Meet the heart and soul of The Foundation, Gabi Hollows. She's is an extraordinary woman: a national treasure, an Order of Australia recipient, a skilled orthoptist and the champion of The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Gabi knows a little about having eye problems. She had eye surgery when she was three years old and while it sparked her interest in medicine, little did she know this was the beginning of what was to become her lifelong work.
After graduating as an orthoptist, Gabi took up a position at The Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney. It was there she first met Fred Hollows
, and a few years later, when Gabi was only 22, she joined him on the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program
. Over three years, the team visited over 465 remote Indigenous communities and treated more than 100,000 people. This trip was a life changing experience for Gabi, not only because she and Fred fell in love, but also because working with the Indigenous communities profoundly changed her view on the world.
You have to deal with linguistic and cultural differentials and be patient and pleasant if you hope to achieve anything. Gabi must have examined two hundred people that day, and she was as soothing and agreeable to the two hundredth as she had been to the first.
- Fred Hollows
Gabi and Fred were married in 1980 and fittingly, their wedding cake was a map of the Trachoma Program. They had five children together, and before each child was a month old, they had already put their feet back in the red sand of Bourke. It was a place both Fred and Gabi had a real affinity with from their years on the road.
Australia was just the beginning of their travels together. Gabi and the kids were always by Fred’s side as he visited South East Asia
, Thailand and Bangladesh
in his efforts to put an end to avoidable blindness.
While Fred was fully in the swing of developing blindness prevention programs around the world and trying to build intraocular factories to lower the cost of cataract surgery, he was diagnosed with cancer. In the last few years of his life, Fred, Gabi, their friends and colleagues rallied to build The Fred Hollows Foundation. This was to ensure his work, and also Gabi’s, would live on. And of course, it has.
In the years since Fred died, Gabi has devoted herself to The Foundation she and Fred started together. Being able to restore a person’s sight, bring joy and a chance at a better life is what drives her day after day, just as it did Fred.
I really think that I just enjoy what I do. It blows me away, the field of ophthalmology…if you’ve given us five cents or five dollars, it’s fantastic. It helps somebody get their sight back.
- Gabi Hollows