Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity
VOSH Members donate their time and skills to deliver vision care to underserved people around the world. Providing humanitarian eye care is one of the most deeply rewarding experiences available to students and faculty at Berkeley Optometry.
Early Humanitarian Efforts
Berkeley Optometry has a long history of providing humanitarian eye care to underserved populations. Services to local Bay Area populations began in the 1920s, continuing uninterrupted to the present day. The first international project took place in 1968–69 when optometry student volunteers traveled to Tijuana, Mexico for Christmas and Easter vacations under the auspices of Project Concern, a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and operating healthcare clinics in New Mexico, Appalachia, Hong Kong, and Viet Nam.
In 1989, students established a Berkeley chapter of Voluntary Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) and conducted its first chapter mission when volunteer students and clinicians traveled to the Philippine island of Negros Occidental, where they screened approximately 3,000 patients.
The success of these international eye-care projects set the stage for efforts in humanitarian vision care that continue today. Berkeley Optometry VOSH missions include visits to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Mexico, Kenya, and Viet Nam.
After a VOSH mission in Ecuador, supervising clinician Dr. Pastsy Harvey had this to say:
“The team is often asked if the clinic was worth the time and effort. Thinking back, the work seemed minimal after fitting 24.00 D glasses on an uncorrected myope. The cold weather was forgotten while giving low vision glasses to people who were essentially blind from dense cataracts. The fatigue disappeared as they gave medications to [Ecuador] Indians whose ocular discomfort caused them to cover their eyes or stay indoors. The travel was lessened as they drove from the clinic and watched a boy wearing his new pair of –14.00 D glasses play ball with his friends. Yes, it was worth it.”