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Our Pacific Leaders
10 October 2017
25 photos for 25 years
1. Bibiane was unsure of her age, but remembers soldiers visiting her village during the Second World War. Cataracts in both eyes forced her to leave her home village and go to live hours away with her daughter. She was completely dependent on her family. The surgical team in Madang, Papua New Guinea, was able to restore sight in both of her eyes, and what a transformation. Bibiane returned home a different woman.
2. In 2014, the Solomon Islands was in desperate need of a suitable eye care facility. Although there was a team of local eye care specialists, there was still significant need for proper facilities and equipment. With that in mind, we built the Regional Eye Centre with funds generously provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the New Zealand public. The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust and the World Diabetes Foundation provided additional support. The build was completed in August 2015.
3. While living in Dunedin, Fred was an active member of the New Zealand Alpine Club and climbed several peaks in the Mount Aspiring/Tititea region of Central Otago. In 1951 Fred met New Zealand mountain climber and Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary in a chance encounter. Sir Ed was on a test run for Everest, backpacking up the Tasman Glacier when he first met Fred Hollows. Sir Edmund recalled in his memoir ‘View from the Summit’. The resulting friendship paved the way for Sir Ed’s support of Fred Hollows' efforts to end avoidable blindness, later becoming a patron of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.
4. Gabriella is a little girl who was born at 27 weeks with complications including cataracts in her right eye. While this condition was identified early, cataract operations on children are not easy, and it was not until she was three that her eye could be operated on. Vanuatu still doesn't have a permanent eye doctor, so people rely on visiting teams from The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.
5. Health care in the Pacific faces a number of challenges including low government spending, a lack of doctors and nurses, and rundown clinics and equipment. It’s also very hard for patients living in remote communities to access the health services they need. We established the Pacific Eye Institute in 2006 to help address these issues, with a focus on providing training in eye care for local doctors and nurses.
6. When Timwia and Nawere met, it was love at first sight. And when our team saw them recently in Kiribati, it was obvious how much they still adored one another after 50 years of marriage and raising a family. Can you imagine how awful it was when cataracts robbed them both of the joy of looking into one another’s eyes? It wasn’t until our outreach team came that Timwia and Nawere were able to receive the short cataract operations they needed to restore their sight. Timwia and Nawere had cataract surgery together in the operating theatre. As soon as their bandages came off they saw each other, smiling and laughing like teenagers.
7. In 1985, Fred visited Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh on behalf of the World Health Organisation and, two years later, he visited Eritrea. Visiting these countries had a profound effect on Fred, prompting him to find a way to reduce the cost of eye care in developing countries.
8. As a village chief and passionate gardener, Jesse was very proud that at 74 he could still make a living and provide for his large family from the food he grows. All this changed when he developed severe cataract blindness. Then he received news that a Fred Hollows Foundation surgical outreach team would be visiting the main island of Vanuatu. He jumped at the chance to see again, Jesse climbed into a boat and made the long journey to Port Vila with the help of one of his children. Jesse was able to have the surgery he needed to restore his sight. Just 24 hours later the bandages were ready to be removed.
9. Sister Joyce is a much loved nurse in Papua New Guinea. Fred was an advocate for hands-on learning. He firmly believed there should always be three people in a room: a teacher, a student, and a patient. Whether he was in an operating theatre in Sydney or Hanoi, Fred took great delight in seeing the moment of understanding in his students’ eyes.
10. Daniel was a happy-go-lucky, cheeky little four-year-old. One day he and his brother were playing with a broom that broke and hit Daniel in the eye, tearing the retina. Little children who suffer eye trauma like this often develop cataracts soon after. So, the clinic monitored his eyes over the next few months. Sure enough, his left eye soon went cloudy and he started to lose his vision. Within half an hour that had all changed. We removed the cataract and put in a new lens. In a few minutes he could see again. At his home the next day, his vision was completely restored, and he was back to being cheeky little Daniel, singing and laughing and playing with his brothers.
11. Solomone is a devoted family man who works as a fisherman to provide food and shelter for his loved ones. When cataracts took away his sight, everything changed, and he could no longer provide for his family. Solomone lives in a remote area of the Pacific where there are no eye doctors. Even if he could’ve afforded to see a doctor, there was no one there to help him. Thanks to our incredible supporters, Solomone had the opportunity to see our outreach team, and one of our eye doctors was able to restore his vision with a short surgery.
12. Our doctors met Bwabweniiti (centre) and her friends on a surgical outreach to Kiribati. All three women had developed dense, blinding cataracts. For years they had lived in darkness, giving up hope of ever seeing again. A Fred Hollows Foundation surgical outreach team came to the main island of Kiribati. Desperate for help, blind and scared, they made the trip from their remote village to the main island. With just a short 20 minute surgery, their lives were transformed.
