When you think of Native American communities across the United States, what image comes to mind? For many, it is often the picture shown here, portrayed in the media, or in old western movies, but, what we often miss is that true Native beauty is vibrant, diverse, and endless!
My name is Jennifer Leo, and while this is the first time I’m writing to you, I’ve been with Seva for the last year as the Program Officer of our American Indian Sight Initiative. As a proud member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I work hand-in-hand with Native partners to assess their unique needs and co-create solutions that strengthen our communities.
As a Native person, I have encountered many myths about Native communities. But, I want to help flip the lens. Let’s dig a bit deeper, and let me share a side of Native communities not often portrayed – the true beauty, joy, and even struggles we face. Come along to meet some of the partners you support, and who knows, you might even learn something new!
Even though we have never met, you & I are connected.
It may seem hard to believe, with so much that separates us. Your story may have started in a different place than mine, at a different time from mine, with different characters and plots. But, at this moment our paths meet.
This connection among all people is something I learned from my dad. As a little girl and a proud member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, I remember my dad telling me stories. Sometimes they were about himself. Sometimes they were about my aunties, or my grandfather. And, sometimes they were about my ancestors from long ago. I remember he told me about a time my grandmother had no food to feed him for dinner. So, she washed him, and wrapped him in a blanket and sang him to sleep, to take his mind off his empty stomach.
I grew up hearing these stories, learning the details of lives of people I had never met. One day, my dad took me to a mesa, and he said, “Do you know why I tell you all of these stories?” I shook my head no. And he said, “Until today, when you looked in the mirror, you have seen only yourself. After today, – you will see all of us, looking back at you.”
We’re part of so many stories. There are those in which we know for sure what role we play and the impact we have on other’s lives and the world – like the role of a mother, father, grandparent, student or teacher. But then there are some stories that we forget we’re a part of. Stories in which we help transform a life. We, here at Seva, wanted to remind you of the difference you make every day. After all, you’re a big part of this story too:
Cast a net, and dream as big and far as you can (and then some!) That’s what Bhagwandeen, from Madhya Pradesh, India, believes in. At 102-years young – the oldest man in his village! – Bhagwandeen loves to live his life with unwavering joy and a sense of adventure.
From the Himalayan mountains to the Amazonian rainforests of Peru, Seva delivers vital eye care to 20+ countries. So pack your virtual bags, and take a trip with us right from your screens to witness the beauty you create in this world.
First Stop BANGLADESH
Since 2006, Seva has worked in Bangladesh to deliver vital eye care, treatment, and resources for those in remote communities. Here, the rate of blindness is nearly 3X that of the United States. Access to eye care is everything.
Earlier this year, we set out to raise funds for 7 new Vision Centers (VC) across the country, matched by a generous family – and we achieved it, together! These new VCs, currently in development, will create immediate access to eye care for 700,000 people in remote areas and will address up to 80% of all of their eye care needs!
And we’re back…with another Seva Quiz! Ever wonder about the people, places, and solutions that guide our work? Well, look no further! We asked our team, dug our archives, and have a brand new & fun game of trivia to see how well you know the magic that makes Seva possible.
Sadly, vision impairment continues to rob millions of people every year of a promising future. At Seva we know that this is a solvable public health crisis. 90% of all vision loss is preventable and treatable. Our research validates that investing in eye health improves overall wellbeing, community participation, and economic outlook for families.
The only thing we love more than restoring sight is…
CELEBRATING restored sight.
We recently celebrated the resilient and brave Thamma Nagamani from India, a remarkable woman with an unbreakable spirit.
Not too long ago, Thamma tragically lost her husband from suicide after his crops were destroyed. Her heart was shattered and her life was put at a standstill; she was left with no other option but to rebuild her future, from scratch. And that’s exactly what she did.
At the same time, Thamma’s vision was deteriorating. She had trouble completing her daily tasks.
Our field staff took her to our partner hospital, where she was diagnosed with cataract and received a sight-restoring surgery. Thamma’s life today? Bright! She spends her day looking after her family and even runs her own business.
We take the work seriously, we don’t take ourselves too seriously! Seva Co-Founders Wavy Gravy & Jahanara Romney – a dynamic duo, hippie icons, and pair of saints – taught us that. They’ve dedicated their lives to public service, activism, and spreading unconditional joy.