An inspiring and exemplary year involving more than 100 students and doctors, year long fundraising and helping nearly 10,000 patients. Read this description from a model SVOSH Chapter as submitted by Melissa Pongratz:

Led by an extraordinary and dedicated executive team of seven students and one faculty advisor, SVOSH-SCO was able to send 116 students and doctors to eight countries throughout central and South America this May. Nearly 10,000 patients were able to receive what may be the only vision care they will have access to.

In preparation, students worked year-round to fundraise and prepare supplies, and would like to give a special thanks to our Lions Club partners domestically and abroad. A unique partnership with Rhodes College was initiated to provide small-group and country-specific discussion on customs, culture, and history prior to departure.

In partnership with World Relief Memphis, and with the support of Essilor Vision Foundation, we were able to host our first local clinic which saw 240 refugees and immigrants in the Memphis area. We would like to pay special recognition to our faculty advisor Dr. Beth Sparrow, each of our passionate in-country partners, all of our volunteers who joined us, and our domestic supporters. We are looking forward to another year of growth and positive impact in international healthcare alongside VOSH/International.
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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