Belize Mission October 15-23, 2023
In the middle of October 2022, fourteen volunteers with the VOSH MN Chapter traveled to Belize in conjunction with the Belize Mission Project. The goal for this trip was just like any other mission: to help as any people get eye exams, glasses, and medical treatment as possible. To say that this was accomplished is an understatement. During a short four days of clinical work, over 800 patients were served with over 1,000 pairs of glasses dispensed. Eye drops to treat glaucoma, allergies, and acute infections were provided. Children and adults alike were given the opportunity to see clearly for the first time in their lives.
In makeshift clinics put together at the Oasis Ministries in Banana Bank and at San Pedro High School, the group of dedicated optometrists and enthusiastic volunteers worked in tandem to turn chaos into calm. With hundreds of patients waiting to be seen each day, everyone stepped into roles every morning in order to ensure as many people as possible could be helped.
From learning about the histories of the elderly to hearing about the goals and dreams of the future from children, we got to know more about the patients beyond their blurry vision. Laughter emanated from nervous patients as they began to feel at ease with jokes and riddles during pre-testing. Apprehensive attitudes melted away into relief when each person learned that they were healthy, or that there was a plan in place for the unfortunate instances when pathology was discovered. Smiles beamed from folks able to see clearly for the first time in their life, or as they strutted about showing off new sunglasses.
At the end of the week, we all agreed on many things. The reward of seeing lives changed far outweighed the early mornings and occasional howler monkey screaming during the night. Hearing about the progress of the audiology, dental, and medical clinics reminded us that we were part of a larger team addressing many needs that had grown over the pandemic as volunteers couldn’t travel to provide aid. And, at the end of each day, our group of strangers turned into a laughing family that joyfully teased, encouraged, and helped each other grow more confident in our ability to help those in need.