Health Sciences Professor Helps Give Gift of Vision to Individuals in Central America
Nearly every winter, Audrey Blondin, J.D., MPH, and her husband head to Nicaragua where they help provide eyecare for individuals in need. Dedicated supporters of Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH), a nonprofit that has already helped enhance vision and eye health for thousands of people, they are leaders of the organization’s Connecticut chapter.
September 29, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Audrey Blondin, J.D., MPH, and her husband, Matt Blondin, an optometrist, first visited San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, with Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH) in January 1999. They were so moved by the experience that they returned the following year, and, eventually, took on leadership roles with the organization.
They formed VOSH-CT, a nonprofit, that has returned to the Central American country nearly every January ever since. The nonprofit has provided eyecare to more than 50,000 people in need throughout the southern Nicaragua area.
“Being able to provide the gift of sight to those in need is a very humbling and rewarding experience,” said Dr. Blondin, an adjunct faculty member in the University’s Department of Population Health and Leadership. “It is also wonderful to be able to mentor the optometry students who learn so much by helping the patients and by working with each other and with the doctors.”
Committed to fostering vision and eye health to individuals around the world, VOSH facilitates the provision and sustainability of vision care for those who cannot obtain nor afford eyecare. Its 100 chapters around the world support sustainable eye clinics, as well as optometry schools and educators in areas that do not offer sufficient eye care.
“Many of the residents of San Juan del Sur and the surrounding areas have little to no access to eye care and eyeglasses,” explains Dr. Blondin. “We are able to supply eyeglasses, sunglasses, and eye medications to those in need. We are also able to help support small businesses and local residents who provide the mission with food, transportation, and security.”
‘It has been a wonderful experience’
Secretary and treasurer of Connecticut’s chapter, VOSH-CT, Dr. Blondin is also the mission organizer. In addition, she co-directs the chapter with her husband, who is chair of the Connecticut State Board of Optometry and president of VOSH-CT. She is in charge of the mission’s fundraising, volunteers, logistics, and supplies.
“I am known locally at the clinic as ‘La Jefa’ – The Commander!” said Dr. Blondin. “It has been a wonderful experience for our children and the children of our volunteers to help out on these missions when they were in high school, college, and graduate school.”
VOSH-CT is planning to return to Nicaragua in January 2023. Dr. Blondin is passionate about the work the organization has done in the region as well as the impact they have made. She hopes to continue to increase their outreach and the support of their volunteers.
“We are currently seeking additional volunteers, especially those who speak Spanish,” she said. “Our mission would not be possible without the gracious and generous support we have received over the years.”
If you are interested in volunteering, supporting, or learning more about VOSH-CT, please contact Dr. Blondin at email@example.com.