Due to COVID-19, the IU School of Optometry’s VOSH student group was forced to take a 2-year hiatus from traveling. The group was excited to return to Jamaica to see patients again from May 16–19, 2022, at three schools—Negril All Age School, Mount Airy Primary and Infant School, and Broughton Primary School.
The volunteers saw 1,300 children in total, 126 children were prescribed glasses. The glasses prescribed were all new glasses with custom made prescriptions. Complete eye exams were conducted, including cycloplegia. Eight children were referred to on island care. Five children need eye surgery, which IUSO-VOSH will coordinate.
“We receive donated new frames from R.E.M Eyewear and Europa Eyewear and are using a fabricating lab in Jamaica to make the glasses,” says IUSO Chief of Pediatric and Binocular Vision Service and Clinical Associate Professor Dr. Katie Connolly. “A small team of Jamaican opticians will visit the schools two weeks after our visit to dispense the glasses to the children.”
The IUSO-VOSH trip to the parish of Westmoreland, Jamaica, was led by Dr. Connolly, who serves as clinical director for the registered Jamaican charity See Better. Learn Better. Eleven third-year students provided eye care alongside Dr. Connolly, IUSO Pediatric Resident Dr. Gaia Hess, Dr. Paula Kelbley, and Dr. Trevor Keck.
“Eye care, though limited, does exist in Jamaica. Many families don’t have the means to pay for their children to receive eye care, so this need is met primarily from VOSH visits,” says Dr. Connolly. “We fill a large gap in eye care for kids in this region of Jamaica.
Giving free eye exams in Jamaica is not an easy feat. Dr. Connolly and the team of doctors received a $56,000 grant from Optometry Giving Sight for the clinic in Jamaica. This money went toward some travel expenses, shipping costs, equipment and supplies, lenses for the glasses prescribed for children, and will pay transportation fees and the visit costs for the eight children who needed referred for further treatment. IUSO-VOSH funded the optometry students’ island expenses, which included on-island transportation, lodging, and meals. The students paid the cost of their air travel out of their own finances, approximately $550 per student. The four doctors partially funded by the grant also paid the rest of the costs from their own pockets.
IUSO-VOSH plans to return to Jamaica in the fall to visit its remaining partner schools and return every six months to provide sustainable eye care for the school aged children.