The Volunteer Health Program’s first two eye missions were to Gracias, Honduras 1994-1995. At the invitation of and in coordination with the efforts of a well-organized local nonprofit agency FEDECOH, we saw over 2000 patients each visit. There was a great need at this site; however, much needed follow up care for our patients was difficult.
1995 to 2019:
The second project site was started in 1995 with ILAC (Institute for Latin American Concern) in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic.
For the past 40 years, ILAC’s health care services have been based on a true and integral commitment to the struggling campesinos (farmers) of the remote areas in the Dominican Republic. ILAC services 210 communities and have trained over 265 local health care volunteers (Cooperadores) from these communities to assist in the primary health care and screening. The Cooperadores are trained by ILAC, with educational aids from VHP to select patients in need of eye care. They accompany patients to the ILAC Mission headquarters, stay at their side during treatment and /or surgery and monitor their progress in the villages.
As the patients from the rural communities come into the mission site for eye care they are registered, given an eye examination and corrective lenses as needed. Medical and surgical problems are addressed and treated as needed. Each year we have treated over 900 to 1300 pre-screened patients. We have been able to perform over 300+ surgical procedures as well as other minor procedures during each visit. The majority of cases each year are cataract removals. Adult blindness secondary to mature cataract formation can be treated successfully, restoring useful vision to these patients. Many of the other surgical cases are children with strabismus (crossing of the eyes). Other cases such as glaucoma, ocular tumors, congenital and traumatic deformities are also surgically treated. Through ILAC, we have worked in conjunction with local ophthalmologists that have helped with follow up care for the surgical patients.
Early in 2004 ILAC finished construction on their clinic/hospital at the mission site. We were the first to use this wonderful facility on our March/April ’04 mission. This makes it much easier for our group and several others, in different disciplines, to offer their volunteer services to our patients. This year our strong team of 90 professionals worked a week in March , seeing over 950 patients.
Other areas that we have helped Ophthalmologists provide services are: Jerusalem, in 2002, ’03, ‘04, ‘05 and 2006, 2007 working with St. Johns Eye Hospital for 10 days each November or January. We also supported the Philippine mission as they worked for one week in January, 2003 - 2019.