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A tribute to Sir Nicholas Fenn

September 2016
Sir Nicholas Fenn shaking hand with small girl in hospital bed.

Sir Nicholas Fenn, in his role as British High Commissioner to India, opening Bhopal Eye Hospital.

Sir Nicholas Fenn, who died on 18 September 2016, was a dedicated advocate and staunch supporter of Sightsavers.

His involvement with the organisation included many years as a trustee, and he was Chair of Sightsavers in Ireland prior to becoming Sightsavers’ Vice President.

In his long career, Sir Nicholas was British Ambassador to Burma (1982-1986), British Ambassador to Ireland (1986-1991) and High Commissioner to India (1991-1996). He also served as head of the Foreign Office news department and press secretary to Lord Carrington, and spokesman during the Lancaster House talks that led to Zimbabwe’s independence. He was knighted in 1989.

In ‘Vision of Hope’, a publication celebrating 50 years of Sightsavers’ work in India, Sir Nicholas described his introduction to the organisation’s work, and his subsequent involvement.

“The tragedy is that most blind people in India need not be blind: they go blind for lack of simple and inexpensive surgery or treatment,” he wrote, “and they stay blind for the same reason. Then I found the work of Sightsavers, which exists to address this very tragedy. I got a special insight on the work when Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra came to India in 1995 as President of Sightsavers. She inaugurated a new ophthalmic hospital and met many of the charity’s partner organisations. She watched cataract operations and the heart-stopping moment when the bandages come off and the patient could see her grandchildren for the first time. I was delighted when I was asked to become a Trustee of the organisation and served for nine years.”

Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper said: “Nick was the most wonderful of men. He used to say to me that he experienced the sadness of going blind and the joy of sight restoration every day of his life – he had an unusual condition that meant he went blind overnight and slowly regained his sight back the next day. We didn’t meet as often as I would have liked, but he always inspired me when we did. He was a very special man.”

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