing eye care to those in need.
 
During the past three decades VOSH has evolved into a dynamic nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation of human sight, mainly in developing countries where there is no welfare. VOSH also serves as a resource for other organizations with similar goals.
 
The VOSH concept was founded by a Kansas optometrist, Dr. Franklin Harms,in 1972. Currently VOSH/Connecticut is one of 24 nonprofit chapters that are coordinated by the parent organization,
VOSH/INTERNATIONAL, whose duty is to keep abreast of chapter activities throughout the United States, including student volunteer groups.
 
How much VOSH/Connecticut can accomplish is directly related to the funds in hand. While each participant pays his/her own expenses, other costs cannot be ignored: examining equipment, reading glasses, medications, shipping, mailing, to name a few.
 
Generally, VOSHERS pay their own way and often give up vacation time to participate. While some VOSH eye care missions may be carried out by a single dedicated professional working alone, more frequently services are carried out by a team that may include eye professionals, physicians, nurses, physical therapists, dentists, assistants and lay people.
 
A local service group from the host country (often a Lion’s Club or a Rotary group) facilitates organization and arrangements at the other end.
 
The team will send ahead thousands of pairs of used glasses that have been carefully sorted, cleaned, labeled and cataloged in order to fill prescriptions. While a considerable amount of this work is done by VOSHERS themselves, Lions Clubs throughout America have been a major resource for recycled glasses.
 
Depending on the size of the team, VOSHERS will examine hundreds, sometimes thousands of patients over a four- to six-day period. In many cases this will be the first, and sometimes the only examination patients will ever have in their lifetime.
 
A long with prescribing and dispensing glasses, optometrists will identify patients who require further treatment for glaucoma, cataracts, pterygia, diabetes and other medical conditions. Clinics may include an eye surgical team or, sometimes a surgical team will conduct a follow-up clinic shortly thereafter. VOSHERS do make an effort to assure follow-up for acute cases, but the larger burden for such care remains with the host country.
 

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