Meet Vani | The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Meet Vani

Meet Vani, a beautiful 72-year-old grandmother from Fiji.

Meet Vani, a beautiful 72-year-old grandmother from Fiji.

In February, a team from The Foundation’s Pacific Eye Institute visited Rakiraki, a town on the northern coast of Viti Levu in Fiji. It was there that they met Vani Vatuwaliwali.

Vani lived in total darkness for 12 long years. The 72-year-old grandmother spent her days “just sitting, sitting” and waiting for help from her daughter-in-law, on whom she relied for almost everything. The lack of accessible eye care in Fiji means that our surgical outreaches are characterised by queues of patients, eager to receive the treatment they’ve often waited years for.

Vani had her sight restored by Foundation surgeon-in-training Dr Mandeep Kaur, right before a cyclone hit Rakiraki. Flash flooding forced the team to evacuate the hospital the day after her surgery, making Vani’s post-op check-up impossible. Word spread around Vani’s village that the eye team was in residence at the local hotel minutes down the road, so she resolved to sit and wait in the lobby, knowing the team would return.

Eventually they did and in the middle of the reception area, Vani’s bandage was removed. Her eyes squinted a few times. Then, a huge smile. Her voice crackled with emotion “Vinaka! Vinaka! Vinaka!” (Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!). Watch a short two-minute video of the moment Vani's bandage came off.

Now, Vani can see the world, read her Bible, and rejoice in watching her grandchildren grow up.

See a photo gallery of Vani's journey to sight and help others like Vani see again.

What we can do

Help keep Fred’s dream alive.

4 out of 5 people who are blind in the developing world don't need to be. Routine treatment costing as little as $25 can restore sight and hope.

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