Sixteen VOSHers celebrated the new year by boarding a plane and heading to Lima, Peru. Despite the “orange alert” status, there were no travel delays, and the group arrived in Lima at about 10:30 p.m. Trip leader Jim Hess was held up in customs for about an hour and had to pay a $200 tax to get the autorefractor into the country. The host group for this mission was a group of Rotary Clubs in the Lima area, and a number of the Rotary members were at the airport to welcome the VOSH team. After loading everyone and everything into a school bus and traveling another 40 minutes, it was about 1:30 a.m. when the group reached the hotel.
Three work days were spent in a large public hospital. Even though it was a hospital, it lacked certain basics, such as soap, paper towels, toilet paper and toilet seats in the rest rooms. There were a couple of actual exam lanes equipped with slit lamps and tonometers, but no evidence of any alcohol for sterilization.
Along with the sixteen team members from Minnesota and Idaho, a group of ten optometry students from the University of California at Berkeley were there to help examine patients. In a city of eight million people, there was no shortage of patients, and even with such a large group working, patients were turned away every day.
The Rotary volunteers and their family members were very helpful with translating, organizing the crowd, and generously provided lunches on all of the work days. They also provided a very nice dinner, awards presentation, and tourism information for the entire group.
The last work day was at a school in the town of Quilmana’, which was about a two hour drive south of Lima. This part of Peru receives only about two inches of rain per year, so the countryside between Lima and Quilmana’ was completely barren except in river valleys. The people of Quilmana’ were particularly appreciative of whatever was offered, even though the selection of frames at that point was not the best!
In the midst of the work days was a tour of part of the city of Lima. This included a drive through the commercial center of Lima, the main plaza, government buildings, and an ancient and elaborate cathedral complete with underground catacombs filled with human remains. The tour ended at a market – always a favorite on VOSH trips!
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