A note from Seva's Executive Director about COVID-19
My teachers tell me that the secret to happiness is serving others.
There is no reason for people to be unnecessarily blind.
Today he is walking on his own.
He can see. Now he can walk.
But yesterday he couldn't walk?
Yesterday, he needed help.
Yesterday, he couldn't walk.
80 percent of all the blindness in the world is preventable or curable. 90 percent is in the developing world, and there are 40 million blind people in the world. Surely, when we can deliver sight for under $50, those numbers have got to be reduced. Eliminated. Put to bed.
The word "Seva" is a Sanskrit word that means service to human kind.
Seva was started by Larry and Girija Brilliant. He was a doctor with the WHO in India.
This was 1979, and we had eradicated smallpox.
Smallpox being the only disease in the history of the world to be totally eradicated.
It was a shot in the arm for global health, and we wanted to do something like it again.
We got a rather tasty grant from Steve Jobs.
I said please come to a meeting in Michigan in the middle of the winter and let's figure out what to do with this money.
It was an opportunity to make a difference.
All these folks were flown to Walden Woods, it was called.
There were three or four ophthalmologists. Ram Dass was there.
We were clear that we were not a spiritual organization, but we spiritually motivated. What Ram Dass did was to give voice to that.
We wound up with lots of professors and lots of UN diplomats and, as you know, we wound up with a clown.
I had my propellor hat on, and we were all geared to do something. We all knew that we had compassion in our hearts and were looking for a way to direct it.
Included in the founding meeting of was Doctor G. Venkataswamy, we call him Dr. V.
Who had founded what became the largest eye hospital system [inaudible 00:02:58] in India. I think his presence was really the catalyst.
Nicole Grasse, Larry's boss in smallpox eradication, pops up and said, "Larry, we must do something about this blindness."
80 percent of the people in the world that are blind do not need to be blind, and can get their sight back with a simple 15-minute cataract surgery. What an opportunity.
Of course, the next thought you have is like, "Well, if we did a concert, how many people would we be able to help?"
To be given their sight back is to be given their lives.
It's wonderful to be involved in something as tangible as that.
Do you know that every seat in the audience is equivalent to a cataract operation in one of the third worlds?
A Seva concert is unique because of Wavy. He's a clown and he's a holy man. This is a wonderful gift because, as he says, "If you lose your sense of humor, then it's just not funny anymore."
In this weary world it's so nice to wake up and know there's a group like Seva that's been doing such great work all these years. It's one of the great success stories where the money actually gets to where it's supposed to go.
Seva Foundation works around the world now.
We started in Nepal and India and now we're over 15 countries. One of them is the United States of America with Native American communities.
Majority of blinding conditions in the developing countries are either preventable or curable.
Seva works with local partners to develop self-sustaining programs. Since 1978, Seva and our local partners have helped to restore sight to nearly four million people.
I think that eliminating blindness through organizations like Seva is now strategic philanthropy.
Partnerships have been a really important new development within Seva's world; working with Google, with Michael and Suzan Dell Foundation, now with TOMS.
When I thought about launching another product with the TOMS model, vision seemed the most obvious choice.
I don't think I was fully prepared for how significant a life change it would have in these people. There's no feeling in the world that compares to that.
I went to an eye camp and I asked this patient after checking her eyes is she surprised that she can see again. She said she is not surprised. I asked her why. She said because she was praying to her God to send somebody to help.
Seva's always been for us and experiment.
I think of Seva as a movement. A movement to bring out the best in people so they can serve their community.
It's just as American as anything you can think of. It's Woodstock. It's Walden Pond. It is acting on your principles.
That's the experiment that Seva is, to bring together what Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world."
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