This month we're celebrating father’s across the Pacific who have had an impact on our organisation and on the needlessly blind. From eye doctors and eye nurses, to patients and their families and to our staff here in New Zealand.
1.) Fred Hollows
When Fred died in 1993, he sadly left behind his children. With only a few months left to live, he discharged himself from hospital and travelled to Vietnam, to train over 300 Vietnamese eye specialists in modern surgery techniques, leaving a legacy that surpassed his lifetime.
Rex reminds us that cataract blindness isn’t just limited to the elderly. Rex, age 29, is father of two young children. He needed to travel to Port Vila for treatment for the dense cataract in his left eye, but all his wages went towards supporting his family. Luckily a Foundation trained eye nurse, who had recently returned to Rex’s home island of Tanna, secured funding to get Rex to Port Vila.
3.) Elizabeth's Father
Two-year-old Elizabeth’s father started to notice she had vision problems and took her to the local clinic. Luckily an Outreach was planned and Elizabeth was able to get cataract surgery in both eyes. When the bandages were taken off the first, and then the second eye, she looked up at her father's face, running her tiny fingers through his beard, while her father was just watching her and smiling.
4.) Dr Duke Mataka
Dr Duke graduated at the end of 2018 as an eye doctor from our Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji, after studying for three years. This means we now have a full time, local eye doctor in all seven Pacific countries where we work. Dr Duke was away from his wife and children for long periods of time. Since graduating he has returned home to his family and his home of Tonga as the country's only full-time, qualified eye doctor.
A diabetic coma in 2014 meant that Karlpat was put on an emergency flight, from his home on the island of Ambrym, to the hospital in Port Vila. To receive treatment, Karlpat has to stay in Port Vila, separated from his teenage son who lives on Ambrym with relatives. The cost of having a healthy diet to fight his diabetes means Karlpat hasn’t been able to afford a flight home to see his son in four years.
Ngu suffered a traumatic eye injury 20 years ago that over time developed into cataracts, leaving his world dark. Unable to work on his farm, his wife had to work longer hours and in her absence his daughter shouldered the burden of looking after her father. This meant she missed out on some school and playing with her friends, making Ngu upset.
7.) Dr Mundi Qalo
Dr Mundi, originally from Solomon Islands, is the Pacific Outreach Lead Ophthalmologist. Our ultimate goal is to train enough local eye health workers but training takes time. In the meantime our Outreach teams regularly visit communities throughout the Pacific. We have eight Pacific Outreaches in 2019 which means Dr Mundi has to spend time away from his family and children.
Toese, from Samoa, is father to eight year old Sua. Before his cataract surgery, Toese was completely reliant on Sua to get around, eat and go to the toilet. Sua can now attend school for the first time and get an education, because his Father received a quick 20-minute surgery.
9.) Andrew Bell
Our Executive Director, Andrew Bell, is father to two children and leads The Foundation from our head office here in New Zealand. His role is to champion the vision of Professor Fred Hollows of a world where no one is needlessly blind.