Springtime brings a sense of renewal, and after a year of uncertainty with COVID-19 looming over everyone’s fate, many parts of the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Here in the US, with the rollout of various vaccines, I am reminded that in many parts of the rest of the world, people are still struggling with COVID, access to care, and even more significant health challenges due to the various mutations. Scientists have moved mountains; yet we must ensure that the work to save lives continues. For Seva, the work continues with safety first, as we provide life-saving and essential eye care needs to some of the world’s most marginalized communities.
From March 26-28, musicians, singers, and supporters gathered together online for our annual “Sing Out for Seva” concert. For three wonderful days, artists helped raise funds for Seva’s programs and threw a bright, beautiful celebration of all we’ve managed to accomplish this year. On popular demand, the concert streaming was extended till April 11th. This was the third virtual concert benefiting Seva that has taken place since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
Seva’s partnership with India’s Aravind Eye Hospital is one of the oldest and most productive in our history. Last year, Aravind hit a huge milestone: they opened their 100th eye care facility! About 90 of these are vision centers.
As a public health organization that has been active for over 40 years in 20+ countries, Seva has amassed a great deal of information pertaining to the safe and effective delivery of eye care. To bring this knowledge to the forefront, Seva recently sponsored the Lancet Commission Report on Global Eye Health and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’ Vision Atlas. This groundbreaking new report and research tool provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of eye care and a roadmap for how to proceed in creating a world free of avoidable blindness.
For over four decades, Seva has been on the cutting edge of innovative humanitarian eye care. Today, our AIDS Eye Initiative stands on the cusp of another exciting breakthrough: a camera that can quickly and easily detect blindness-causing infections and life-threatening Tuberculosis in people living with AIDS. Most of these 38 million people live in low and middle income countries with weak health care systems.
On February 27, Indian-American singing group Soor Aur Saptak (SAS) threw their 10th annual benefit concert for Seva! The event, which took place virtually this year, showcases the stunning beauty of Indian music, singing, and dancing. More than a thousand people watched the show. Viewers attended this program from the USA, India, Australia, Canada, Philippines, UAE, Czech Republic, and other places in Europe.
Ramesh is a 60-year old daily wage farmer living in Naujheel, a town in the north of India. He earns a total of $6 to $7 per day with which he supports his three sons (all of whom are out-of-work) as well as their children. But a little over a year ago, his vision began to get blurry. Working in the fields became much more difficult, and before long he needed help to perform even basic household tasks. Ramesh didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have money to see a doctor and he needed his sight to make any money.
Even in a year as challenging as 2020, Seva’s programs soared. Between June and December of last year, we supported six new vision centers. Now we’re on track to fund a total of 30 by June 30, 2021 (beating our goal of 13)! Our largest number of these new vision centers are in India; others are located in Nepal, Cambodia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru. This year also marks our first vision centers in Latin America!
Seva’s board had long aspired to reflect the values of the organization in its investment portfolio through social screening, not holding the stock of companies deemed objectionable (e.g., fossil fuel, tobacco, etc.). Unfortunately, given our size, a cost-effective socially screened option was not available, and the board decided to invest Seva’s assets in a low-cost passively managed target-risk fund. The purely passive implementation kept costs low but meant that Seva could not eliminate certain objectionable securities from its portfolio holdings.
Women have played an integral role in the field of eye care throughout history, from the development of new inventions to creating new models of care, to holding key leadership roles – they are transforming the eye care landscape day after day.