As you probably know, The Fred Hollows Foundation is one of my four charity partners. I chose The Foundation as I was really inspired by their committment to ending avoidable blindness and their focus on providing training and equipment for local communities to deliver services and therefore develop the capacity to operate their own sustainable eye health programs. The story of Fred Hollows is one that some of you may have already heard as he was quite a legendary guy but its one that I think can continue to inspire us all to do more in whatever capacity we can to ease the suffering of those less fortunate.
The Fred Hollows Foundation is inspired by the work of the late Professor Fred Hollows. Like Fred, The Foundation wants to see a world where no person is needlessly blind and Indigenous Australians exercise their right to good health.
Fred Hollows was an ophthalmologist (eye doctor), a skilled surgeon and a social justice activist. He was committed to improving the health of Indigenous Australians and to reducing the cost of eye health care and treatment in developing countries.
Fred was instrumental in addressing some of the glaring inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, especially in terms of eye health. Early in the 1970s, Fred worked with the Gurindji people at Wave Hill in the Northern Territory and then with the people around Bourke and other isolated New South Wales towns, stations and Aboriginal communities. He became especially concerned with the high number of Aborigines who had eye disorders, particularly trachoma. In July 1971, Fred Hollows and others, set up the Aboriginal Medical Service in suburban Redfern in Sydney, and subsequently assisted in the establishment of medical services for Aboriginal People throughout Australia.
Through his years of work with the Aboriginal Medical Service, the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program and his work in developing countries, Fred could actually do something about the injustices he saw.
“I believe the basic attribute of mankind is to look after each other… it’s obsene to let people go blind when they don’t have to. “ Fred Hollows
By the 1980s, Fred had extended his campaign for treating avoidable eye disease and was soon travelling all over the world. A great believer in helping people to help themselves, Fred set up eye clinics in some of the world’s poorest countries.
At these clinics he not only treated people suffering from eye diseases, but also taught local doctors how to treat these diseases so they could continue his work.
As word of his work spread, more and more Australians volunteered their time and donated money so Fred could continue to establish his clinics in developing countries around the world. His dream of setting up an eye lens factory in Eritrea became a reality when Australians donated more then $6 million to the cause.
Even after being diagnosed with cancer, Fred still wanted to do more. He spent his final years planning to establish factories in Eritrea and Nepal and develop low cost lenses in these two countries that he cared deeply about.
Months before his death, he also flew to Vietnam to keep a promise to train ophthalmologists in modern eye surgery techniques so that local people would be empowered to help their own communities.
Four years after receiving his diagnosis, and knowing he didn’t have much longer to live, Fred and Gabi Hollows decided they needed to find a way to continue his work. Sitting around their kitchen table at Farnham House in Randwick with a group of friends and supporters, they started The Fred Hollows Foundation. They promised to continue to fight for the change Fred so badly wanted.
Fred is quoted to say,
“I’m a little bit embarrassed by the name but basically the Foundation is to carry on the work that I have been involved with and the work that we’d like
to get involved with.”
Fred passed away less than a year later. Gabi says, “It was a terribly sad time, but brightened by the knowledge that through The Fred Hollows Foundation his work would carry on”.
It has been estimated that more than two million people in the world can see today because of initiatives instigated by Fred Hollows and the legacy that he left behind in the form of The Fred Hollows Foundation.
“What we are doing is giving these people the chance to help themselves. We are giving them independence.” Fred Hollows
The Fred Hollows Foundation now works in more than 25 countries and has restored sight to over two million people worldwide. Fred’s work continues very much in the way it started: by just getting on with it. The Foundation trains doctors, nurses and healthcare workers, distributes antibiotics, raises money for much needed equipment and medical facilities and performs eye operations exactly like the ones Fred did more than 30 years ago.
All this couldn’t have been achieved without the overwhelming support of the Australian public. The Foundation is as determined now as ever to end avoidable blindness. Given that 4 out of 5 people who are blind don’t need to be, there remains so much to do.
If you would like to support the great work that The Fred Hollows Foundation does then why not take the pledge to donate 1% of your annual income through monthly donations and help them continue Fred’s legacy.