Fred Hollows Foundation
2013 Australian Non Profit Charity of The Year
"I believe that the basic attribute of mankind is to look after each other." - Professor Fred Hollows.
Frederick Cossom "Fred" Hollows, is known for his work restoring eyesight the hundreds upon thousands of people in Australia and around the world. Fred once said
Fred once said,
“I studied medicine so I could help others – set a leg or whatever – and it’s given me a great deal of satisfaction."
But setting legs is not what Fred ended up doing.
Fred recieved a letter in the mail, saying taht he had been offered a place in a unversity in New Zealand on a medical degree.
His colleagues at the time told him that medicine would get you "bloody well-paid", Fred hastily accepted and left for New Zealand.
Fred had done an eye term at medical school and, as a result, he assisted eye surgeons at Auckland Public Hospital in his first job after graduating.
At the same time, he had a growing interest in practising in Africa – “there seemed to be a crying need for properly run clinics, free of political or church influence” – and someone told him if you were to be useful in Africa you had to know how to take out cataract because there was a lot of cataract blindness.
Although he didn't have any real ambitions to work, he recived a diploma and graduated around 1960.
In 1968, Fred came across a elderly Gurindji couple in the Prince of Wales eye clinic and was offered to fly up to the outback to help others with the same eyesight problems.
Upon arriving, Fred was shocked at the amount of boys, girls, women and men alike with trachoma blindness.
Shortly afterwards, he was invited to attend a meeting of the Aborginal Legal Service in Redfern where he was asked to help set up medical services.
The 'Aboriginal Medical Service' opened in 1971 and had volunteer doctors pouring in each day.
Fred was later instrumental in setting up similar Aboriginal Medical Services throughout Australia. To this day, the Foundation continues to work closely with many Aboriginal-controlled health services that now exist across Australia.
In a little over 12 years, Fred has helped approximately 100,000 win their battles over blindness.
Out of these hundreds of thousands, this is the story of one woman who just wanted to paint again.
More than anything else, respected indigenous artist Langaliki Langeliki wanted to see again so that she could paint again. And, she wanted to be able to visit her loved ones.
Langaliki lives in the community of Pukatja, also known as Ernabella, 435 km south east of Alice Springs.
She paints in the colourful and dramatic style for which the Ernabella region is famous.
There are Indigenous people in remote communities like this who just accept going blind.
For them that's just how life is, and they can't do anything about it.
So by defying the unspoken rules, in 2006, Langaliki gathered enough courage to receive a cataract surgery for her left eye.
Then shortly after the operation, her sight in the right eye began to fade.
To her luck, The Fred Hollows Foundation was holding a backlog of eye operations for the most remote and poor indigenous communities of Australia.
“It’s like putting glasses inside your eye,” the surgeon, Tim Henderson explained to her as he operated.
Twenty-four hours later and it was time to see if all was well.
“Shall we take it off?” the doctor asked her, reaching for the dressing taped over her left eye.
She tried to speak, but only managed a low “mm”.
As the doctor lifted off the dressing, that “mm” became a heartfelt “aaahhh...” and a smile spread clear across her face.
The operation was a success!
Langaliki’s joy filled the room.
It was so infectious we found ourselves laughing, says Mr Henderson.
Langaliki can now get around on her own again, and has the confidence to leave her aged care home to spend time with her family.
And best of all, she can get back to her painting.
Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India are just some of the places where Fred visited.
Yet, just a mere two years after treating hundreds and thousands of people of all ages, Fred insisted on treating patients in war-torn Eritrea. He had to crouch down in 'hospitals' dug into the sides of mountains while the fighting raged on above.
These experiences had a huge effect on Fred and with his basic belief in “equity between people”, he started to work towards reducing the cost of eye health care and treatment in developing countries that didn't have the best of economy systems.
Fred visited Vietnam in April 1992 to investigate setting up an IOL factory for affordable cataract operations. On that same trip, he promised to train 322 Vietnamese eye specialists in modern surgery techniques.
In July he discharged himself from hospital and a week later returned to Vietnam to help fulfill his promise.
Two of Fred’s former students are Professor Do Nhu Hon, now the Director of the Vietnam National Institute of Ophthalmology (VNIO), and Dr Nguyen Chi Dung, now head of the VNIO’s Preventive Department.
Professor Hon and Dr Dung say Fred’s visits in 1992 led to a revolution in Vietnamese ophthalmology. According to Dr Dung, “Professor Fred Hollows was an active and frank man. He came to Vietnam even though he was sick, worked all the time, teaching us. When we did something wrong, he always told us to do it better.”
Hollows was given a state funeral service at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, though he was an atheist, and in accordance with his wishes, was layed to rest in Bourke, where he had worked in the early 1970s. He was survived by his wife Gabi Hollows and children Tanya, Ben, Cam, Emma, Anna-Louise, Ruth and Rosa, and his two grandchildren Nicholas and Isabella.
Even if Fred is not alive today, his legacy and work is still remembered today. The Hollows Foundation has expanded to both Europe and Asia.
We will not forget his work, determination, kindness and we will never, ever, forget the man who helped millions see the world through their own eyes.
Even if the man that began the foundation, is not alive today, his dedication to helping others is what inspires the volunteers and ophthalmology experts of today.