13. Undeterred by his cancer diagnosis, Fred was determined to keep working for change in the countries he cared deeply about. With only a few months to live he discharged himself from hospital to travel to Vietnam to train over 300 Vietnamese eye specialists in modern surgery techniques. Along with some friends, Fred and Gabi set up The Fred Hollows Foundation to guarantee his work would carry on. Fred died on 10 February 1993 and was given a state funeral. He had asked to be buried in Bourke where he had a strong connection with the people and the land.
14. Papua New Guinea has the most acute shortage of eye health workers in the Pacific region. Located in Madang, the Modilon Eye Clinic offers the only training programme for eye nurses in Papua New Guinea and is crucial to addressing avoidable blindness.
15. Young patient Shaina being tested for refractive error. Responsible for 43 percent of visual impairment globally, refractive error is a very common eye disorder that occurs when the eye cannot focus clearly. This causes blurred vision or vision impairment. Refractive errors can be treated with glasses, contact lenses or surgery.
16. A mother and child at the Regional Eye Clinic in the Solomon Islands. Rather than delivering private eye care, we work with local hospitals and medical centres to strengthen public health systems. This does take longer, but at the end of the day it means we’re creating sustainable eye care services delivered by local people.
17. Dr Mundi Qalo is the Pacific outreach team’s lead eye doctor. He leads the team to countries that don’t yet have adequate eye care. He has performed thousands of sight-saving surgeries.
18. Fred recognised the necessity for local factories to produce affordable intraocular lenses. The lenses made in these factories would be used to treat cataract and significantly cut the cost of restoring sight. Fred founded factories in Nepal and Eritrea, empowering local communities to make affordable and accessible lenses. The factories have produced millions of lenses and are an enduring reminder of Fred's impact.
19. Deonisia’s days were spent sitting in darkness, quiet and withdrawn. Her many grandchildren still visited her and played by her side, but she was miserable because she could no longer look after them or watch them grow. She had two grandsons she’d never seen. When her family heard that a surgical team from The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ was coming to their island they decided to take Deonisia to see them. It was the first time a surgical team had visited the island, so Deonisia had to wait in line with 400 people, all desperate to have their eyes checked before the team left at the end of the week. Deonisia finally saw Dr John Szetu, the eye surgeon in charge of the team. She couldn’t believe it when he told her she could have sight restoring surgery the next day.
20. 21-year-old Floyd was building a house when he got a splinter in his eye. It could happen to anyone, and here in New Zealand he would’ve gone to the doctor to get the treatment he needed. But Floyd lives in Vanuatu where there was no money for a doctor, and no eye care services in the region anyway. His family relied on him for his strong back and cheerful nature, so Floyd kept on working. A cataract formed over the injury and he slowly lost his vision to a milky white cloud. Floyd’s hopeful future with his family, and his plans to go to engineering school, would’ve been lost along with his vision if it wasn’t for compassionate and caring people like you.
21. At just 39, Toese was completely reliant on his son, Sua, to get around, eat, and go to the toilet. Sua was his dad's eyes and was forced to stay home, watching with longing as his brothers and sisters headed off to school each day. Thanks to our supporters, a short 20-minute surgery changed everything. When the bandages came off Toese's eye there were smiles all round. He could see the world and his loved ones again! And Sua is finally attending school for the first time, studying as hard as he can for a hopeful future.
22. Valentina’s life was ruined when she lost her sight to cataracts in both eyes. She became completely dependent on her daughter for everything — including going to the toilet. “It’s boring, I can’t do anything.” For three Christmases, Valentina was cut off from everyone she loved, living in a grey haze of dimly seen shapes. Luckily our outreach team visited her rural village. Experts in sight-saving surgery, they were able to restore her sight with a 20-minute operation. Just 24 hours later Valentina could see her world brightly again for the first time in years.
23. Vani lived in total darkness for 12 long years. The 72-year-old grandmother spent her days “just sitting, sitting”, waiting for help from her daughter-in-law who she relied on for almost everything. The lack of accessible eye care in Fiji means our surgical outreach teams are met by queues of patients, eager to receive treatment they’ve often waited years for. Vani had her sight restored by a Foundation-trained surgeon Dr Mandeep Kaur, right before a cyclone hit Rakiraki. Flash flooding forced the team to evacuate the hospital the day after her surgery, making her 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 Vani’s bandage was removed in the middle of the reception area. Her eyes squinted a few times. Then, a huge smile. Her voice crackled with emotion.
24. In the Pacific, diabetic retinopathy is now starting to rank among the leading causes of visual impairment, overloading already stretched eye care services. Although uncommon a generation ago in most Pacific populations maintaining a traditional lifestyle, the prevalence of diabetes has increased dramatically in recent years.
25. Working ourselves out of a job — we’re confident we can train enough people to deliver eye care services right across the Pacific. Having said that, we won’t leave a country until we’re sure it can stand on its own two feet and meet the eye care needs of its people.
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Guests included Adrien Brody, Rob Pattinson, Ricky Martin, Sofia Boutella, as well as Seal and Flea, who performed during the evening.
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