In 1980, the World Health Organization confirmed the global eradication of smallpox, a disease that caused blindness and death to millions. The end of smallpox marked Seva’s beginning.

Founded by some of the people who worked on the eradication of smallpox, Seva was established to empower the spirit of service and alleviate human suffering. Read our story below.

  • 1976

    Aravind Eye Hospital Opened

    Dr. Venkataswamy (known as “Dr. V”) establishes an alternate health care model to provide low-cost, high-quality, self-sustaining eye care in India. He opens Aravind Eye Hospital by turning his former home in Madurai, a city in southern India, into an 11-bed hospital.

  • 1978

    1st Grateful Dead Concert for Seva

    The Grateful Dead do their first of many concerts to benefit Seva.

  • 1978

    Seva Foundation is Formed

    After working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to end smallpox in India, Dr. Larry Brilliant and his wife Girija Brilliant, a public health specialist, publish Death of a Killer Disease. Their article urges readers to support international health programs for people living in poverty.

    People are inspired and soon $20,000 in donations arrive - the first $5,000 coming from not-yet-famous computer inventor, Steve Jobs. With this, Seva Foundation is born and Dr. V participates in the first board meeting as a founding member. Seva's work begins in India with Dr. V and the Aravind Eye Hospital.

  • 1981

    1st Nationwide Blindness Study in Nepal

    Seva conducts the world’s first nationwide, population-based study of the causes and distribution of blindness in Nepal. The study shows that two-thirds of blindness is due to cataract, not trachoma, contrary to contemporary belief.

    Leo Boon "Cycles for Sight" from Vancouver to San Francisco to Miami (4500 miles) and asks people along the way to donate a penny a mile.

  • 1982

    Seva Canada Established

    Alan Morinis and Bev Spring establish Seva Canada and secure funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA now Global Affairs Canada).

    Seva Canada’s activities initially focus on providing a supporting role to Seva Foundation’s activities.

  • 1984

    Seva Begins Working in Lumbini Zone, Nepal

    Seva’s programming and reach expands as it is invited to develop a comprehensive eye care program in the Lumbini Zone, Nepal.

  • 1985

    Seva Recognized in Nepal

    The Nepal government officially recognizes Seva and the Seva Nepal office opens in Kathmandu. The National Eye Health Education program is initiated.

  • 1987

    1st Intraocular Lens Surgical Eye Camp in Nepal

    Dr. Marty Spencer, Seva board member and ophthalmologist, conducts the first intraocular lens surgical eye camp in Nepal. He helps to revolutionize eye care in low-income countries by using these modern surgical techniques.

  • 1992

    Aurolab formed in India

    Seva and CIDA help Aravind Eye Hospital in India form Aurolab, a non-profit trust providing modern eye care technology at affordable costs.

    Aurolab revolutionizes eye care in low-and middle-income countries by bringing the cost of intraocular lenses down from $300 per lens to under $3.

  • 1993

    Lumbini Eye Hospital Established

    Seva establishes a 76-bed eye care hospital in Lumbini, Nepal.

  • 1994

    Manual Sutureless Cataract Surgery Taught

    Dr. Marty Spencer teaches manual sutureless cataract surgery at Aravind Eye Hospital in India. This surgical technique soon becomes taught around the world.

  • 1995

    Seva Begins Working In Tibet

    Seva launches its programming in the Tibetan Areas of China.

    Meanwhile in Nepal, Seva initiates the Ophthalmic Assistant training program as part of the Lumbini Eye Care Program.

  • 1996

    A Plan To Expand is Endorsed

    Seva endorses a plan to take their high-volume, high-quality, sustainable eye care approach into new regions of the world.

    Meanwhile, Aravind Eye Hospital in India inaugurates the Lions Aravind Institute of Community Ophthalmology (LAICO), Asia’s first international training facility for blindness prevention workers from India and around the globe.

  • 1998

    Seva Leads Tibetan Eye Care Survey

    Seva leads the Tibet eye care survey with the Tibet Health Bureau. Seva's local trainees conduct half of all eye surgeries in the Tibetan Areas of China.

  • 1999

    Seva Joins VISION 2020

    Seva joins VISION 2020, a global initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).

    Seva begins working in Cambodia with the Battambang Ophthalmic Care Centre (Seva Canada begins funding in 2009).

    Meanwhile in Nepal, Seva and the Lumbini Eye Care Program develop Community Eye Centres in isolated areas outside of the Lumbini Zone, Nepal.

  • 2000

    Seva’s Discovers 2/3 of the World’s Blind are Women and Girls

    Seva conducts research in Africa with the founders of KCCO that identifies the gender inequity in the treatment of blindness. Seva funds the publication of that research which results in a worldwide shift in the way organizations and institutions both gather and use their data.

