January 1, 2017 found 11 Linkenheimer staff and partners on their way to Nicaragua for the firm’s third eye care mission into the remote villages of the Rio San Juan region. Travelers included Matt Melchiori, Anne Glanville, Judy Deniz, Kerri Berry, Andy Vedder, Nina Shaposhnikov, Rudy Malmanis, Kari Bruner, Carli Ortiz, Mike Musson and John Jones.
The morning of January 2nd we boarded the 12 seat Cessna Caravan for San Carlos and our beloved dirt runway. Lunch and a two hour boat ride found us at the Sabalos Lodge www.sabaloslodge.com which became our home base. Mosquito repellent in hand, along with instructions on tucking in the mosquito netting under your mattress (while you are on the mattress) got us prepared for the next five nights.
Days 2 and 3 found us traveling to and from and working in the village of Las Maravillas. This is a very remote village and difficult to get to from Sabalos (or anywhere for that matter) and rarely receives medical services. The region had 30 days of straight rain prior to our arrival, so the roads were nothing but mud and slop with our 4WD convoy frequently stopping to assess the driving strategies and get fellow vehicles unstuck. After two hours of driving we made it to Las Maravillas for the eye care clinic. Our first day at Las Maravillas had us seeing only 250 patients. Only, but it was obvious to us that those 250 people greatly benefited from the quality vision that we were able to provide them. Turns out, due to the heavy rains, a lot of the locals didn’t think we were going to make it to the village. Day 3 was a different story. We saw 428 patients, which turned out to be an all time high patient count for the Rio San Juan region.
Day 4 was in another remote village, called Buena Vista. Only 1 ½ hours of driving thru the mud each way to this locale. Another busy and rewarding day for the Linkenheimer team seeing 373 patients. Of this count, few were children and many of the adults had significant eye and vision issues. As one team member put it “we earned every patient seen in Buena Vista”.
As with all of the eye care missions, team members functioned in each stage of the clinic. Andy and Judy were John’s primary translators; Carli, Matt and Mike worked the autorefractor; Nina, Rudy, Kari, Anne were full time fitters. Kerri did fitting the first couple of days and then was John’s assistant in Buena Vista learning how to determine the best prescriptions for the patients. We also had the assistance of Rafael and Ninoska from the Lodge and San Juan Rio Relief, and Howard and Janelle Freshman from southern California who have “adopted” the region and were in Sabalos. It was an awesome team.
Day 5 was special too because we were able to participate in the ground breaking ceremony for the Sabalos Surgery Center. The project is primarily sponsored by the Santa Rosa Sunrise Rotary Club but had been stuck in Nicaraguan red tape. Finally last fall the project emerged (after four plus years) and became official on Friday January 6, 2017 with the transfer of building rights over to San Juan Rio Relief. This will be huge for the 30,000 people of the region who have no advanced diagnostics (x-ray, ultra sound, etc) and no surgical capacity.
From the Linkenheimer team to our clients and friends – we thank you for your patience with us while were gone on the mission. We know we weren’t there for you at all times, but you should know that your support helped over 1,060 people get improved vision and lives.
– John Jones, Managing Partner
Helping other people, and each other, is a positive for each and all of us for many reasons. And, the task at hand is simple for all of us to team up on and accomplish together. We don’t have any confusion per se, which makes sense.
The eye care clinics are always memorable, as you see people get excited as they see clearly for the first time, or the first time in a long time. Someone came in this year saying he was around 100-years old. He may not of been right, but I got emotional thinking about helping someone like that see better. And, I am always humble before the Nicaraguans elders, as they display a civility which I wish we all emulated. Their manners and displays of appreciation aren’t seen much these days.
The four-wheel drive truck rides back and forth to the clinics was a really good time to bond with everyone. We laughed good and hard a bunch.
John, Rafael, etal, should be proud of the work they have done to establish the surgery center.
– Mike Musson, Partner
The Nicaragua trip is a rewarding experience. I find it most honorable and awesome that John Jones, Managing Partner of Linkenheimer, would organize, sponsor, and fund this experience for his employees. I decided to join the January 2017 Nica team because I wanted to give back to those that are in need of basic items that we take for granted—reading and distance glasses. I previously participated in a trip similar to this one back in 2008—and it was an easy decision once the opportunity to go back presented itself.
My most memorable part the of the experience would be when I watched the excitement and energy of a man in his early 50s see clearly again. He went around and shook many of the volunteers’ hands, and had the greatest smile on his face. I clearly remember him in the doorway after he obtained his glasses talking to one of our drivers with excitement and awe of being able to see clearly.
The group consisted of my co-workers; and I feel it brought us together. Working as a team to help others gives a special kind of bond.
If/When the opportunity presents itself again, I will be there.
– Andrew Malmanis, Manager
Contrary to popular opinion, accounting is a people and service based business. It makes me proud to work with a group of people that are willing to set aside a week worth of “productivity” in order to truly improve the life of others. It was very fulfilling working the long days besides my co-workers knowing that they willingly chose to do something outside of their comfort zone in order to do good for others. That being said, an endless amount of desire to do good in the world can be wasted without the proper framework to encourage its use. For that, I credit Linkenheimer’s culture and dedication to volunteer work for providing myself and my co-workers the chance to make an impact greater than our own actions. I went to Nicaragua because I believe an individuals base purpose in the world is to take care of others. This was a unique opportunity to provide a basic service that I take for granted and it was worthwhile to see the look on a patients face when they put on their pair of glasses and could see clearly for the first time in years.
The most memorable part of the trip was the truck ride through the jungle roads to the clinic locations. To see the geographic isolation that exists and the many ways it hinders the population was surprising. The roads were rough, winding, washed out, mud logged and ever changing . The experience put into perspective the ease with which I cover the 50 miles between work and my house. Also, being at the opening of the surgery center in Sabalos was a touching moment. Not only will the center provide needed health care, but it also provides the local community with higher paying jobs that will have a positive economic impact. To me, the surgery center represents the multiplier effect volunteer service can have in the world.
– Andy Vedder, Senior Accountant