Recently, Megan Webber, Co-Founder of KnowTheGlow, had a chance to meet with Ms. Smriti Chadha, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Seva Foundation (www.seva.org). Seva (a Sanskrit word that translates to “selfless service”) is a global non-profit eye care organization working around the world to preserve and restore sight. One of its founders, Dr. Larry Brilliant, worked on eliminating smallpox, and after experiencing the success of eliminating this horrible disease, he and a group of compassionate, dynamic, and innovative individuals (Ram Dass, Dr. Nicole Grasset, and Wavy Gravy – to name a few) turned their energy and efforts towards a new focus – that of eliminating preventable blindness. Smriti explained to Megan that when Seva was founded, the “originals”, who were people from vastly different backgrounds in music, science, medicine, and spirituality, all came together with the expressed purpose of finding a way to give selfless service to the world.
Smriti made it clear that from a communications perspective, Seva’s focus has always been one of building a long-term plan for the future with the ultimate goal of ending avoidable blindness. Seva does not raise funds to simply donate to an eye hospital; they instead work directly with local partners in more than 20 countries and strive to understand the culture of the people and the country, co-creating solutions with the local community that can also be scaled to other locations.. Investing in vision centers can take three years or more, but it helps create a sustainable solution that in the long term allows communities to be able to help themselves and ultimately lift themselves out of poverty. When you help someone regain their sight, you help them go back to work and earn a wage to support their family. Helping one person creates a ripple effect where the entire family benefits because often there is also another family member who has stayed back to take care of the blind relative. Both these people are now able to not only support their families but also contribute to their communities. Megan was so impressed with the work that Seva is doing around the world.
Helene Dameris, Director of Global Outreach for KTG, was curious how Smriti found her way to working with Seva. It is often very inspiring to learn how people turn their passions into careers and how they are often not the most direct or anticipated path. In Smriti’s case, she was raised by a very spiritual father who had taught her to know and value love and kindness above all else. When Smriti was 23 years old, she began reading about Ram Dass. It seemed all new to her reading about how love is more important than how much money you make. When she shared with her father all that she was learning through her reading, he teased her that he had been trying to tell her all of that since she was a baby but he was happy that she had found her way to the very same philosophy that had been at the core of her family all along. She founded a handbag business with her friends and successfully ran it for five years. Smriti was determined to go into social impact work. She went abroad to Oxford for a year to study business and the social impact space and she became even more determined to do something for society at large. She then went on to lead marketing and communications for Startup India, one of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship initiatives. Moving then to the US, after Smriti got married, she began looking for jobs. When she found Seva and discovered that it was co-Founded by the one and only Ram Dass, she could not believe that fate had brought her full circle. When interviewing with Seva’s Executive Director, Ms. Kate Moynihan, the kinetic energy between the two was mutual and Kate said “You’re the perfect fit for this role and organization!”
Megan and Smriti shared ideas on how to spread awareness of Seva’s eye care services to children around the world, noting that children are the entree to the larger family. Smriti expressed how even with COVID-19 closing schools and limiting Seva’s ability to deliver services and screenings through the schools, they were still able to find partners in many of the countries to organize door-to-door screenings. They sometimes even traveled by motorbike but were always able to deliver care safely and efficiently. KnowTheGlow is honored to be shining a light on the enormous impact that Seva is having on avoidable childhood and adult blindness around the world and looks forward to furthering conversations regarding ways KTG can help spread the Seva message to an even broader global audience.