EVOLUTION 1995-2017 Twenty-three years ago a couple of guys who really didn’t know what they were doing got together and started VOSH/SOUTHEAST. These fellows had just returned from their first VOSH mission trip to Ukraine with a VOSH Chapter from Ohio. They thought it would be worthwhile to try to organize a similar group in Florida. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Against all odds, a few timid souls, led by three optometrists from Orlando and a Nun, mounted their first expedition to the hills of the Dominican Republic and both amazed and amused the inhabitants of the coffee growing mountain town of Guayabal with somewhat amateurish attempts to bring visual health to a village where most of the people had never even dreamed of owning a pair of glasses, much less seeing an optometrist.
Right from the beginning, VOSH/Southeast began a trend then unusual in most VOSH chapters and this strain of novelty has persisted until today, driving the evolution of the organization into its present shape. From the beginning, Southeast has always relied on strong participation with and guidance from “the locals” with an emphasis on working with the populations it served not only to provide short term visual health care through mission clinics but also to labor toward the establishment of local permanent sources of visual health care available to everyone in the region. We call this “sustainability”. The years of effort and investment now pay huge dividends. Southeast has become a player in Central America and the Caribbean and through leverage is now in partnership with several major and regional eye care organizations which, through sharing of expertise and supply of materials, deliver eye care to many, many thousands of people in the region who otherwise would never “have a shot” at decent eyesight.
One of the principal purposes of this Annual Report is to illustrate how this evolved capability of Southeast operates - much attention is given to a brief dissection of 2017’s activities in Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Mexico/Guatemala - with reporting emphasis upon the partnership participation we receive and and major credit given to our teams and their regional partners. We also discuss Southeast’s contributions to other lands in our hemisphere where Southeast has worked before and continues to support regional partners today. Finally we draw attention to a relatively new emphasis - Southeast’s support of optometry education, from local support of the pre optometry school program at the University of Central Florida to Southeast support of one of Peru’s most prestigious optometry schools to equipping optometry clinics and schools throughout Central America and the Caribbean.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC SOUTHEAST’S support of its multiple partnerships in the Dominican Republic continues to increases exponentially.
DRA. EVELYN DIAZ , of the D.R.’s premiere ophthalmologists, continues her remarkable clinic work in Moca, Province of Espailler, seeing hundreds of people every weekend in liaison with the popular health initiatives organized under the aegis of
Senador Jose Rafael Varga. During Dr. Diaz’s almost weekly “jornadas”, she and
her staff see hundreds of campesinos, screening for refractive error and needed surgical treatments. The team dispenses spectacles when needed and Dr. Diaz does surgical procedures following the screenings at her clinic in the capital. One of Dra. Evelyn’s strongest contributions to the activities of VOSH-SOUTHEAST is her continuing mentorship of the annual visual health mission undertaken by the
Pre Optometry Association of the University of Central
Florida, an educational activity actively supported by Southeast Here is a brief excerpt from the report of the “Opto Kids”” (Southeast term of affection):“ May 2017, the Pre-Optometry Association of UCF joined VOSH in a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Students journeyed to the city of Moca, ...visited multiple schools, where both adults and children were lined up by the hundreds to be seen for vision wellness check ups. The students got to work with autorefractors, tonometers, and retinoscopes, providing invaluable, hands-on experience they could not get in the United States. The patients being seen were also prescribed and given free glasses, and for some of these children, it was the first time they ever saw something clearly in their lives…..Students played a major part in the diagnosis of these maladies, asking patients about any issues with their vision and listening closely to complaints. All told, the group saw over 1,500 patients in just over 5 days of work, even with a significant language barrier. The Dominican Republic mission trips have become something of a tradition for the UCF Pre-Optometry Association, providing incredible experiences and memories. Every year we have students looking forward to the trip, and we hope to be able to continue working with VOSH on these trips for a long time coming.”
FUSAIN, a health NGO located in San Juan de la Maguana, capital of a province bordering Haiti, is a new partner of VOSH-SOUTHEAST. FUSAIN recently received a huge shipment of supplies and readers to provide to its indigent clients, many of Haitian origin or descent. We have received FUSAIN’s report indicating that a total of
10,114 patients were seen last year. This area of the D.R. is very short of visual health services and we welcome this chance to provide services to this new area.
FUNDACION PARA LA VISION Y PREVENCION DE LA CEGUERA, a NGO located in Cotui near the Samana Peninsula. The organization is headed by
Daniel Heraldo Cruz, an
ophthalmic technician trained at Elias Santana Hospital in Santiago. Daniel and two ophthalmologists formed the Foundation to provide the area with corrective vision surgery and treat refractive error.
