The Fred Hollows Foundation celebrates 25 years of restoring sight

This October marks 25 years since The Fred Hollows Foundation began restoring sight to the needlessly blind, striving to end avoidable blindness throughout the developing world.

What started as a small charity to continue the legacy of Kiwi legend Professor Fred Hollows, has now grown into a global organisation that works in more than 25 developing countries worldwide and has restored sight to more than two million people.

In 1992, just months before Fred passed away, The Foundation’s humble beginnings were founded around Gabi and Fred Hollows’ dining room table. “It’s bittersweet that Fred is not around as he would be absolutely blown away by the amazing achievements over the past 25 years and how his legacy has changed the lives of millions,” says Gabi Hollows, Founding Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

“We have proved you can do the highest standard of eye surgery in some of the poorest countries in the world and in some places for as little as $25, which is a remarkable achievement and something Fred would be very proud of.”

Shortly after the establishment of The Fred Hollows Foundation, the NZ Foundation was created and initially raised money to support the global organisation. Then, in 2002, the NZ Foundation began restoring sight and training eye health workers in the Pacific, where four out of five people who are blind don’t need to be.

“Since 2002, when we first began working in the Pacific, we have been following Fred Hollows’ ethos of not holding back to get the job done,” says Andrew Bell, Executive Director of The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.

“Our commitment to Fred’s unstoppable nature and his vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind, has seen us achieve over 600,000 consultations, perform 50,000 sight-saving surgeries, train 257 eye care doctors and nurses and fund seven eye care centres. And all of this in the Pacific alone.”

“However, despite these outstanding results, it is with Fred’s determination and sense of social justice that as a Foundation we know our job isn’t done and we need look towards the next 25 years. While we will continue to treat cataract blindness and train more Pacific eye doctors and nurses, we will also focus on eradicating diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that is currently the leading cause of avoidable blindness amongst the working age population.”

“As Fred said: ‘It’s obscene to let people go blind when they don’t need to.” As a Foundation, we have spent the last 25 years doing everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen, and we will continue to do the same for the next 25 years.”

Key milestones:

1992 – Fred and Gabi establish The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ.

1993 – Fred loses his fight with cancer. His legacy lives on through The Foundation.

1994 – Low cost intraocular lenses make cataract surgery affordable in some of the world’s poorest communities, changing the future of accessible eye care.

2001 – National Eye Care Programme starts in Vanuatu. Over 28,000 people are treated.

2006 – The Foundation establishes the Pacific Eye Institute, the only eye care training facility for Pacific doctors and nurses.

2007 – Thousands of people in Papua New Guinea receive glasses.

2010 - The new, purpose built, Pacific Eye Institute opens its doors in Suva.

2012 – First eye doctor’s graduate from The Foundation’s funded programme.

2012 – The Foundation celebrates its 20-year anniversary. Close to one million sight restoring operations and treatments have been completed.

2015 – The Mobile Eye Clinic is set-up in Fiji, taking eye care services around the island to different communities.

2015 – The Foundation has successfully set up a sustainable eye care system in Timor-Leste and officially handed it over to the management of the Ministry of Health.

2016 – Eye doctors and nurses are now being trained by local tutors and overseas tutors are no longer needed.

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