Keeping Fred's dream alive | The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ

Keeping Fred's dream alive

Fred Hollows was always willing to 'have a go'. Photo: The Canberra Times

Fred Hollows was always willing to 'have a go'. Photo: The Canberra Times

Kiwi eye surgeon Fred Hollows had a vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind. He was driven by a deeply held conviction that everyone has the right to sight no matter who they are or where they live.

Fred Hollows examines a patient in Vietnam, 1992. Photo: Michael Amendolia

Fred dedicated his life to restoring sight and training eye doctors in developing countries, and the intraocular lens factories he built in Eritrea and Nepal made cataract surgery affordable in some of the world’s poorest communities.

20 years ago, Fred and Gabi Hollows established The Fred Hollows Foundation around their dining room table to ensure his sight-restoring work would carry on after he passed away. Today, The Foundation is still working tirelessly to make his vision a reality. Like Fred, we value honesty, integrity, humour and the willingness to have a go.


Dr Ruit examines patients in Nepal, 1992. Photo: Michael AmendoliaFred was a big believer in the power of partnerships. The Foundation’s tremendous achievements in Nepal, Eritrea and Vietnam in the 1990s were largely a result of his connections with like-minded individuals, such as Dr Sanduk Ruit in Kathmandu and Dr Desbele Ghebreghergis in Eritrea.

Fred was not about charity; he believed strongly in giving a hand up - not a hand out. He set out to provide doctors and nurses in developing countries with the skills and tools they need to restore sight in their own communities so that eye care systems would remain in place for the long term.

Today, The Foundation is a global organisation working in more than 30 developing countries across Asia, Africa and the Pacific. We work with partners at all levels – individuals, communities, organisations, and governments - to ensure we achieve sustainable results.

Speaking out

Fred Hollows protests against plans to hand over the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program to state governments. Photo: Gerrit Fokkema/Fairfaxphotos

Fred was a humanitarian and social justice advocate who was known for speaking his mind. He was appalled by the deplorable standards of eye health in Indigenous communities across Australia, and outraged by the lack of eye care available in developing countries. But he didn’t just get angry about it - he took action and changed the lives of millions of people.

As Fred did, we advocate on a number of levels to promote our goals. We educate the general public so we can raise money and support for our sight-restoring work.  We run community health programs in the countries where we work to make sure we reach the people who most need our support. We also work in partnership with local Ministries of Health to ensure our work will carry on long after we are gone.

The Fred Hollows Foundation is a key partner of Vision 2020, a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness (a joint programme of the World Health Organisation and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness).

Keeping strong

We are committed to a strong, lean organisation and a cost-effective use of our resources – something Fred identified in the early days with his focus on modern cataract surgery, where a simple low-cost operation can have lasting benefits for whole families and communities.

We believe in transparency and accountability, and are constantly improving the monitoring and evaluation of our programs.

Around the world

In the last years of his life, Fred worked furiously towards the opening of intraocular (IOL) lens factories in Eritrea and Nepal in order to force down the price of IOLs internationally, making modern cataract surgery more accessible for the very poor. The IOL factories opened in 1994, one year after his death.

Fred Hollows with Vietnamese eye surgeons as they watch a cataract operation being performed via video microscope in Vietnam, 1992. Photo: Michael AmendoliaIn mid 1992, an ailing Fred discharged himself from hospital to run modern eye surgery workshops in Vietnam.

Fred was building capacity in these countries so that his vision of a world where no one is needlessly blind could be achieved through self-sustaining eye care systems, established across the developing world.

Since those early days in Nepal and Eritrea and Vietnam, The Foundation has worked to that end in over 40 countries around the world.


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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.