Posted by: medicinemondiale | 12 January, 2013

Ray Avery of Medicine Mondiale on Good Living

Thanks to Good Living for this great interview with Sir Ray.

Below is a transcript of the interview:

Andrea Dijkstra:

The anxious mother thought for a long tim. ‘I wish’ she said finally, ‘for my son to love everyone he meets.’ ‘That is the correct wish,’ said the guru, ‘It is granted.’ When the mother found her son again, he was walking through a crowd of people. Most were ignoring him, others shoved him as they passed by. One even took offense at something and spat on him, but his eyes were full of love, and his face had a look of total contentment. Ray Avery, there’s a lot of a face of contentment with you really, at this time, but there was a lot of contempt at the start of your world wasn’t there?

Ray Avery:

Well, my early life was very challenging, and I think I was always looking for love. It wasn’t until I began to do good work in developing countries, that I began to find some sort of redemption and freedom, so it’s sort of a parable of the opening part of that book. By loving others I found my own place in life.

Andrea Dijkstra:

Tell us about your childhood? Because when we think of families we think of love, but that’s not the right word really for your family was it?

Ray Avery:

Well I was brought up in a dysfunctional home. My mother was an alcoholic and my father was a womaniser, and he left home very early, and there was a lot of violence and brutality. My mother even at one stage tried to sell me to a friend so that she could get some money.So it was a very difficult childhood, and then I was attacked by my mother at one stage and beaten unconscious, so then I was made a ward of court, and never saw my mother again. But I ended up actually in a worse situation, because then I was in a whole diaspora of halfway houses and borstels, orphanages and so on. It was post war britain and there was 350,000 of us washed around, they were part of the debris of the bombing that had gone on, and also cases like me, post war affairs which really weren’t meant to be. But it was also an annealing time that enabled me to gain my own strength I think.

Andrea Dijkstra:

So how did the street kid then form to be a global influencer in our world now?

Ray Avery:

Well, in those institutions you get dehumanised. It’s almost like being in prison. I remember going to my case manager and they looked at the name on my case and it said Raymond and they said ‘well we’ve already got two Raymonds so you’ll be called Jack.’ So even those kinds of identity were lost. So you had to look inside yourself, and I think that was the beginning of being an ethical scientist in that I was a great observer of life. Because I wasn’t actually involved in it, so I would watch out the window. And books became a sense of escape. By reading books, I could be transported to a magic world which I believed existed. It didn’t exist for me, but I believed there was a good world that I could be part of.

Andrea Dijkstra:

Where did you find your first love with science?

Ray Avery:

Well I think what had happened was, all the abuse and things had turned itself into a sense of self determination, so I decided to make the world the way I wanted it to be. So armed with the knowledge I had in those books, I ran away from the orphanage for instance and lived under a railway bridge, and I was always a great entrepeneur, so I started getting bicycles from the local tip, repairing them and selling them to my friends. And that was the beginning of my sense of freedom and self determination.

Andrea Dijkstra:

And now of course your laboratories now provide 13% of the world market for intra-ocular lenses.

Ray Avery:

Well I became a professional scientist and had a unique set of skills to do things, and Fred Hollows approached me, to go to Eritrea in North Africa at the end of the 30 year war of independence, to build a laboratory. Unfortunately, the country was in ruins, because of the 30 year war. So it was a very hard job to do, but I promised Fred I’d do it. And we did, and now there are 16 million people walking around with one of the lenses made on the machinery that I designed. And that’s a nice thing, but that really just got me started because I thought ‘If I can do that, then I can do other big things.’ So we’ve got some low cost infant incubators, nutritional products, and an IV controller which will revolutionise the delivery of drugs in the developing world setting. So that little boy that was under the railway bridge dreamed of owning his own bicycle shop, and now, I dream of changing world health, so it’s a big change.

Andrea Dijkstra:

You’ve written a lovely letter about your wife ‘when she smiles that smile and those small creases form around her eyes and her nose when she laughs, she takes his breath away. She is a terrible beauty.’ And you’ve been graced with a child, and one on the way?

Ray Avery:

Yes I asked my wife when she was 42 if she might like a child and she said yes, and in the first month we conceived our baby. ANd she;s a wonderful 2 year old, and just a few months ago we found out we were having another, so my plumber thinks I should be made New Zealander of the year just for that feat. But I’m very blessed, I’ve found that complete love now. My daughter gives me a hug for instance, and in some way it washes away the last destitutes of all those bad years. So two things give me great joy now, my family, and seeing people, particularly when they have their sight restored and the bandages come off, they look like they’ve seen god for the first time, because their eyes light up. And then I know I’ve done a good day’s work

Andrea Dijkstra:

Thank you Ray, it;s been an absolute pleasure to have you here.



  1. Imagine if more people like Ray Avery were given the opportunity to succeed. He is inspiring and implementing change with Medicine Mondiale-every day making gains toward a more equitable future.

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