Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) is a non-profit organization operated by eye care professionals who are passionate about bringing vision care to every person around the world.
VOSH-Connecticut held its 17th annual eye care clinic in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua on January 10-18, 2020, directed by Dr. Matthew Blondin, OD, and Atty Audrey Blondin.
The team consisted of 35 mission members, including 20 of our Berkeley Optometry students. Additionally, approximately 70 local volunteers assisted with the mission. They were able to serve a little over 4,000 patients in 4 days.
Below is a video that one of the student volunteers, Micah Sarmiento, Class of 2022, made recapping their amazing experience!
Here are some student testimonies from the trip:
Laura Carter, Class of 2022, SVOSH-Berkeley President:
“Communities like San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua have many visual and ocular health issues that many of us here in the US will never experience. Trips like this one remind me why I began pursuing a career in health in the first place. Nothing like a little global perspective to help you see your small part in this big world more clearly.”
Elenia Lin, Class of 2023, SVOSH-Berkeley President-Elect:
People travelled from far and wide, started lining up outside the school-turned-clinic before 5 am, and waited through the mid-day heat to see us. The power went out towards the end of our first day, and I remember continuing to refract in the dark until all the patients had been seen. We would not stop because we knew how important this was to each patient and what it took for each patient to arrive at our doorstep. As I worked in the dark, it hit home for me just how needed and impactful our care was.
We set aside a classroom of the school-turned-clinic to be the dispensary. There, volunteers looked through boxes of donated glasses for ones similar enough in prescription to give to the patients. The moments I took the time to walk with the patient to the dispensary and look for the glasses myself were when I had some of my most meaningful interactions. I will always remember bringing a pair of glasses I had found out to the patient waiting in the courtyard. It was already getting dark, but there were still a few wisps of sunset. When she put the glasses on, she immediately exclaimed, “claro!” I felt so much relief and satisfaction for being able to help her.
Kresta Ria Tabaranza, Class of 2022, SVOSH-Berkeley Fundraising Chair:
“My favorite thing about Nicaragua: la gente.
While preparing for this mission, I worried so much about how to become the best version of myself to help the people of this country. Should I have practiced harder in pre-clinic? Should I have brushed up a bit more on my Spanish (more like Spanglish, to be honest)? But this past week, I gained more than I could ever give. The people – whether that be the translators/volunteers who spent all day and night to help us work, or the patients who waited hours to be seen by us – met us with so much love, kindness and gratitude. I will miss these beautiful faces and will never forget the moments I shared con los Nicaragüenses.”
Melody To, Class of 2022:
Even though we are equipped with the knowledge and skills from our first and second year courses, it was difficult to feel confident in my abilities as a clinician when there is still so much to learn. This experience has not only sharpened my clinical thinking and decision-making abilities but also erased any previous doubt I had in my mind. Even so, I’d have to say that the greatest reward was the hug and kiss on the cheek a grandmother gave me for detecting her glaucoma early on, before any significant loss of sight.
We are excited to hear all these incredible stories from our students who go on these trips and look forward to the next trip!