    Seva develops a Gender and Eye Care working group with its partners to increase service uptake for women.

  • 2001

    Seva Helps Establish KCCO, Tanzania

    Seva helps establish the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) and begins work in Tanzania.

  • 2002

    Seva Sponsors 1st Planning Workshop in Tibet

    Seva sponsors the first eye care planning workshop in Lhasa, Tibet. This workshop results in the creation of a 10-year cataract prevention plan.

  • 2009

    Seva Begins Working in Egypt, Guatemala, Malawi & Madagascar

    Seva begins working in Egypt with the Al Noor Magrabi Foundation, Guatemala with Visualiza Eye Care System, Malawi with the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, and Madagascar with the Ministry of Health.

  • 2011

    Seva Conducts RAAB in Madagascar

    Seva co-funds Madagascar’s first National Pediatric Eye Care Planning Meeting resulting in a series of outreach programs and training initiatives. It also funds a Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) survey in Atsinanana, the capital, to estimate the prevalence of blindness in people over 50 years of age.

    Meanwhile, Seva begins working with established microfinance groups in Tanzania to increase the utilization of eye care services by women and children.

    Seva also begins community outreach program in the San Marcos region in Guatemala.

  • 2012

    Seva Canada turns 30!

    Seva Canada turns 30 on April 6, 2012 and begins funding Burundi, Zambia and Rwanda.

    MLA Eric Foster introduces Seva Canada into the British Columbia Legislature.

    Seva also begins working with established microfinance groups in Nepal and Zambia to increase the utilization of eye care services by women and children.

  • 2013

    All Districts in Nepal Have Primary Eye Care

    Seva Canada inaugurates a Community Eye Centre (CEC) in Bajura, the last district in all of Nepal without access to primary eye care. This is a major milestone in Seva Canada’s objective of providing primary eye care to all regions of the country.

    Seva Cambodia sees a dramatic increase in the utilization of eye care, especially cataract surgeries, in all of its districts following the hiring and training of four field workers.

    Meanwhile, Seva supports Burundi’s first two pediatric surgical treatment activities, providing hundreds of children with essential eye care. Seva Canada also builds its first CEC in Burundi.

  • 2014

    Seva Cambodia Expands

    The Seva Cambodia program increases substantially by serving two new provinces: Pursat in the western part of the country and Kampot in the southern region.

    Meanwhile in Nepal, Seva establishes a new secondary eye hospital in the Dhankuta District.

    Seva and the Bharatpur Eye Hospital create a three-year Ophthalmic Assistant program that trains 40 students a year.


  • 2015

    Seva Canada Receives the Champalimaud Vision Award

    In September, 2015 Seva Canada alongside Seva Foundation and the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology were awarded the prestigious Champalimaud Vision Award. The award recognized the three groups' innovative approach to programs in Africa and came with a 1 million Euro prize.

    Leonard Cohen, award-winning Canadian entertainer and the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada become honourary patrons of Seva Canada.

    The first Motown Meltdown concert benefiting Seva Canada takes place at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver.

    Seva Canada's reach continues to grow as it trains overseas partners in fundraising and marketing for the first time.

  • 2017

    Gender Inequity Improves for Women

    The Lancet releases the latest data on the prevalence and caused of vision impairment and blindness worldwide. Globally, due to strategies like the ones that Seva Canada and its partners have implemented, the number of women who are blind decreased by 10%. Unfortunately that statistical improvement did not extend to girls who are still half as likely as boys to access eye care services.
  • 2019

    Seva Canada Sponsors Women Deliver in Vancouver

    Seva Canada takes part in Women Deliver, the world's largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women, to share its research and strategies to improve the lives of millions in low-income countries. 

    Penny Lyons, Seva Canada Executive Director, is featured on an expert panel and 2 videos - Anjana's Story and Cause and Effect - are highlighted at the Film Festival. 

  • 2021

    Seva Canada Updates its Mission Statement

    Seva Canada updates its mission statement from "Seva Canada's mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness in developing countries" to "Seva Canada's mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness in low- and middle-income countries. The change recognizes that 'developing' and 'developed' are no longer appropriate or applicable adjectives for the people and places Seva serves.

    Seva Canada is recognized as a top 100 charity by Charity Intelligence for the fourth consecutive year.  

  • 2022

    Seva Canada Turns 40!

    Seva Canada turns 40 on April 6th! To date SEva donors have given the power of sight to over 5 million people through life-changing surgeries and provided eye care services to millions more.