Couldn’t make it to Seva Canada’s Annual General Meeting this year? Not to worry, you can read Executive Director Penny Lyon’s speech and watch our video about Seva Canada's history below:



Over thirty-five years ago, Seva’s founders had a vision – a world where no one was needlessly blind or visually impaired. They partnered with a man from India, Dr. Venkataswamy (Dr. V), who also had a vision – to provide low-cost, high-quality eye care accessible to all, regardless of income. Seva and Aravind Eye Hospital were born.

Dr. V examining a patient in early 1980s

Dr. Venkataswamy (Dr. V) examining an eye care patient in early 1980s

35 years ago, if you were poor, blind and living in the Himalayas, the Serengeti, or places in between, your chance of receiving eye care, of any kind, was minimal. If you were a woman, your chances were even less.

Because of your generosity and belief that everyone deserves the right to sight, 4 million of the world’s most vulnerable people – women, children, and people living in extreme poverty and isolation – have received life-changing cataract surgery and millions more have received eye care services including glasses and medicine.

Your support of Seva Canada’s programs over the past 35 years has not only improved eye care worldwide – it has helped to transform it. Cataract surgery is now routinely provided by local surgeons,  is fast, and the results are almost always successful. Eye care is affordable and accessible for most people. Women and girls are much more likely to receive care (although not yet as likely as men and boys) and fewer children are blind. 

cambodian girl at an eye screening wearing glasses

What have you and your donations helped to accomplish?

  • Determined  the leading cause of blindness in many settings  
  • Introduced innovative surgical techniques for use in low income countries
  • Opened program offices in Nepal, Cambodia and Tibetan Areas of China
  • Developed community based ophthalmology programs that substantially reduced gender and economic inequities
  • Helped reduce the inequity of 2 out of 3 of the world's blind were women and girls
  • Evolved Dr. V’s model to provide high volume, high quality, affordable  eye care in over 15 countries
  • Lowered the cost of surgery so most people can afford to pay
  • Trained countless eye care professionals and advocates

35 years since our inception, Seva’s international staff and partners’ sophistication and influence has grown and global eye care has improved. 

smiling Tanzanian woman

© Ellen Crystal Photography

Here’s a glimpse of what two days of restoring sight and preventing blindness looks like today:

Here’s a glimpse of what two days of restoring sight and preventing blindness looks like today:

  • Hari Thapa, an optometrist and pediatric refraction expert from Lumbini Eye Institute in Nepal, took his research findings to a conference in the Netherlands to argue for more support for people in his country marginalized and undertreated for ocular albinism.
  • Priya Adhiseshan, a young, female, pediatric program director and Fulbright Scholar returned home to India to start the pilot phase of a study testing the value of presbyopic (reading) glasses on the productivity of field workers picking tea in Assam.
  • Dr. Vivian Yin, a Seva Canada Board Member, attended the national meeting of the Canadian Ophthalmology Society and used the findings from her population-based survey of eye conditions in a central zone of Nepal to advocate passionately for improved access to eye care for women and girls worldwide.
  • Roshan Bista, a Seva Cambodia staff member, documented and reported on how many patients accessed community-based eye care – put in place to service over 80% of the rural population’s ongoing needs - for the first time.
  • Richard Rasoloniaina, a Community Outreach Coordinator in Madagascar, reported on a full year of his program’s new pediatric outreach strategy, where close to 2,000 children were referred by local community members to an eye care professional for the first time. 

This is just two days of the 35 years of work restoring sight and preventing blindness. Two days of work from the thousands of work days you have supported through your donations, your volunteer hours and your belief in our shared vision – a world in which no one is needlessly blind or visually impaired. 

We aren’t done yet.   

Estimates are, because of our aging population, the number of blind people will increase from 36 million to 115 million by 2050 if access to treatment is not improved and increased dramatically. The majority of the 115 million are likely to be women and almost certainly to be girls.

Clearly, there is still work to be done to realize our vision. With your support, our collective vision will become a reality.

Thank you.

Nepali women smiling with hands in namaste position

© Ellen Crystal Photography

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