About Seva: What is Seva?


In 1978, a remarkable conference of friends and colleagues gathered at the Waldenwoods Conference Center, near Ann Arbor, Michigan to consider this question: How could they be of service?

The answer turned out to be Seva Foundation.

Celebrating over 40 Years of Service

The Seed of Seva

In 1978, after working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to end smallpox in India, Dr. Larry Brilliant (currently President, Skoll Global Threats Fund), and his wife Girija Brilliant, a public health specialist, published an article entitled Death of a Killer Disease. It was a personal account of their decade in Asia, first as youthful travelers, then as spiritual seekers, and eventually as part of WHO's successful smallpox eradication team.

Readers were moved, and soon $20,000 of donations arrived in Larry and Girija's mailbox with the first $5,000 coming from not-yet-famous computer inventor, Steve Jobs.

An Eclectic Rolodex

Inspired by the supportive response, the Brilliants convened a conference of friends and colleagues to consider what to do next now that smallpox had been eradicated how could they best be of service?

Using their personal Rolodex of health professionals and cultural activists, the Brilliants invited an eclectic group that included the World Health Organization’s Dr. Nicole Grasset, spiritual teacher Ram Dass, and Berkeley activists Wavy Gravy and Jahanara Romney.

The Sight Program

Dr. Grasset introduced the group to Dr. G. Venkataswamy, a retired eye surgeon in India known as "Dr. V" who was just setting out to fulfill his vision of making cataract surgery as "ubiquitous as McDonalds," and therefore affordable to the poor. That was the beginning of Seva's partnership in the high-volume eye clinic that would become the internationally known Aravind Eye Care Systems.

Since then, Seva programs have helped 57 million people see clearly again. In just the past year, Seva's Sight Program has provided 2.8 million people with vital eye care services worldwide.

Seva Foundation

"If we kicked smallpox, the greatest killer known to humankind, we can end all forms of needless blindness. We have the science, we are an organization that has also gained the wisdom, now let us ask for the resources to get it done."

Dr. Larry Brilliant
Co-Founder, Seva Foundation

Below: An early Seva meeting in Michigan.

Photo of Seva Board in Michigan.

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