Do I have to have medical training to participate on a VHI trip?
The majority of our teams are comprised of eye-related and operating room professionals and specialists, but we do have several positions in the clinic and eyeglass distribution center that do not require specialized medical training.
How large is each field program team?
The size of each team varies based on available space and facilities. In general, we have a team of 4-5 ophthalmologists, 2-3 anesthesiologists, 10-12 OR and recovery nurses/technicians, and 5-8 additional personnel who help in the clinic or in eyeglass distribution.
How long are the projects?
Our field programs are usually one week in duration. In general, we arrive in-country on a Saturday and leave the following Saturday. We travel to the work on Sunday and see patients Monday through Friday.
How much does the program cost?
VHI volunteers are charged a participation fee to cover the basic costs of program administration. For physicians, the fee is $650 per trip; for all others the fee is $450 per trip for Central America, $550 for South America.
In addition to the participation fee, each VHI team member must pay for their own roundtrip airfare to the host country. VHI provides lodging and meals in the work area, and local transportation in-country.
Are there sources of funding available to help defray the cost of participation?
VHI has recently established a “Nurse Scholarship Fund.” While VHI encourages all participants to seek all available means of financing (frequent flyer miles, workplace donations, etc.), the organization may be able to provide, on a limited, trip by trip basis, a pre-determined allowance for nurses and scrub technicians. Information on and an application form for the nurse scholarship fund can be found at: link to nurse scholarship fund/application page.
Who arranges and pays for my air travel?
Participants are responsible for scheduling and paying for their roundtrip airfare to and from the arrival city in the host country. VHI asks that participants communicate their travel arrangements with the Trip Coordinator in order to facilitate arrival and departure schedules.
Can I bring my family?
When local conditions permit, VHI will try to include adult family members who are interested and able to work in the vision health program. VHI policy limits participants to those over sixteen (16) years of age.
Do I need to speak Spanish to participate on a VHI trip?
Since most if not all of our patients speak Spanish, the ability to speak Spanish is always a plus. Yet, speaking Spanish is not a prerequisite for participation. Translators, both from VHI and the host country, assist VHI volunteers during the trip.
What about food and water safety in-country?
Prior to each trip, VHI sends out health and safety information on each country. In general, we work in areas where the food supply is quite safe and safe water supplies are available. We also suggest that participants inform themselves about the local conditions in the host country.
What about other health precautions such as immunizations or malaria prophylaxis?
Each country has different health precautions and we recommend that participants discuss their travel plans with their family physician. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain a website for international travelers that can be accessed through the CDC home page.
What about surgical equipment and facilities?
In general, we work in hospitals which are able to provide general anesthesia equipment and VHI brings operating microscopes, a portable autoclave and anesthesia monitors. Each surgeon is asked to bring his or her own tray of instruments. The Medical and Trip Directors determine—in advance—the equipment and supplies needed for each field program and will inform each participant what they will need to bring.
All of VHI’s surgical and clinic supplies and equipment are donated from numerous medical supply and pharmaceutical corporations and from private individuals.
Who will follow outpatients after we leave?
Vision Health programs are conducted under the invitation and supervision of local health agencies who are asked to identify local ophthalmologists who can provide necessary follow-up care once we leave the country. In addition, we ask that these medical professionals assist with the pre-screening of patients wherever possible.
How does VHI decide where to work?
Despite the overwhelming need for vision health care everywhere in Latin America, VHI will only travel to those localities where our services have been requested. VHI follows a strict protocol in developing its programs with local and national governmental agencies, local and national public health officials, and local ophthalmologists. VHI has benefited over the years in its affiliations with numerous service and other vision health care organizations that have facilitated our work in Latin America.
Where does VHI get its funding?
VHI relies on the donations of dollars and gifts in kind from private individuals, corporations, and foundations. VHI does not receive any direct funding from the U.S. Government.
Does VHI have a religious affiliation?
VHI is a private, volunteer, non-sectarian organization and has no religious affiliation. In some countries, local religious organizations have collaborated with VHI to help provide transportation, housing and meals in the work area, as well as assistance with screening patients for medical attention.
I can’t participate on a VHI field program right now. How can I be kept informed of future trips?
Please contact us.
I can’t participate on a VHI field program right now. How can I help?
Please make a donation to support our work.