Honoring International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

A child from Grainger Elementary School in Okanogan, WA having his eyes screened.
A child from Grainger Elementary School in Okanogan, WA having their eyes screened.

“Our strengths are in our actions – when we look, listen and learn. Strengths are not things – strengths are the good actions of how we live and treat each other.”

Elder Roy Bear Chief (Blackfoot, Siksika Nation)

Solutions Lie In Strengths

August 9 is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Seva is honored to have worked alongside indigenous communities for four decades, co-creating interventions that advance access to critical eye care. Throughout our journey, we’ve practiced “a strengths-based approach,” which studies in the Health Education Journal* confirm is essential to advancing health equity of indigenous populations.

Historically, public health research on indigenous communities has often taken a “deficit-based” approach, focusing on health issues/disparities within a community to find solutions. A strengths-based approach finds and builds on the innate abilities of a community or individual to promote positive health outcomes. Studies of indigenous communities from Alberta, Canada, as well as Seva’s partners around the world, emphasize the importance of centering on indigenous voices, perspectives, beliefs, and relationships (among other factors), and honoring self-determination when designing healthcare programs. 

With an estimated 476 million indigenous people across 90 countries, speaking 7,000 languages and representing 5,000 different cultures, a strengths-based approach to health care for one community may differ from another. Yet, at Seva, we believe that lasting and culturally-competent interventions for any one person begins by listening, co-learning, and collaborating with all. Read on to learn a few ways we create a strengths-based approach to eye care around the world, including indigenous peoples. 

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This camera is making history, and so are you!

Photo of the Vistaro camera being field-tested in Mozambique.

You just helped us turn a page in diagnosing eye diseases. You may remember, Seva, in partnership with Remidio Innovative Solutions, developed Vistaro – a revolutionary, wide-field retinal camera that transforms how clinics diagnose conditions affecting the back of the eye. 

Why is Vistaro so important? Most medical devices that image the back of the eye are out of reach for communities. This leaves many blindness-causing infections, including CMV retinitis – commonly found in those living with HIV – to go undiagnosed. Vistaro is cost-effective, portable, and durable – it could help reduce AIDS-related blindness by half! 

We’ve heard from our partners in Ukraine, Mozambique & India who’ve been field-testing the camera – and it’s already making waves in the community. As a Seva supporter, you have played an important part in helping to make this moment in eye tech history possible.

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Letter from the Executive Director – Spring 2023

“There is truly no gift greater than sight – Seva can reach the most remote places where there was no eye care before.” – Ram Prasad Kandel,Former Program Director, Seva Nepal

In January 2023 I traveled to Nepal. The purpose was to meet with our program partners and the Seva staff. We used this time together to discuss our eye care roadmap for the country. 

When painted against the fact that this coming Fall we can finally celebrate the anniversary of the seminal Seva Nepal Blindness Study, the conversations and connection become more of a homecoming than a traditional field visit. 

Back in 1980, Seva founders (scientists, activists and academics) joined forces with the World Health Organization and the government of Nepal thanks to funding from the Netherlands. The results were published in our landmark report, The Epidemiology of Blindness in Nepal, and several journal articles. These findings became a key component, and dare I say, influencer, of the World Health Organization’s Nepal Blindness Program.

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Clearing the Path to Higher Ground

Mr. Ram Prasad Kandel talking with patients after their cataract surgeries.

Ram Prasad Kandel Retires After 25 Years of Caring Service

It’s not hyperbole to say there ain’t no mountain high enough to deter Seva’s Nepal Program Director, Ram Prasad Kandel. For the past 25-plus years, he’s been on the road with Seva, traversing hilly terrain and rough roads in Nepal, India, and Cambodia to support eye camps, establish Vision Centers, and connect with the people who come seeking help.

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Welcome Dr. Binita Sharma

Seva is pleased to officially welcome Dr. Binita Sharma to the staff as the Country Director in Nepal. 

Dr. Sharma transitioned from Seva Foundation’s clinical advisor for programs in Nepal to the Country Director, picking up where Ram Prasad Kandel left off.

Dr. Sharma was the Chief Medical Director at Kirtipur Eye Hospital for three years; she has been working as an ophthalmologist for the last 10 years, with a fellowship in Cornea and a special interest in community ophthalmology. Working both at a clinical and academic level, she is at the forefront of eye care and health in Nepal. With a strong passion for community and communication, Dr. Binita works to bring eye health to those most in need.  

She enjoys interacting with people,  and she’s a firm believer that communication and teamwork is the key to an effective outcome in any field.

“I believe it is in the heart of the community that we need to reach – where there are patients who do not realize that their blinding condition is treatable”

He believed he would never see again. You made sure he did.

“Che ndaroviai,” an expression in Guarani, translates into Spanish to mean “I don’t believe.” These were also Librado Benitez’s first words after he was told that he would regain his vision. 

For over a year Librado, a 41-year-old farmer from the Department of San Pedro, north of Asunción in Paraguay, lived with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. 

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The Seva Squad is Coming to Your Town!

Young creatives, athletes, artists, and makers of all types are called upon to take Seva’s reach to the next level by joining the Seva Squad, our youth ambassador program for students ages 13 to 18 years old. Seva Squad members will use their talents to create projects that spread the word about Seva’s mission. Completed projects, along with squad members, will be featured on our social media channels, website, and newsletters.

If you know somebody who’d be interested in joining future Seva Squads, point them to the Seva Squad webpage www.seva.org/squad for more information, or have them contact squad leader Judy Zimola at jzimola@seva.org.

New Vision Centers: Mobilizing Towards Eye Health Equity

Last year, Seva and partners established 30 new vision centers across Bangladesh, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, and the United States. Of these, we are thrilled to share that 26 have been inaugurated.

Vision Center inaugurations are attended by local leaders who introduce the eye professionals and paraprofessionals to the people they serve. By doing so, they build trust and promote the importance of proper eye care. It also helps to normalize eye care throughout the region and spread the word that treatment and care are now accessible.

Elvis Costello has a Message for You

Watch this amazing video kicked off by Elvis Costello, featuring lots of Seva friends, and music courtesy of Seva Ambassador Jackson Browne. They’re helping us promote Guatemala Brillando, our plan that will end avoidable blindness in the country within 10 years.

Watch and share this video with your networks – the more people who see it, the more attention our Guatemala Brillando initiative receives. Thank you for spreading the Seva love!

Seva is honored by the Government of Cambodia!

Cambodia

Seva Foundation was honored with four national awards from the Government of Cambodia, signed by the King and the Prime Minister, in recognition of over two decades of restoring sight throughout the country. At a ceremony that coincided with World Sight Day, the following Seva team members were honored:

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