Today is an important day...

Author: Fred Hollows Foundation   Date Posted:3 September 2015 

Fred's StoryToday marks the anniversary of The Fred Hollows Foundation.

It was on this day in 1992 that we started our work to restore sight to the needlessly blind.

To celebrate this special day, we want to share Fred's amazing story with you to show you how your trek will continue his legacy to change lives.

Fred Hollows was a remarkable man who spent his life working to end avoidable blindness...

Because he had a dream to live in a world where NO ONE is needlessly blind.

We're so grateful to have your support through Coastrek to realise Fred's dream and give the gift of sight to men, women and children across the world.

Please read Fred's amazing story below.

Fred Hollows in a class photo at Palmerston North Boys' High School.Fred's Story

How it all began...

Fred Hollows (pictured, bottom right) studied medicine after being offered a place by the University of Otago in Dunedin.

After his graduation, he had a desire to practise in Africa, but was told that he needed to know how to remove cataracts as this was the leading cause of blindness in Africa.

And so Fred got to work to learn as much as he could about cataract blindness.

In 1965, after a few years working in Wales, Fred moved to Australia to become Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of NSW.

And in his first year, he set up a small eye unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital and performed the hospital's first cataract extraction.

The crusade begins...

In 1968 Fred visited an Indigenous Australian camp in the Northern Territory with a group of other doctors.

He was shocked at the poor standard of health in the camp.

"It was like something out of the medical history books", he said.

"Eye diseases of a degree that hadn't been seen in western society for generations. The neglect this implied, the suffering and wasted quality of human life were appalling".

Fred was especially disturbed by the huge number of children suffering from trachoma - a disease largely eradicated in the rest of Australia.

He helped set up The Aboriginal Medical Service in Redfern in 1971 and led the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program across Australia from 1976 to 1978..

He and his team visited more than 465 communities, screened 100,000 people, treated 27,000 people for trachoma, dispensed more than 7,000 pairs of glasses and performed more than 1,000 operations.

Fred would not stop until "Indigenous Australians enjoy the same health and life expectancy as other Australians".

Restoring sight across the world...

Fred then set his sights on reducing the cost of treatment in developing countries.

He helped to improve eye care in developing countries by...

  • Helping to establish a world-class intraocular lens (IOL) manufacturing facility in Nepal and Eritrea

  • Making a commitment to train 322 eye specialists in Vietnam. This has helped to lift the number of modern cataract surgeries in Vietnam from 1,000 to 200,000 per year. 

Fred's work to push local IOL production in Nepal and Eritrea was crucial, because this brought the cost of a lens down from $150 to less than $8, which made cataract operations affordable in developing countries.

And then in early 1989, Fred was diagnosed with cancer...but that did not stop him!

He continued his work whilst receiving treatment, visiting Eritrea and Nepal many times.

It was three years after his diagnosis that The Fred Hollows Foundation was started, as a way to continue his work.

Fred died on February 10, 1993. He was 63 years old.

Just six months before his death, Fred said to his wife, "Gabi, it doesn't matter if I die tomorrow, I know you and all those people who believe in our work, will carry on".

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