Seva Foundation

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Seva Foundation 2018 Logo.jpg
Motto Compassion in Action
Formation 1978 (1978)
Purpose Prevention of blindness.
Headquarters 1786 Fifth Street
  • Berkeley, California, United States
Region served
Executive Director
Kate Moynihan[1]

Seva Foundation is an American non-profit international health organization based in Berkeley, California known for treating blindness. It was co-founded in 1978 by Dr. Larry Brilliant, Ram Dass, Wavy Gravy, Nicole Grasset and Govindappa Venkataswamy. Steve Jobs served as an early adviser and major contributor.

Seva is best known for its work restoring eyesight to over 3 million blind people suffering from cataract blindness in places like Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and throughout sub-Saharan Africa.[2] The foundation also works on health projects in Native American communities throughout the United States.[3] In 2013, Peter Singer wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post that, with $7,500, the Seva Foundation could protect one hundred children from losing vision by treating trachoma and other common causes of blindness.[4]


Seva Foundation, based in Berkeley, California, was founded in 1978 by public health expert Larry Brilliant,[5] spiritual leader Ram Dass and humanitarian activist Wavy Gravy.[6] Other notable co-founders include Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy, founder of the Aravind Eye Foundation, and Nicole Grasset, the senior adviser for the World Health Organization smallpox eradication campaign.[7][8] Steve Jobs also participated as an adviser at early Seva meetings and provided the first significant cash donation along with an Apple II to enter and analyze eye care survey results in the original Nepal program.[9][10]

Vision and mission[edit]

Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service.[6] The Seva Foundation defines its vision as "a world free of blindness".[11] Seva's stated mission is "work with local communities around the world to develop self-sustaining programs that preserve and restore sight."[11]

Sight program[edit]

According to the World Health Organization, as of October 2013, there are 39 million people around the world who are blind and 246 million more with low vision.[12] 80% could see again if they only had access to an eye doctor.[12] Most preventable blindness is caused by cataracts, which can be removed via cataract surgery. The surgical procedure takes around 15 minutes to perform, and the Seva foundation Seva has reduced the cost of cataract surgery to just $50 with the use of high quality low-cost intraocular lenses produced in conjunction with Aurolab, the manufacturing division of the Aravind Eye Hospital[13]

Over the past 35 years, Seva has helped more than 3.5 million people to regain their eyesight.[2] They are active in over 20 countries providing direct services in Tibet, Nepal and Cambodia, and through affiliates such as Vizualiza in Guatemala and the Kilimanjaro Centre for Community Ophthalmology (KCCO) in Tanzania.[14]

Center for Innovation in Eye Care[edit]

The Center for Innovation in Eye Care led by Dr. Suzanne Gilbert is a global action network of eye health organizations and affiliated professionals who seek to reduce needless blindness. The goal of the center is to accelerate development of durable eye care programs that optimize use of human and financial resources in underserved communities.[15] The center works towards accomplishing the goals of the VISION 2020: The Right to Sight initiative laid out in 1999 by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.[16]

Some notable projects include the "So One Million Eyes Can See" Clinton Global Initiative[17] and the AIDS Eye Initiative in partnership with Doctors Without Borders.[18]

American Indian Sight Initiative[edit]

For over thirty years, the Seva Foundation has been partnering with Native American communities on grassroots health projects.[19] Seva's American Indian Sight Initiative builds on this legacy by training the next generation of American Indian eye care professionals.

Gifts of Sight[edit]

An alternative giving program of the Seva Foundation. Gifts range from building a clean water system for a village in Chiapas, Mexico, to giving a sight-restoring surgery to a blind person in rural Tibet. The organization has projects around the world and has the highest possible 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

The "Gifts of Sight" catalog (print and online) has endorsements including Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, counterculture icon Wavy Gravy, singers Odetta, Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, and Bonnie Raitt, to name just a few.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Staff". Seva Foundation. Retrieved July 31, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Sight Program". Seva Foundation. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  3. ^ "American Indian Sight Initiative: Expanding eye care for Native communities". Seva Foundation. Archived from the original on December 26, 2013. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  4. ^ Singer, Peter (December 19, 2013). "Heartwarming causes are nice, but let's give to charity with our heads". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ Strom, Stephanie (January 29, 2011). "Google Finds It Hard to Reinvent Philanthropy". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 4, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "About Seva Foundation". Seva Foundation. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Celebrating 35 Years of Service: Seva Foundation's history of Compassion in Action". Seva Foundation. Archived from the original on January 6, 2014. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Programme d' éradication de la variole dans la République de Djibouti : évaluation de la situation actuelle et exécution des activités de surveillance : 6 novembre-30 décembre 1977 / par Nicole Grasset" (in French). World Health Organization. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Remembering Steve Jobs: The Seva family joins the world in celebrating Steve's life". Seva Foundation. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  10. ^ Wingfield, Nick (November 20, 2013). "A Gift From Steve Jobs Returns Home". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "About Seva". Seva Foundation. Retrieved September 17, 2018. 
  12. ^ a b "Visual impairment and blindness: Fact Sheet N°282: Updated October 2013". World Health Organization. October 2013. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Aurolab". Aravind Eye Care System. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Where We Work". Seva Foundation. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Center for Innovation in Eye Care: Seva Foundation Sight Programs". Seva Foundation. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Vision 2020: The Right to Sight". International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-07-02. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  18. ^ Boyle, Erin L. (August 25, 2008). "Foundation seeks to treat blinding disease linked to HIV/AIDS". Healio. Retrieved December 14, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Native American Community Health Program". Seva Foundation. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 

External links[edit]