Thanks from Thick as Thieves
Where it all began
4 years ago I learnt an unbelievable fact.
Did you know The Fred Hollows Foundation can restore a person’s eyesight for as little as $25? Blindness in developing countries — typically caused by treatable conditions such as cataracts — completely reversed, for $25.
It struck me that $25 is what it often costs to enter a club night, and an idea began to take shape — we should organise parties built purely around the idea of raising money for good.
Since then my business Thick as Thieves, together with various partners, have been making it happen. Revolver Upstairs, in particular, have been incredibly supportive, playing host to many of our fundraising events.
To date, through our events and various other challenges, we have managed to raise over $330k.
One of many novelty cheques handed over at Revs the day after an event
A Surprise Trip
For my 40th birthday, my amazing friend Jess Foster (above, second from left) bought me the most awesome gift. She personally paid for, and coordinated, a trip for me to Cambodia, so I could see first-hand exactly where our money goes and the impact it’s having.
What I experienced was nothing short of mind blowing.
Over 5 days, I travelled with the Fred Hollows Doctors to various hospitals around the country, visiting patients and seeing their work first hand.
Hanging out with one of a patients. This old guy was a legend. Like many others, he doesn’t just have to deal with being blind, but also being disabled having lost a leg due to a land mine left over from the war.
A Rural Hospital
The most heartwarming and inspiring part of the trip came on day 3 when we were traveling between Siam Riep and Pneomh Penh, the 2 largest cities in Cambodia.
It was an 8 hour drive and about half way in, we stopped at a “Rural Hospital” where the Fred Hollows team were performing operations.
To call this a hospital was a loose term at best. It was an abandoned school from the war that had been converted into a one-room operating theatre. It must have been 35 degrees with no air-con. The waiting room was the corridor, and people had come from hundreds of kilometres around to get this operation done to have their eyesight restored.
They all knelt on their hunkers for hours waiting on one doctor.
Hanging out in the waiting room
Mid-surgery, the doctor walking us through the operation step by step
What this doctor was doing was simply beyond mind-blowing.
Each operation involved the following:
- Bring the patient into the operating room and lie them on the table
- Spray the eye that was to be operated on with a numbing cream
- Once the external part of the eye was numb, they then inject a large needle right into the centre of the eyeball to numb the whole eye
- Wait 5 minutes, then once the eye is numb, slice open the patients eyeball with a scalpel (the patient is still fully conscious and awake at this stage, but could not feel their eye that was being operated on)
- Remove the cataract that was growing in their eye
- Insert a small lens to help the patients eye recover quickly
- Put a patch on it and then out they go
The patch stays on for 24 hours, at which point it’s then removed and the patients eyesight is completely restored.
Like Flipping Burgers
The most remarkable thing about this whole process was the speed at which this little doctor was doing these operations. He was doing 250 a week, 50 a day, 6/7 per hour. It was seriously like he was flipping burgers.
I was absolutely gobsmacked.
He never once complained about the heat, the conditions etc. When I asked him about his work, he told me he could get a lot more money working privately in one of the big cities, but that he felt that that the people he was helping really needed him, and that was why he had been doing what he was doing for the past 12 years.
The sacrifice he was making to help others was one of the most selfless acts I have ever come across, and to say I felt a sense of perspective was an understatement.
When the Patch Comes Off
Another incredible experience was when I was in one of the larger hospitals and we were removing eye patches for some of the patients the day after their operations.
I felt really lucky to be there for such an epic moment
You actually cannot put into words the energy in the room that is happening when the patch came off. A lot of these people would not have seen their families faces for years, so to be able to see their kids etc close up again brought so much joy that you cannot describe it. There was also a whole range of issues that come with losing your sight that I had not realised.
I can’t quite explain how grateful these people are for the work Fred Hollows does
One of the Fred Hollows team told me that some of the issues blind people face in third world countries is that there is no guide dogs, or buildings with facilities etc for the blind. So when people lose their sight, they effectively end up spending their whole lives in the corner of a hut unless some of the family can take them out all the time. This leads to them not being able to wash regularly etc, which in turn massively affects their self esteem if they feel they smell bad, which contributes to mental health issues.
Such a Huge Impact
One old man I spoke to after taking off his patch, when I asked him “What was he looking forward to most now he had his sight back”, his reply was “Now my 2 daughters can go back to school and continue their education as they do not have to look after me any more” …i nearly burst into tears when he said this.
“I see two fingers!!!”
You tend to think “give them back their eyesight and they can get back to work”.
What I realised from the trip was that for every person that cannot see, it affects probably 5/6 other peoples lives and possibly more. When we think that we can change this for as little as $25, we not only have an opportunity, but an obligation to change this.
Thank you so much
Thanks to the whole team at Revs for being so supportive, and to all my other incredible partners who have been involved in these events.
Thanks to all the Artists who have given up their time and their talent.
And perhaps most importantly, thanks to everyone who has come along to one of these gigs, parted with your own cash, and partied hard in the name of doing good.
You’re all legends.
The Next Chapter
Fresh from being inspired and seeing the impact of what we’re doing first hand, our next fundraising adventure is about to kick off.
We’re joining a Revolver team and Pawn & Co teams will be taking part in a 60km run.
Each team will have 4 people each, and all members are required to do the full 60kms each. This will happen on Friday 25th May as part of the Fred Hollows Coastrek challenge.
Stay tuned, more info to come!