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Vision Excellence Awards: Virginia Sarah

Virginia Sarah

Virginia Sarah is the Global Partnership Executive at The Fred Hollows Foundation and has played a range of roles on the global stage including as Chair of The International Coalition for Trachoma Control (ICTC). In her current role, Virginia drives The Foundation’s commitment to the global elimination of trachoma as a public health problem through initiatives supporting national health systems.

Over her 20 years with The Foundation, Virginia has worked in many different roles but has always maintained a steadfast and unswerving commitment to eye health for marginalised communities. She is a strategic and operational specialist having worked across program planning and design, project implementation and management, stakeholder engagement, and policy and organisational development for initiatives in Australia and throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Virginia has also played pivotal roles in promoting the elimination of avoidable blindness within numerous global health agendas.

Virginia’s commitment to ending avoidable blindness and specifically trachoma can be seen through her integrity and her values; she is ‘uber’ collaborative and she strives for quality in everything she does. Virginia’s work ethic and the way she makes connections and works with people are her trademark qualities. She is humble and loyal – dedicated to achieving our vision of a world in which no person is needlessly blind. In fact, Virginia should take a lot of credit for the great strides we have made in reducing the burden of trachoma globally – but inevitably she will say it is a team effort – and it was. But without Virginia’s leadership, Vision 2020 would not have achieved the spirit of collaboration that led to this result and the global community would not have achieved the remarkable successes it has.

Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers remarks, “Virginia did sterling work within ICTC at a critical time for trachoma, as we were just bringing in new donors to the space. She really puts in the extra mile; Virginia has always been someone for whom the mission comes before anything else – a quality that is all too rare in this world. It would be lovely for her work to be recognised.’’

Scott McPherson, Chair of the International Coalition for Trachoma Control shares, “Virginia played an instrumental role in advancing partnerships through the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust’s Trachoma Initiative in Commonwealth countries and the DFID SAFE program. Her mentorship of colleagues on national and global platforms has facilitated a global vision and understanding through practice, of the power of collaboration. ICTC is indebted to Virginia’s visionary leadership that continues to influence and inspire a global community of trachoma stakeholders as we work towards a common goal; the global elimination of trachoma as a public health problem.”

Recently, the latest WHO update on trachoma in its Weekly Epidemiological Record showed, among other things, a 91% reduction in trachoma prevalence from 2002-2020 (a decline from over 1.5 billion to 136.9 million). Without the efforts and leadership of people like Virginia, millions of people would still be suffering from this excruciatingly painful and avoidable blinding disease.