In January 2020, the Fund approved a 12-month grant of $50,000 to the Fred Hollows Foundation to support the provision of free or subsidized cataract surgeries for 500 patients in the Greater Hanoi, Vietnam area by Alina Vision, a social enterprise eye hospital dedicated to reducing preventable blindness and visual impairment in Vietnam. A Sydney, Australia-based nonprofit, Fred Hollows works to prevent and reverse avoidable blindness in some 25 developing world countries, most in Southeast and South Asia and is dedicated to building sustainable indigenous capacity to deliver high-quality, affordable eye care. A primary purpose of this grant was to help Alina Vision move toward breakeven through increasing revenues from sliding-scale fees. The project had the dual goals of providing 500 free or subsidized cataract surgeries to low-income people in the Greater Hanoi area’s Hung Yen Province and achieving post-operative visual acuity of 6/18 or better (20/60 or better, in U.S. metrics) among 85 % of operated patients, a key World Health Organization quality standard.
Despite a nation-wide COVID-related lockdown in April 2021, the project had been on track to perform about 900 surgeries overall, but in the wake of a second wave of infection and subsequent August restrictions, Alina requested and received Lavelle approval to revise its goals as follows: (1) to reach out to patients outside of Hyung Yen province where high need for care existed among low-income populations, and (2) to perform 700 surgeries overall by grant’s end. In the face of the pandemic’s disruptions, the project successfully accomplished both of its promised goals. Notably, a total of 800 surgeries were conducted, 636 of which were free or subsidized. Of these, 84% of operated patients achieved a post-operative visual acuity of 6/18 or better.