I always knew that I wanted to be a part of a VOSH mission. Having worked in the optical industry for 19 years I’ve heard all of the amazing stories of faraway places and smiling faces. But when it came down to it, I got a little scared. My only travels outside of the United States had been to Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada – not very exotic! I’m pretty sure I had the same hesitation and fears as most first time VOSH Volunteers. I need how many shots?!? Will I fit in with the rest of the group? I didn’t know anyone very well outside of sorting glasses once a month for the past few months… What will the accommodations be like? Will there be electricity? We were asked to pack light to be able to carry all of supplies…what essentials are REALLY essentials? And we were going to be gone over Thanksgiving…what was it going to be like not being with my family over a holiday for the first time? So many questions…
Going to the Philippines was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was everything that I had hoped for in a VOSH mission. The group of doctors and volunteers I traveled with were incredible people. Some of them were new to VOSH trips, like myself – most were veterans. But veterans that quickly welcomed us newcomers into the family with open arms. I loved the camaraderie and all the stories from past missions. The people who hosted our group and helped make arrangements for us, were so generous and accommodating. The people and towns that we visited were so open and kind. They got together as a town and welcomed us, sang us songs…posed for our pictures and brought us local treats. It really felt like one big extended family. I had no idea then how emotional it would be to leave them.
And then I had my quintessential VOSH moment. It was our last day of seeing patients. An older woman came into the health center, she was known by the locals as “the candy” lady because she sold candy on the street. She was the tiniest woman I’d ever seen, with the biggest smile! She went in to see the doctors and came back with a really strong prescription. This Rx was a challenge and we found the closest match we could. Margie slid the glasses on her tiny face and she lit up! She jumped up and down, she hugged us… she was so excited. I’ll never forget that moment and I’m counting the days until my next VOSH trip!
And the details…In November 2009 twenty-one volunteers traveled to the Philippines under the guidance of Dr. Jim Hess. After a short stop in Manila we spent a week at the El Rio y Mar Resort on the island of Busuanga and used this as our home base for both work and recreation. Our gracious hosts took care of all of our needs at the resort as well as filling the roles of interpreters while we worked and tour guides while we played.
Some of our work time was in the small village of San Jose, seeing people from the local population as well as from some neighboring islands. We also spent a day working in the larger town of Coron City. The major refractive error was low to moderate plus in combination with significant against-the-rule astigmatism. R&R included snorkeling along coral reefs, kayaking and escaping the heat in the pool at the resort. All agreed that despite the very long flight and hot conditions it was a great mission.
Volunteers included: Neil Anderson, Joanie Braam, Angie DuChene, Margie and Jim Hess, O.D., Lori Kirschenmann, O.D., Joe and Mary Laconic O.D., Bev and Warren Nordley, Sue and Bob Ostrow, M.D., Joan and Al Paymar, O.D., Lou and Glenn Schulz, Kirk Thomas, Molly Manske, Muareen Whelan,O.D., Elizabeth Dickinson, Missy McManigle.
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