AGM 2020 Zoom Photo

Screenshot of our Zoom Annual General Meeting. From L-R top row: Penny Lyons, Seva Canada Executive Director, Dr. Simon Arunga, Uganda and Heather Wong-Mitchell, Seva Canada Operations Manager. From L-R bottom row: Peter Kileo, Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology, Tanzania, Dr. Ken Bassett, Seva Canada Program Director and Laura Spencer, Seva Canada Board Chair.

Welcome and thank you for participating in our Annual General Meeting. While we would all rather be doing this in person I am grateful you’ve taken time to join us tonight.

“It’s all done with people.” This has been Seva’s catchphrase for over 40 years and now it’s a catchphrase for the World Health Organization… except they call it “Integrated People-centered Eye Care”. That moniker just rolls off the tongue…

“Integrated People-Centered Eye Care”, according the World Health Organization, is when the people using health services are equal partners in planning, developing and monitoring for their own eye care needs. At Seva Canada, we can’t imagine working in any other way – and we never have.

So, what, exactly, are the strategies to achieve People-centered Eye Care?

The first is to engage and empower people and communities. Our staff and partners worldwide understand the eye care needs of their own communities; Seva Canada’s role is simply to support what they are doing.

The first is to engage and empower people and communities. Our staff and partners worldwide understand the eye care needs of their own communities; Seva Canada’s role is simply to support what they are doing.

Through our donors, we support our partners with funding; through our network of research experts we support program development with rigorous monitoring and evaluation; Seva Canada supports ongoing training at every level of eye care - from surgical techniques to outreach strategies. In addition, through dozens of skilled volunteers, we support our staff and partners to do their own program evaluations, fundraising, marketing, report writing, and revenue generation.

Neither new drugs nor technologies are going to eliminate most preventable and treatable blindness – only people can do that. People who understand the needs of a community, who understand population health, and who are willing to accept local solutions to address local eye care needs.

The 2nd strategy, according to the World Health Organization, to achieve People-centered Eye Care, is to reorient eye care to strong primary care.

Seva Canada understands that a well-equipped eye hospital with excellent surgeons can stand almost empty. The only way to get people in for care is to create a strong primary referral network. One of the ways Seva does that is by creating self-sustaining Community Eye Centres in rural areas that can treat, refer and transport patients if more care is needed.

Dr. Simon Arunga CEC Mbarara Uganda

Dr. Simon Arunga and his eye care team at the inauguration of his Community Eye Centre in Mbarara, Uganda

In Uganda, Simon Arunga, an ophthalmologist and entrepreneur has a plan to build self-financing primary eye care facilities in every rural district near his home town…. Funded potentially, by both donors and investors. 

The 3rd strategy for People-centered Eye Care is coordinating services within and across sectors.

Masaai Woman and Fortunate from KCCO photo by Ellen Crystal

A Maasai local eye care advocate with Fortunate from our local partner in Africa, the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology

In Africa, where there are significant shortages of trained personnel, Seva Canada is funding a wide range of training programs – from training Maasai women as local eye care advocates to specialty training of pediatric eye surgeons.

And finally, the 4th strategy is creating an enabling environment.

A network of young, bright researchers in India, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Madagascar, India and Nepal are being coached by Seva Canada to understand the frequency and causes of eye diseases in populations. This information will be integrated into health information systems so governments, where possible, can allocate sufficient financial and human resources toward solutions for preventable and treatable blindness.

All of what I have talked about is Seva Canada’s People-Centered Eye Care. Of course, COVID-19 has made Seva Canada’s innovative and local eye care partners even more important. Despite the added complexity and challenges, our program partners continue to find ways to ensure people get the eye care they need, and deserve.

Despite the added complexity and challenges, our program partners continue to find ways to ensure people get the eye care they need, and deserve.

Thank you for your continued support and generosity!

Sincerely,

Penny Lyons

Exective Director, Seva Canada

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