The Blind Boys of Alabama
Perform a benefit concert to Prevent Blindness around the world
(October 4, 2013) – 5-time Grammy Award winners The Blind Boys of Alabama will perform a benefit concert to prevent blindness around the world – SING OUT FOR SEVA – A celebration of Seva Foundation's 35th Anniversary! Saturday November 2nd at the Fillmore in San Francisco
The benefit concert also features the legendary rock band Hot Tuna, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk & special guests. Seva Foundation's co-founder Wavy Gravy will host the event.
Tickets are on sale now at seva.org & thefillmore.com. General admission is $48 and VIP tickets are $105. These include an after show party, poster and laminate pass. For more information visit www.seva.org
The Story of Seva:
A doctor, a clown and a guru asked themselves, how can we help the world…
It sounds like the lead up to a knee slapper. But the punch line from this coming together has restored sight to 3.5 million people who were needlessly blind around the world.
In 1978, a medical doctor by the name of Larry Brilliant had recently returned from India where his World Health Organization team succeeded in wiping smallpox off the planet. To this day, the only disease that has been eradicated.
Filled with confidence, Dr. Brilliant pondered what he would tackle next. Flipping through his rolodex, he invited many of the sharpest minds to join together for a meeting to figure out how best to help the world. But Dr. Brilliant had an unusual rolodex.
While in India, he had befriended Ram Dass, a former Harvard Professor who along with Timothy Leary became famous for studies in the exploration of the mind. Ram Dass had been in India learning from his guru Neem Karoli Baba. It was, in fact, Neem Karoli Baba who helped Dr. Brilliant to discover his path to work on the smallpox eradication campaign. Back in the west, many revere Ram Dass himself to be a spiritual leader and guru.
Dr. Brilliant's rolodex also contained a clown. But not just any clown. Humanitarian activist and long-time Bay Area resident Wavy Gravy readily accepted the invitation.
And so, the doctor, the clown and the guru came together to discuss how they could help the world. They were joined by a large group of academics, international public health professionals, spiritual friends, and activists. The group searched for how they could have another impact on the world that was as meaningful and important as the smallpox eradication campaign had been.
They were particularly moved by the advice of a Swiss-French doctor named Nicole Grasset, who had led the smallpox eradication team. She pointed out that in developing countries, tens of millions of people live in complete darkness. But they could see again if only there were a doctor to perform a simple 15-minute cataract surgery.
The group realized the huge impact restoring eyesight would have on an individual, their family, and the whole community. It seems almost unfathomable that there are 39 million people who are blind in the world, and 4 out of 5 could see again if they just had access to an eye doctor.
Seed money to start an organization was raised, with a notable first $5,000 from then future Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs also donated one of the world's very first prototype personal computers, which helped the organization make leaps and bounds in documenting the millions who were blind. And Wavy Gravy convinced the Grateful Dead to play a benefit concert for the fledgling organization.
Seva was born.
Programs began in the region most familiar to the founders, places like Nepal and India, but have since spread throughout the world. The group chose the Sanskrit word Seva, which translates to "service to humankind" as their namesake. The logo would be the Eyes of the Buddha. Both Seva's name and logo are familiar and comforting symbols throughout Asia, and in the years that followed helped patients feel at ease as foreign doctors began outreach to the rural poor.
90% of the blind live in developing countries and cataracts cause most cases of preventable blindness. In order to serve the 39 million people around the world who needlessly suffer in darkness, Seva needed to drastically bring the cost of cataract surgery down.
An aging Indian ophthalmologist named Dr. Venkataswamy (Dr. V), one of Seva's original founders, believed he had the answer - McDonalds. He was so sure, that he flew from India and enrolled in Hamburger University, McDonald's training school in Chicago. He was undoubtedly the only retired Indian ophthalmologist in his hamburger classes.
Dr. V. had a vision. He believed that if it were possible in America for a chain to provide an affordable and consistent service that was highly profitable, that he could apply those same business principles to the medical setting. Seva supported his vision and helped him to found the Aravind Eye Care System to serve the poor in India. Today, Aravind is the largest eye care system in the world and our unique model allows 70% of their services to reach the poor, sustainably subsidized by income from those who can afford to pay for care. Since then, Aravind has received numerous awards, including the $1.5 million dollar Hilton Humanitarian Prize. They are also recent recipients of the Bill and Melinda Gates Award.
Seva was instrumental in supporting development of this unique model and now works to apply it around the globe. The cost of restoring eyesight to a blind person has been reduced to just $50.
In the years since Seva's founding, the Berkeley based organization has helped restore the eyesight of nearly 3.5 million people with programs reaching many of the poorest corners of the world including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan, Nepal, Tibet, India and throughout Africa. There are countries where Seva programs account for between 25% and 50% of all eye surgeries performed.
The World Bank has since announced cataract surgery as one of the most cost-effective poverty alleviation strategies at our disposal. President Bill Clinton praised Seva during his Clinton Global Initiative, and dozens of musicians including the Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez and many more perform regularly to support the important work.
Teams of doctors from Bay Area hospitals and throughout the country regularly volunteer their time and travel to the developing world to set up rural eye camps and training programs, where hundreds of people have their eyesight restored each day.
The stories they bring back are incredibly moving. Blind mothers who had never seen their children with their own eyes able to see again. Children who were blind and whose futures were bleak have returned to school. Each individual Seva touches has his or her life changed forever.
Millions around the world are grateful that the doctor, the clown and the guru decided to embark on this incredible journey.
SING OUT FOR SEVA ~ November 2nd at The Fillmore in San Francisco - featuring: the legendary gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama, who've been singing since the late 1930s, are still so remarkably vital that they've won five Grammy Awards since 2000. The legendary rock band Hot Tuna, fronted by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady and New Orleans' newest Neville Brother Family band Dumpstafunk plus your host -humanitarian activist clown -Wavy Gravy.
Tickets and more information are available at www.seva.org/fillmore
Media Contact: Aaron Simon, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-845-7382 x333.
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