A world in which no person is needlessly blind or vision impaired.
We work to end avoidable blindness and vision impairment in the Pacific.
We advocate for the right of all people to high-quality and affordable eye care.
We strive for eye care to be locally-led and accessible to all. In doing this we continue Fred’s legacy.
If I had to choose one word to describe Team Fred during 2020, it would be kaha - strength. The innate strength of Team Fred was tested during 2020, and it prevailed.
As we said farewell to our Executive Director, Andrew Bell, global borders closed, and New Zealand and the Pacific region locked down. Working alongside the senior leadership team, expertly led by acting CEO, Sharon Orr, the Board enacted an agile management framework to ensure operations could safely continue.
Despite COVID-19 impacting our ability to deliver many of our planned programmes, alternative ways of delivering outcomes were found. Some 2020 programme investment was, by necessity, reduced or deferred which is reflected in our year-end result. However, that funding has been reallocated to the 2021 year and as soon as possible our programme delivery volume will increase to address patient backlog.
As soon as they safely could, our team continued surgeries and our supported students continued learning remotely. I am proud to report that, despite all the considerable challenges faced, 74 per cent of supported students successfully completed their studies.
A global search to find a new leader for Team Fred resulted in the appointment of Dr Audrey Aumua as CEO. We are thrilled to welcome someone with such mana, experience, and deep networks in the Pacific and New Zealand.
Finally, the Board would like to acknowledge the fantastic and truly appreciated ongoing support of our partners, funders and donors who remain as committed as ever to our vision. Your contribution is making a difference, now more than ever.
2021 will be a year like no other as we meet the increased demand and work alongside Pacific governments and ministries as they manage health needs amidst depleted economies. Thank you to my skilled and hardworking fellow board members and on behalf of the Board, kia kaha to our partners, our patients and all who support our ongoing work eliminating avoidable blindness and vision impairment in the Pacific.
I feel very proud and privileged to have joined Team Fred and excited about what we will achieve together in the coming years.
It would be highly remiss of me to comment on the results of 2020 without acknowledging the resilient and capable team that navigated one of the most difficult and uncertain periods New Zealand and the Pacific have encountered. Firstly, I must thank acting CEO, Sharon Orr, whose experience and commitment meant I have begun my tenure in a strong position.
The capability of Team Fred lies in its unique and highly skilled workforce. I must acknowledge Dr John Szetu and his senior team of eye doctors, nurses, lecturers, and support staff whom he works with across the Pacific. Despite lockdowns, funding reallocations and natural disasters, Dr John and his team continued supporting trainee eye doctors and nurses and treating patients whenever and wherever it was safe to do so. It is also important to acknowledge the ministries of health, our partners and our donors who have vigilantly remained committed to Fred’s vision in these challenging times.
To the team in New Zealand. No matter what was going on this team logged on, adapted, and most importantly kept going and continued to deliver the support to Dr John and the teams in the region.
And finally, I must acknowledge Andrew Bell, who boldly led the development of Team Fred and its world-class eye care programmes and infrastructure. I am honoured to continue the work he has begun.
Thanks to the efforts of so many, The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ Group is in exactly the position it needs to be to step up and work alongside our partners to address avoidable blindness in the Pacific. COVID-19 will bring further challenges, but we are ready.
As I reflect on 2020, I could not be prouder of our medical team. 2020 brought us every curveball we could imagine. Despite the uncertainty, difficulty and fear we kept going.
Despite border closures and national lockdowns, our teams completed 152 outreaches in 2020, which resulted in the treatment of thousands of people. This was possible only because we have at least one eye doctor in every country we work in now. Thank goodness for that!
Despite university closures and repatriations, our education programmes continued online. Many students were recalled by their ministries of health to participate in COVID-19 response programmes. Most have, or intend to, resume studies as soon as they are able. Continuing to train eye doctors and nurses is critical to our ability to reduce avoidable blindness and vision impairment in this new environment.
My focus continues to be on supporting our staff and graduates across the Pacific as they navigate a new working environment. I am also working with our partners to deliver more surgeries and outreaches so we can address the patient backlog resulting from COVID-19 and continue to help patients suffering from avoidable blindness and vision impairment across the Pacific.