NICARAGUA VOSH Southeast and BASIC Nicaragua partnership Since 2014, VOSH Southeast and BASIC Nicaragua have been partnering together in Nicaragua. In 2017, we completed two more mission trips with vision clinics and an additional administrative trip to oversee the building of the permanent BASIC Nicaragua house. This building stores construction equipment for
BASIC’s construction team and also serves as the home to
the optical lab that has been in business since 2012. Franklin Martinez serves as the optician and is a full-time employee of
BASIC Nicaragua. SOUTHEAST/BASIC Nicaragua and FONIPRECE partnership FONIPRECE (La Fundacion Oftalmologica Nicaraguense para la Prevencion de la Ceguera) in Managua. The foundation is able to deeply discount eye surgeries to help the impoverished people of Nicaragua. FONIPRECE has 3 full-time ophthalmologists who perform the surgeries. Since 2015 BASIC and VOSH Southeast has been partnering with
FONIPRECE has received IOL’s and donated medications from BASIC’s brigades. This has helped offset the costs that need to be fundraised for each patient. BASIC and VOSH Southeast was able to provide transportation, lodging, surgery and followup care for 31 patients in 2017. There are currently 30 more people on the waiting list. In 2017,
FONIPRECE offered to receive our purchased lenses via customs from China using their broker and did not charge any
fees to us. They have been a fair and reasonable partner for surgeries, specialty prescription glasses, and other patient-centric needs. We have been able to collaborate and provide a total of 94 surgeries to patients since 2015. Starting in February 2018,
FONIPRECE will now be the official host of BASIC Nicaragua and VOSH Southeast for registering with MINSA (Ministry of Health). This is a true partnership and solidifies the three year relationship we have been building. FONIPRECE partners with all other VOSH chapters in Nicaragua for surgical referrals and the Optometry School in Managua.
BASIC Nicaragua optical lab BASIC Nicaragua purchased a piece of property in Nicaragua on September 1st and in November a small team went down to oversee the construction of our new permanent optical lab. In July, we took an inventory of completed glasses ready to sell to other VOSH teams who come to Nicaragua. We currently have over 1,000 pairs of spherical glasses (plus or minus) in our inventory ready to sell to brigades for $1.50 US per pair.
VOSH-SE Nicaragua mission trip February 11-30, 2017 . VOSH-Southeast in partnership with Basic Nicaragua organized an optical mission to Chinandega, Nicaragua from February 11th to 19th 2017. We had five Optometrists, three Opticians and four lay volunteers participating. The team had four clinic days and saw a total of 827 patients. The patients’ ages ranged from 1 year to 90 years old. There was a wide range of pathology seen with the majority being cataract and pterygium. There were 67 patients referred to
Ophthalmology Clinic of which 30 patients are being scheduled for surgery.
VOSH-SE Nicaragua mission trip July 21-30, 2017 VOSH Southeast in partnership with BASIC Nicaragua organized a mission trip to serve the vision and ocular health needs of the people of Santa Patricia, Quezalguaque, Nicaragua. This trip provided care for 888 patients in 4 clinic days with 5 optometrists, 6 optometry students, and 7 volunteers in addition to local bilingual translators. Over 900+ pairs of prescription glasses and non-prescription sunglasses were fitted and dispensed.
Statistics for BASIC Nicaragua and VOSH Southeast partnership in 2017 1,715 patients seen in vision clinics with 85 surgical referrals to
Over 2,000 spherical glasses made in the optical lab in Santa Patricia 31 patients have received eye surgery from
50 IOL’s were purchased and donated via the International Eye Foundation. They were sent to
FONIPRECE in Nicaragua
to defray costs for cataract surgeries. 5,000 additional lens blanks were purchased from China and shipped to the permanent optical lab. 16,270 frames were
Amigos for Christ. FONIPRECE after our February 2017 trip.
donated by VOSH and shipped via a cargo container with our partner, $200,000 worth of valid eye medications was donated to
Property purchased and optical lab built in Santa Patricia, Nicaragua
MEXICO Veteran Southeast Mission Leaders Drs. John Spencer and Lisa Weber led a clinic mission to Zihuatenejo July 1723, 2017. The report of their mission is typical of the close collegial relationships developed between Southeast and its regional partners: VOSH-SE was contacted to explore the possibility to provide eye care services to a community in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Once the research was done, it was clear that they will benefit from the services and resources that VOSH- SE could provide. VOSH-SE started working on this project at the end of 2016 with a plan to have clinics in mid July 2017. With the help of the
DIF (Integral Development of the family) Zihuatanejo, we were able to solidify this mission and
coordinate all the logistics that are involved in such a mission. We had a wonderful response from optometrists, optometry students, translators and people with and without medical background from around the US and Canada. We arrived at a venue that was partially outdoor. We had to be cautious regarding the well-being of the patients and volunteers due to excessive heat that Zihuatanejo experiences during the month of July.
