A personal letter from our leader, Andrew Bell, who departs after ten years of service

It would be fair to say that I didn’t have a clear understanding of what The Foundation did when I started way back in 2010. Like so many people, I had heard of Fred Hollows; this crazy eye doctor who never took ‘no’ for an answer. A Kiwi bloke who hated committee meetings and believed in ‘getting the job done’ no matter what. This all appealed to me on a very personal level and so working for Fred’s Foundation, which had been established to fulfil his vision of ‘a world where no one is needlessly blind’, sounded simply awesome.

Like many people, I had a dream of achieving a career high, just mine seemed almost out of reach. Not only did I want to work for a great organisation; I wanted to lead a great organisation! An organisation that somehow was able to do things in such a way that it made a significant, lasting impact on the lives of those less fortunate than me.

I soon discovered that the magic of what The Foundation does is not limited to eliminating avoidable blindness. Think about that for a moment. Needlessly blind people see again. It is an event of Biblical dimensions. We call it the miracle of sight. The person was blind and now they see. But amazing as this outcome is, there is more to this miracle.

You see, you can support one Fred and blind people will see again. But imagine if you had many. Imagine if the magnitude of the magic was not only in the ‘what’ you did, but the ‘how’ you did it. Fred’s idea was to train local doctors and nurses to be eye care specialists. The reason is simple. The multiplier effect ensures the impact is many times greater if you have more than one Fred. Like so many I had pictured foreign ophthalmologists flying in to treat patients for a week. What Fred’s Foundation does, is train the daughters and sons of Fred. More than just meeting a felt need by making blind people see, The Foundation harnesses the multiplier effect, by investing in training local doctors and nurses to be specialist eye clinicians. If you have more clinicians, more patients can be seen, and the result is that more blind and vision impaired patients will end up seeing again, every day. The success of this multiplier effect can be seen in The Foundation’s numbers: a total of 300 eye doctors and eye nurses trained throughout the Pacific, over 915,000 consultations and close to 75,000 surgeries.

It is fair to say I love working for The Foundation, not only because of the wonderful work we do daily, but the amazing team of staff I have had the privilege to work alongside for ten years. The extremely talented fundraising, communication, finance, operations and programme staff based in Auckland who work tirelessly to ensure the teams of teachers, students and graduate clinicians on the front line have what they need to get the job done. Fred would have expected nothing less and I am convinced that Fred would be so proud.

Of course, none of the above is remotely possible without our many, many generous donors. As Fred famously said, ‘you don’t have to be an eye doctor to restore sight’. We have donors who have been with The Foundation since it started way back in 1992 and we have new donors signing up every week. The story of making blind people see and how we do it continues to appeal to New Zealanders. Amazingly, your generosity has also had the multiplier effect applied. Restoring sight is proven to be the medical intervention with the ‘biggest bang for buck’, estimated to be as much as eight times the original investment. So not only were we careful not to waste a cent, restoring the sight of one family member has a positive economic impact on their whole family. Now that’s what Fred called ‘getting the job done’.

Thank you so much for all your generous support.

Hard as it is to say, the time has come for me to depart this role due to a private health matter. So just like Fred, I find myself having to entrust the work to others. It has been a most magnificent privilege and journey. To the Board who entrusted me with the role, I say a big ‘Thank You’. It seems so inadequate, but I am truly grateful for the rare privilege afforded to me to live my dream. I got to lead a great organisation that is special in every way.

With warm regards,


I am writing this on the second day of isolation and ‘lock-down’.

When COVID 19 reaches the Pacific, which it will, the impact will be truly devastating.

As Kiwis and as a Foundation we want to respond, and the team is working hard with our in-country partners and funders to find a way to identify and provide the most practical support possible. It is a medical emergency and so it is likely that the most devastating impact will be on the Pacific health systemswhich are already over-burdened by massive medical challenges.

I know that you too will be feeling the impact of COVID-19 and it will inevitably raise fears of your own. As you make your own plans to secure your future, please be assured that The Foundation will continue to provide practical and life-changing interventions, even in these tough times, to support our friends in the Pacific.

Fred would have expected nothing less of his Foundation.

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