We may be tired, but we are not beaten. We have work to do.
Eileen Tugum is The Foundation’s new Papua New Guinea Country Manager, based in Port Moresby.
"The overall blindness rate in Papua New Guinea for those over 50 is the worst in the Pacific and possibly the highest in the world. I hope to help further the vision of Professor Fred Hollows to reach all in PNG with quality eye care through outreaches, strengthened partnerships with government and all stakeholders, strengthening eye health infrastructure and building up the eye care workforce in the country.”
University closures, repatriations and doctor recalls interrupted the study of our training eye doctors and nurses. Despite that, 74 per cent of our supported students completed their studies remotely. And as virus outbreaks brought increased health risks to all communities, focus quickly turned to developing and testing of pandemic protocols to keep our people and patients safe.
National lockdowns and border closures meant planned surgeries and Outreaches could not occur. Despite the challenges, we had a huge advantage. In 2019 we reached a significant milestone in having one eye doctor in each of the countries we work in. This meant treatment could continue when it was safe to do so, and our medical teams supported 152 Outreaches across the Pacific throughout 2020.
The unspent budget allocated for programme work in 2020 will be utilised during 2021 as we begin the mammoth task of catching up. We are confident that, with the support of our funders and donors and the resilience of our people and procedures, we can and will meet the challenges that COVID-19 has delivered.
At five months old, Shaylan saw his mother and father for the first time. Dr Carole Poloso, a member of our Graduate Programme made that happen.
Shaylan was born with cataracts in both eyes, a condition that must be treated early if his vision was to develop normally. Removing the cataracts was life-changing, not just for Shaylan, but also for his mum and dad. When Shaylan first saw his mother, his face lit up.
Shaylan will soon need another operation because the cataracts will try to grow again. Then, he will be given glasses, custom-made to fit his tiny face. With them he should have 80 per cent vision and, importantly, his sight will develop.
Ashita has diabetes eye disease. While her diabetes was diagnosed when she was 15, her eye disease was diagnosed ten years later. She was treated with injections, with follow-up treatment scheduled at regular intervals.
However, the COVID-19 state of emergency put all treatment on hold. Team Fred got treatment up and running as soon as we could and Ashita’s treatment has resumed. Sight lost from diabetes eye disease is irreversible so we cannot restore Ashita’s sight fully. However, the treatment is slowing the decline, giving her many more years of independence.
Ashita is not alone. There are thousands like her in Fiji, in desperate need of treatment. Despite COVID-19, our teams worked hard to see and treat those with diabetes eye disease as early as possible.
Poufia was a chief of his village, respected and loved. A local legend who was known for his hard work, his sense of fun and his good deeds. He was fit and active…and starting to go blind. His condition continued to worsen until he became blind in both eyes. With that his life changed. He stopped working on the farm, playing cards with his friends, or seeing others who held him in such high regard.
In 2019, Poufia turned 90 and had been totally blind for ten years. He thought he would die blind. But Samoan eye doctor Dr Lucilla Ah Ching-Sefo, a recent graduate of the Pacific Eye Institute in Fiji, started an outreach programme to the island. By the end of that year Poufia could see again. Imagine his joy seeing his family at Christmas for the first time in a decade. He received gifts, but for Poufia no gift compared with the return of his sight. You may say others whose sight was restored felt the same. Perhaps so, but there is a poignancy to this story. This was Poufia’s last Christmas, he died a few months later.
Following an extensive international search, in September we were delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Audrey Aumua as our new Chief Executive Officer.
The Fred Hollows Foundation NZ Chair, Craig Fisher, said, “Audrey brings a wealth of experience and leadership in research, policy development and management in the health and education sectors across New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific region.”
Joining The Foundation from The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Suva office, where she was Deputy Director-General, Audrey has previously undertaken leadership roles in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa and Fiji.
“Returning to New Zealand and becoming a part of ‘Team Fred’ I feel like I have come full circle. Anyone who has worked in public health in the Pacific knows that eye health is critical to sustainable development in the region,” said Audrey.
