Fred and his wife Gabi set up The Fred Hollows Foundation in 1992 while sitting around their dining room table with a group of friends and supporters.
Today, The Fred Hollows Foundation continues to be inspired by Fred’s lifelong commitment to ending avoidable blindness in developing countries.
How it all began
But in 1992, Fred and Gabi decided they needed to find a way to continue his work after he passed away.
“Fred and I started this Foundation around our dinner table in 1992 with a group of friends and supporters,” says Gabi. “By that stage we knew he didn't have much longer to live; cancer was making it more and more difficult to do the sight-saving work he loved. Fred died less than one year later. It was a terribly sad time, but brightened by the knowledge that through The Fred Hollows Foundation his work would carry on.”
“Six months before his death he said, ‘Gabi, it doesn’t matter if I die tomorrow, I know you and all those people who believe in what I believe in, will carry on,” says Gabi.
Fred died on February 10, 1993.
Just six weeks after his death Gabi visited Vietnam to see The Foundation initiate a training program for eye surgeons in collaboration with the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Gabi.
Carrying on Fred’s legacy
In 1994, The Foundation opened one IOL factory in Kathmandu and one in Asmara (Eritrea), and the cost of an IOL fell to around $5. As a result of Fred’s initiative, a 20 minute surgery to remove a cataract and give someone back their sight now costs as little as $25.
To this day, Fred’s factories are owned and run by local people and the profits are used to train local eye doctors and nurses. Fred understood that the only way to help others was to give them the tools to help themselves. He called it “clever aid”.
Thanks to Fred’s work, nearly one million people have had their sight restored in the last five years alone.
Today, The Fred Hollows Foundation works in more than 29 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Pacific. The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ has an extensive programme across the Pacific and Timor-Leste that focuses on training local doctors and nurses to provide high quality eye care in their own communities.