“Those who experienced the founders’ period know how close to the heart of Seva the delicate dance between spirit and form is, between inner and outer. Seva was at its strongest when these dualities worked together with respect and in dynamic balance. It was also true that Seva took the longest strides and generated the most satisfying fellowship when actions were firmly rooted in the conscious effort to be of service to others.
Service and spirit are the heart of the Seva vision. These notions did not originate with Seva, nor has Seva any copyright on either of them, but in explorations that took place over many years, through many meetings and in diverse projects around the world, by heated argument and in loving story, a distinctive rendering of the vision of service and spirit took form at the very heart of this organization. Honoring in notion and in practice the core of its founding vision – even as it may adopt conventional forms of management – is how Seva can continue to be an inspiring source of this needed wisdom and a vehicle to carry it into the future.
Then the unique and potent spirit that has animated Seva from its founding will continue to be vital and will find new ways to be expressed within this evolving organization.”– The Spirit of Service written by Alan Morinis
These words written, in the 80’s, capture the continued learning and collaborative service nature of the work we at Seva endeavor to accomplish. With our sight on the present and future needs of the people we serve, many of us continue to lean on and be inspired by the shoulders we stand on; our founding community.
The expression of this unique spirit can best be summed up in our partnership approach: Trust.
Mutual trust, to be more specific.
Together with our partners, we listen, take calculated risks, stretch our thinking and use learning to strengthen good work and make it better. We scale what works, test what might work and always put our clients and the people we serve at the center of our thinking. Remarkable supporters are an essential part of this ecosystem. One of our most trusted family supporters challenged Seva to raise $250,000, which they would match 1:1 in service of additional access to vision care in Bangladesh. The result you may wonder? 700,000 people in isolated areas will now have access to eye care. Decades of data and critical operations evaluation confirm the profound difference these Vision Centers will make.
This kind of impact may feel like an “overnight success”, but it is not. Decades of fidelity to the demands of relationships make Seva’s work in the world special. When the Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, it was Seva that led the first of its kind comprehensive rapid study to document eye care needs for a refugee situation. Since 2006, Seva has built relationships, learning from the community and partnering with the likes of Nobel Prize-winning social activist Professor Muhammad Yunus (if you weren’t able to tune in to the recent live conversation, the recording can be accessed here).
The Spirit of Seva continues this summer so get your bubbles and red noses ready because we are celebrating the Summer of Wavy! Look at the webpage inviting you to send in short videos letting us know how Wavy touched your heart along with many other celebrations planned.
Alan Morrinis, whose quote began my letter, continues to be an inspiration as all our founding thought leaders do. For me, as I celebrate my anniversary with Seva, I clearly see the universal thread of compassion and dedication manifested in the hard work of our staff, partners, and with leadership of the Seva Foundation Board. Together with YOU, we believe we can end avoidable blindness in our lifetime – join us in making this a reality.
Yours in service,
About the author
Kate Moynihan is an impassioned leader and decision-maker who has overseen programs in networked organizations and social enterprises in resource-constrained settings, internationally and in the United States. She is a catalyst for institutional and systems change, partnering successfully with diverse international organizations to deliver world-class leadership for mission-based social justice around the globe. Throughout Kate’s career, she has shown an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people living in disadvantaged, marginalized segments of the world. Kate currently serves as Executive Director of the Seva Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Berkeley, California that transforms lives by restoring sight to individuals in areas with limited access to eye care.