John Fawcett, 78, is an Australian who moved to Bali 32 years ago and started the John Fawcett Foundation, a non-governmental organisation that brings sight to the cataract-blind of Bali. He was talking with Carla Albertí de la Rossi.
When I wake up in the morning, at 6am, I know I’m going to have a busy day. I think about the programmes that I have to work on and then I have a shave. I love listening to the radio while I get ready to start the new day. I tune in to the BBC for world news or listen to Radio Australia. I’m also a big fan of Radio Luxemburg; it has tremendous classical music.
After I’ve taken a shower and got dressed I go to my office. I live upstairs from it, so all I have to do is walk down the staircase. I don’t think that can go on for much longer because we want to extend the office and need the space, so I might move over to one of our villas just across from here.
I’m usually at the office around 7.30, and half an hour after that everyone arrives. I have my breakfast in the office. I have a light one because I’m trying not to put weight on, although it’s very difficult for me. So I just have fruit and yogurt. My favourites are bananas and mangoes. I have some strong black Bali coffee and then get on with my work.
I’m the founder of the organisation and I’m constantly on the phone. We’re always receiving messages from Lombok as there’s a cataract operation programme there. So constantly there are decisions to be made.
Our foundation goes to the poor villages and screens about 500 people in a morning. All of our doctors are Indonesian, trained by international people. The procedures take place in the buses that we have built. Inside is a big theatre and another highly sterilized room where they do the cataract operation. Obviously, the procedures are free of charge because people can’t afford to pay for them.
Everything you do at work makes you feel good. You always have something useful to do and someone who needs help. It’s very rewarding to know we have given 27,000 new lives to people who didn’t have one.
I was initially negative about visiting Bali because I thought it would be like parts of India that really depressed me. But the minute I arrived I fell in love with the island. I have never been in such a creative culture. You can watch people do the most menial tasks, like sweeping the floor, and it’s creatively done. It almost puts you to sleep. I love the gorgeous flower arrangements and incredible offerings.
It was after a disastrous medical accident back in Australia that I decided to move here for good. I suffered from back pains and the doctors gave me an injection that went straight up to my brain and shut it down. Everything stopped and I temporarily lost my vision. I also lost my memory and didn’t even know who I was. They kept me in hospital for two years and 10 months. At that stage I had no drive at all but time just went really quickly and I started remembering slowly. I couldn’t go back to work so I got an early retirement.
It’s because of what happened to me that I feel empathy with those who are blind. Most people are sympathetic, but can’t feel their pain. I do.
I eat at 12.30 with guests. I hardly ever have lunch or dinner on my own. But you have to do that to get the contacts. We set the menus the day before and decide what food we want to have. We have varied food; it can either be Thai, Chinese, Balinese or Australian. But never kangaroo meat because when I was a child I used to have pet kangaroos, so I can’t eat them.
I work through to 5pm and then I have a swim and chill out by the pool. I have a few gin and tonics as a way to relax after work. It’s a way of taking a real break. I have dinner in the foundation’s dining area at around 7.30.
After that I like to watch the National Geographic channel or the BBC. I’m not good with late nights because early morning comes very quickly and it’s going to be a busy day. So I fall asleep around 9pm, listening to international radio stations.Filed under: One Day