We were delighted that our former Executive Director, Andrew Bell and Chief Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Mundi Qoqonokana were both recipients of International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) 2020 Vision Excellence Awards.
IAPB is the overarching alliance for the global eye health sector. It encompasses more than 150 organisations in over 100 countries, which like The Foundation, are working together for a world where everyone has universal access to eye care.
The Vision Excellence Awards recognise the commitment and achievements of individuals who have contributed to successful outcomes in the prevention of blindness.
Andrew and Dr Mundi join a high calibre group of awardees. It is wonderful to see the commitment and achievements of Andrew and Dr Mundi to ending preventable blindness in the Pacific recognised globally.
Specsavers and internationally renowned Samoan-New Zealand artist Fatu Feu’u collaborated with The Foundation during 2020, to bring the gift of sight to even more people in the Pacific.
Specsavers launched two limited-edition frames, a pair of spectacle frames and a pair of sunglasses, featuring artwork from Fatu’s Rainforest Series. Specsavers donated $25 from each of these limited-edition frames to The Foundation.
Fatu Feu’u is known as the “Father of contemporary Pacific art’. He grew up in the village of Poutasi in the district of Falealili in Samoa and emigrated to New Zealand in the 1960s. He is the bearer of two Samoan matai titles: the ali‘i title of Lesa, given by his mother’s family, of Sa‘anapu, and the tulafale title of Si‘a, conferred by his father’s family, of Poutasi.
The collaboration raised $80,000, which will be put toward eye care programmes in Samoa and the mobile eye clinic in Fiji. Thank you to Fatu Feu’u, Specsavers and everyone who purchased a pair of the limited-edition glasses. In improving your sight you’ve given the gift of sight to others as well.
The Humanity Awards are a global movement established to recognise compassionate children following our founder and legendary New Zealander, the late Professor Fred Hollows.
In a year that has seen our country face some unusual and challenging times, something that has been evident is the humanity of everyday New Zealanders. This humanity was evident in the large number of students nominated for the second annual Humanity Awards from throughout New Zealand.
It was an incredibly difficult decision to decide on the Humanity Awards Junior Ambassador. However, Elly Roadly’s nomination from her teacher at Whangaparoa School, Hamish Ross, stood out for her compassionate nature and selfless acts.
Thanks to a donation of $5000 from our charity partner Specsavers, Elly able was to extend her humanity by allocating the funds to Fiji’s “eye clinic on wheels” – The Mobile Eye Clinic.
In July 2020, Dorothy Pattison, a long-term supporter of The Foundation, became the oldest person to bungy jump off the Auckland Harbour Bridge, to raise money for the needlessly blind in the Pacific.
At 91, daredevil Dorothy set the record alongside her son Michael (60) and granddaughter Jeanie (24). She said doing it with her family made it a particularly special experience.
With a connection to Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore, Dorothy said she has seen the area from land, from the sea and even from the sky, but this was the first time she had seen it hanging by a rope from the Bridge.
Dorothy raised an incredible $1,000 for The Foundation meaning she has restored sight to the equivalent of 40 needlessly blind people in the Pacific. We think that is pretty special.
As COVID-19 locked down the Pacific during 2020, the number of people desperately needing eye care grew larger every day our clinics were closed. And, with our experienced surgical Outreach Team unable to travel to support local teams, the patient backlog grew and grew. To clear the backlog, the team is planning more surgeries, more patient consultations, and more Outreaches during 2021. But they can’t do it alone.
The 2021 Future Fund projects will hard-code the resilience required to see us through what will be an incredibly tough few years and help us emerge to an even stronger future.
Total 2020 expenses reduced by nearly $1.7 million compared with 2019 due to the effects of COVID-19. Outreach cancellations, clinic closures and study deferments drove a significant but necessary reduction in programmes and public education expenses of just over $1.5 million, compared with 2019. Fundraising, communication and shared services expenses reduced by just over $160,000, compared with 2019.
Programme funding unspent in 2020 has been reallocated to the 2021 year to allow us to increase programme delivery volume to address the patient backlog created by the effects of COVID-19.