We Are Saddened To Announce That Frans Oosterhof Passed Away 

On Saturday September 8th 2012 our board member Frans Oosterhof passed away at the age of 54. Below our president Carolina outlines not only the impact Frans had on the foundation but also what he meant to her on a personal level.“Frans has made a significant contribution to The Optical Foundation and also to me personally he had meant a lot.

I first met Frans in the summer of 2007. It was July 23 when I met him, his wife Anja and her son Thom. A friend of mine, Renate, who I had maintained regular contact with while I was in Ghana, was working for Frans at the time. In one of our conversations I had told her that after 6 months I was dying for some variety to my diet and that I could not handle yet again another portion of chicken and rice! Knowing that Frans and his family would be heading to Ghana, Renate put together a package of shelf stable food for me and asked Frans if he could give it to me on his arrival in Ghana. Frans, Anja and Thom were only going to be in Ghana for 3 weeks. They were there doing similar eye screenings to what I was doing, but at a school for deaf in Cape Coast.

Frans, Anja & Thom arranged to meet with me at my favourite small café Oasis in Cape Coast, to hand over the parcel. While it was only meant to be a brief meeting, as we all shared a common goal in Ghana, we hit it off immediately and I decided to join them one morning at the school for deaf. While I had picked up quite a bit of Fanti (local language in Cape Coast), it was obviously of no use to me at this school for the deaf, so communication was a challenge. An experience that really stuck with me on that morning; Frans and I discovered congenital glaucoma in a young girl we estimated to be around 7 years old. She had an IOP of 60mmHg! We immediately had her referred a fellow ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist told us that in due course her eye would need to be surgically removed, but that it was expensive and she would have to go to Accra (the capital) to get this done. Straightaway Frans was attempted to try and help this girl in whichever way he could.

After Frans then joined me for a morning of screening at The Optical Foundation. This is actually where our first collaboration began. We got along very well both on professional but also on personal level – So aside from becoming a valuable contact, Frans and his family had instantly become great friends.When I was back in the Netherlands, and the foundation was in need of a nudge in the right direction, Frans was there for us. His connections with Essilor allowed ​​for a productive meeting, for which I am still very grateful to him. Especially because in addition to his work for The Optical Foundation, he ran his own business, had a family and also ran eye care projects in India. Something to be extremely proud of in my humble opinion!

If I am to summarise what Frans meant to me and still does, is that Frans believed in what I did. He believed in my ideas for the foundation, he believed I could achieve these goals and above all he believed in me. I cannot express in words what that meant to me at the time. I was (perhaps still) young, idealistic, full of plans, but also insecure. Frans was there to offer me encouragement just when I needed it. He would remind me that I could do it and that I should continue to believe in myself. Probably without even knowing it, he had given me so much confidence, which not only helped me become a better president, but also a better person. Consequently Frans has indirectly helped me reach this point where I am now in Australia doing my PhD.

In May 2012 there was suddenly terrible news. I received an email from Frans telling me that he had been diagnosed with ALS. After having read his email we talked on Skype, which was a conversation that left an unforgettable impression on me. It was a pure and honest conversation where we discussed everything. What struck me most was when Frans asked me how I was doing in Australia and what my future plans were. I told him about my plans and he said; “I will never get to see that”. … A long silence followed on both sides of the line. It was then that his illness suddenly became real to me and I could not hold my tears.

Dear Frans, you have really meant a lot for the foundation, as well as to for me personally! I’m glad to have met you in Ghana and to have been able to work with you. I know how important your family is to you, and I want to wish Anja and the children strength and comfort.

Frans, on behalf of The Optical Foundation and myself, we are very proud of you!”