We were fortunate to have the
DIF optometrist (Maria Jose Mejia
Bravo, OD) on site with us to provide ongoing care to the patients in need of continuing care. Our data reflects a high incidence of people who will need this continued care to manage their potentially sight-threatening eye care needs, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts. Patients seen 1340; glasses dispensed: 1487, sunglasses dispensed 800 plus; ODs, opticians, ophthalmic assistants: 5, OD students: 8, lay people: 15
GUATEMALA The surge in Southeast’s activities in Guatemala and the accomplishment of most of its results in this country in 2017 is attributable to a new emphasis on
Christian Broadcast News Medical Missions and Mission House Ministries. Christian Broadcast News Medical Missions sponsors medical clinics and cooperation with its partners,
outreaches to rural areas in order to provide basic medicines, medical supplies, and training in health issues. Medical, dental, and optical missions treat thousands of patients each month free of charge.
Coordinator Glenn Lashley enabled VOSH Southeast to provide optical material and supplies for three medical clinic missions to Jalpatagua, Jalapa and Comitancillo, Guatemala in 2017, These missions resulted in exams and spectacles for more than 1,500 patients and several dozen cataract and pterygium surgeries in these locales. In addition to these clinics, VOSH
CBN visual health missions to two locations in Haiti and two locations in Peru. Glenn Lashley says this to us from C.B.N.M.M.“(From everyone we saw)...the tears of joy were overwhelming to us. C.B.N. would like to thank all of you for your hard work in making this Southeast support also equipped
Mission House Ministries (MHM) is dedicated to serving the social, SEEDS PLANTED FOR THE FUTURE IN GUATEMALA SOUTHEAST believes there is much more work to be
educational and medical needs of the indigenous Mam speaking Mayan population of the Department of San Marcos, Guatemala. Through
Glenn Ashley, VOSH/Southeast had the great pleasure of
done in Guatemala. We are in a position to utilize our
present strong relationships to develop more diverse and
mounting a mission clinic to several villages in the areas outlying from
wide tanging partnerships to better provide more available and sustainable visual health to the people of the Republic. Look for more news of a partnership with
Susan Stees John Gehrig, worked with local Optometrist Olvidio Garcia to screen,
Comitancillo, the capital of the province. This mission. led by and
the Faculty of Optometry at Universidad Galileo in the
examine and dispense spectacles to a population which otherwise has no
capital and development of Rotary International Grants
access to visual health services.
and project in the Highlands.
Olvidio has a modern shop and lab in
Comitancillo and hosts the visiting cataract surgery teams which come to the area from
CBN. With the continuing partnership of Olvidio, MHM, CBN
ophthalmic surgeons and VOSH/Southeast - the future of continued continued visual health services to this remote indigenous region of the Guatemalan Highlands seems assured. Patients seen 838; glasses dispensed 595; sunglasses dispensed 400 plus; O.D.’s, opticians 3; lay staff 8
PROGRAMS AND PARTNERSHIPS THE TIN HUT Nestled on Lake Weir Road in rural Marion County, Florida is 1800 square feet of storage bay space - the heart of VOSH/Southeast’s logistical operation. This complex is affectionately known to SE Voshers as “The Tin Hut”. Within the walls of The Tin Hut are stored tens of thousands of glasses, eyeglass frames and lenses, piles of new and reconditioned optometric equipment and God only knows what else having to do with eyeballs. The Tin Hut is managed by
Max Bruss, V/SE Vice President of Operations. The Tin Hut is in daily
operation supplying support to V/SE partners in support of their visual health service programs throughout this hemisphere. Max says of The Tin Hut: “Our goal is to provide equipment and supplies for free or at our cost to missions and to establish sustainable clinics. In addition to the many churches, mission groups, VOSH chapters, schools of optometry and local service groups which we serve, we provide supplies, frames, readers, sunglasses, solar shields and recycled products to several major programs.” Listed below are some of the major visual health programs which depend on V/SE for the material life blood of their efforts.
HE 2017 TIN HUT PARTNERSHIP LIST:
Espaillat Province, Dominican Republic and FUSAIN Foundation, Dominican Republic under the directorship of
Dra. Evelyn Diaz, Santo Domingo, D.R. .
Fundaction Para La Vision Y Prevencion De La Ceguera, Cotui, Dominican Republic under the directorship of
Daniel Hiraldo Cruz,
Rodriguez Optometric Foundation, Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, Mission House Ministries, Comitancillo, Guatemala, under the direction of Optometrist
Ovidio Garcia, Basic Nicaragua, Chinandega, Nicaragua under the direction of
Instituto Superior Eurohispano, Lima, Peru under the direction of Lic.
LOWELL RICE, veteran member of VOSH/Southeast, has been honored by the Southeast Board of Directors with the very first LIFE MEMBERSHIP AWARD. The award is bestowed annually upon a person who has given long and hard of their efforts in accomplishing VOSH/Southeast’s mission of delivering visual health services to those who would otherwise have no opportunity for good vision. Lowell is a long time resident of Ocala, Florida and has, over the years, spent literally thousands of hours working in The Tin Hut. Thank, you, Lowell!
Published on Feb 16, 2018