As you all may know, we are here in Tanzania for an eye screening project with Vision Health International (VHI). This trip had been originally planned for June 2020, we all know why that ended. But now, it is 2023, and we were FINALLY able to come out to the beautiful country and do what we came here to do, help the people of Tanzania.
Our group of 12 were all finally here in Tanzania and came together for the first time Sunday morning. Alex and I arrived on an early flight Sunday morning. Just the effort of getting out to Tanzania should be no lack of applause. With three flights and three countries later (and continents for that matter), we finally made it. Surprisingly, all of our luggage made it with not a blink of an eye. Some of us, though, were not so lucky. My parents’ bags ended up not making the journey here as there was a mix up with connecting flights. They should be expecting to receive their bags by either tonight or tomorrow morning. (UPDATE: This email was made two days ago, and they got their bags last night!) The luggage during this trip is very crucial as our group did not ship any equipment or materials here to Tanzania in fear of being held at customs and it being useless. So we all agreed to have at least one checked bag per person that held equipment or materials to be used on the trip.
Once we were all settled into our beautiful hotel in Arusha, our team came together for our first team meeting and set out to set up our clinic. Exaudh, who is our host here in Tanzania, is letting us use his clinic called Ndombo Community Foundation. We were all quick setting up each room to fit our flow of the clinic. With check-in, refractions, 3 rooms for each doctor, and an optical/check-out. It seems as if this team has been on a trip or two before and knows how to make a clinic quickly their own. I am in charge of optical which I always love to help with. Giving out glasses can be an instant gratification. Just a simple pair of readers for sunglasses can change a person’s daily life. We will always be ordering glasses from the company Essilor, a great glasses company partnered with VHI, for patients for specific prescriptions. These glasses will most likely arrive back at the clinic 5-6 weeks from now for patients to pick up.
Once the clinic was set up, we went out for an authentic Tanzanian dinner which was delicious. Grilled meat, sauteed spinach, fresh veggies, plantains, and a maize dough-like ball in which we got to use our hands to roll up and pick up the meat or veggies with. Delicious! When we got back to the hotel, our team went right to sleep. We were all pretty exhausted.
Yesterday, we had our first day of clinic. We saw 125 patients with 23 of them being signed up for cataract surgery. Readers and sunglasses are big giveaway to each patient. Only about 8 pairs of glasses have been ordered as of now. The doctors have been noticing a lot of one-off diagnoses from each patient and are things they have never seen before in patients eyes. We are set off to do our second day of clinic today, and we expect our flow of the clinic to be a lot smoother. Let’s hope we get just as many patients. It is raining today, so hopefully that does not stop the patients from showing up.