On the 10th of February 1993 I remember standing in my lounge room watching the television media announcements about the passing away of the remarkable eye surgeon Professor Fred Hollows. My response to the news concerning a man I had never met, was surprising as tears streamed down my face. The magnitude of his impact to so many lives across the globe is nothing short of extraordinary.
During his career Fred realized that a significant amount of people who were blind, didn’t need to be. His humanitarian drive and mission became one of aiming to restore people’s eyesight no matter who they are or where they come from, so that they can have independence and a better chance at improving their quality of life. His philosophy was one that stemmed from imparting knowledge and creating empowerment so that his contribution could evolve and extend through others. In a sense Fred lived the belief system of ‘Paying it Forward.’
“We discover our humanity when we help others.” ‘Professor Fred Hollows’
Just before Fred passed, he and his wife Gabi set up the Fred Hollows Foundation to ensure that the work he has been doing continues. To assist you in appreciating the dedication that this man had to his mission let me mention, instead of Fred slowing down when he was diagnosed with cancer, he chose to spend the last few months of his life in Vietnam focussed on imparting valuable knowledge on current techniques to hundreds of Vietnamese eye specialists. No-one could question his complete devotion to the cause he spent decades championing.
Post his death the Foundation has gone from strength to strength widening the exposure to over 25 countries and to date restoring the eyesight of millions of grateful recipients. The passion of the people who are continuing the mission is a testimony to the founding philosophy of enabling empowerment. I really admire Fred for being an advocate of this plight. He seemed to believe in people more than they believed in themselves and was actively influencing individuals in a way that helped them to be the hero’s of their own life stories.
It was equally impressive that Fred’s servitude toward healing people’s sight held no discrimination. Absolutely everyone was entitled to sight and if their impairment was curable he treated them. Age, color, creed, financial status, was not a consideration for delineation. I find this implicitly beautiful and very moving.
“Every eye is an eye. When you are doing the surgery there, that is just as important as if you were doing eye surgery on the prime minister or the king.” ‘Professor Fred Hollows’
The gift of giving is the truest of rewards.
I’m sure if I had ever had the pleasure of meeting Professor Hollows, that he would confirm what I suspect is true. The people he healed, in return to some degree, helped to heal him too. Just looking at the expression on people’s faces when they get to see for the first time would be an indescribable pleasure. It is a feeling that would be hard to replicate outside of executing this act of kindness again and again. His application of his numerous talents gave him an opportunity to drive real change. It is an important mission that has cycled into a symbiotic evolution and expansion, which holds its own life force and is now actively driven by many who were touched by his vision, across the globe.
The legacy Fred Hollows has created with the support of his family is miraculous and worthy of our continued support.
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