Ray’s a top Kiwi hero
ENTREPRENEUR Ray Avery’s dedication to improving the lives of people in developing countries has earned him an unexpected honour.
The Mt Eden resident, who heads healthcare charity Medicine Mondiale, is a finalist in the inaugural New Zealander of the Year awards alongside Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall and Olympic gold medallist Valerie Vili.
The 62-year-old, who was raised in orphanages around Britain, says winning the top award would be one of the biggest achievements in his life.
“If I was successful in winning the award, it would be quite emotional for me – when you’re brought up in orphanages all your life, there’s a sense of not belonging,” he says.
“When I came to New Zealand 40 years ago, I found an intelligent, caring country. To be recognised by the New Zealand community would give a real sense of coming home and belonging.”
Being nominated is also likely to raise the profile of Medicine Mondiale, his organisation which helps introduce medical technology into developing countries.
Mr Avery’s inventions include the development of affordable interocular lenses, which it’s estimated will restore the sight of 30 million cataract sufferers in poor countries by 2020.
He’s also developed a flow controller that prevents drugs in an IV drip being over-administered and a nutritional supplement to treat malnourished children.
While all these products are available to the world’s poorest people, Mr Avery says they’re also economically viable in developed countries.
In a strange twist, one of the people who nominated Mr Avery for the award was his good friend and fellow finalist, Sir Stephen, along with musician Neil Finn.
“It’s very humbling to be nominated in such auspicious company,” he says.
Before setting up Medicine Mondiale seven years ago, Mr Avery was involved in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years.
Mr Avery says he aims to promote his adopted country in what he does.
“I’ve been putting New Zealand on the world stage in developing countries rather than doing community-based work here.”
Mr Avery’s wife Anna Kiousis says the nomination is a fantastic acknowledgement of her husband’s accomplishments.
“He’s doing great stuff – it’s pretty much a way of life for him.”
Awards patron and one of the judges, former prime minister Jim Bolger says they had an outstanding list of Kiwis to choose from.
“I am amazed by the overwhelming contribution made by people of all ages to their communities, New Zealand and the world at large.”
The other categories are Young New Zealander of the Year, Senior New Zealander of the Year and the Local Hero Award.
Winners in each category receive $5000 towards their work from principal sponsor Kiwibank.
Winners will be announced at a gala dinner on February 3.
Smart science: Entrepreneur and scientist Ray Avery has been nominated for the New Zealander of the Year Award alongside Sir Stephen Tindall and Valerie Vili.