Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the eradication of curable blindness in India. SEF was founded in 1998 in the Bay Area by K. Muralidharan, K. Sridharan and Ahmad Khushnood. With over 300 volunteers, SEF covers several cities in the US.
Q. What is SEF’s Goal?
SEF’s goal is to bring vision 20/20 to the economically disadvantaged people all over India who suffer from curable blindness.
Q. How big is the problem in India?
Over 45M people in India suffer from some form of visual handicap. Over 12M are blind that is 1/4th of the world’s blind! These are incredibly large numbers and SEF’s bold vision is to work towards eradicating this problem by building 20 super specialty eye care hospitals across India providing free eye care to the needy.
Q. What is curable blindness?
Typically (and fortunately), most people suffer from eye problems such as Cataract or Glaucoma which can be treated effectively. Unfortunately, in many parts of rural India, people do not know that this is curable nor do they have the resources available to get proper and timely medical attention. More than 80 percent of the blindness in India is curable.
Q. What is your strategy to achieve that goal?
SEF’s strategy involves strengthening and expanding our already outstanding Outreach Program to all parts of India. As part of the rural outreach program, SEF plans to build at least 20 base hospitals across India.
Q. What is Rural Outreach Program?
Rural outreach implies “going to the economically disadvantaged people in rural areas who need the care and education” instead of waiting for them to come to a hospital or medical institution for eye care.
Q. How does SEF deploy its funds in India?
SEF works with its sister organization Sankara Eye Care Institutions (SECI) in India to drive our mission. SECI operates under the Kanchi Kamakoti Medical Trust.
Q. Who is SECI?
SECI is our sister organization and part of the larger trust called the Kanchi Kamakoti Medical Trust. This trust operates under the auspices of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt under the guidance of the acharyas.
Q. Who founded SECI?
SECI was founded in 1977 by Dr. Ramani and his wife Dr. Radha Ramani in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.
Q. Are there other institutions doing such work?
India is very fortunate in that many institutions are helping eradicate curable blindness. However, the problem in India, which has an estimated 45M people with curable blindness, requires a lot more work to solve this problem.
Q. By the way, why are you focused on eye care when there are other more pressing things such as hunger, basic shelter and education…
We recognize there are several ways people can contribute to bettering the lives of economically disadvantaged people in India. There are several wonderful charitable organizations working on these causes as well. We believe that given the seriousness of the problem and the opportunity of putting people back to work and on their way to independent living is very meaningful to the community. And of course, the ability to observe the impact within a meaningful amount of time is an added bonus!
Q. How many surgeries have you performed since inception?
As of March 1, 2013:
- 15094 camps conducted
- 1,000,325 free surgeries performed
- 2,737,096 patients screened
Q. How many Hospitals do you support?
SEF supports following Hospitals
1.Sankara Eye Center, Coimbatore, T.N, Mission Headquarters (Estd 1977)
2.Sankara Eye Hospital, Guntur, A.P, inaugurated in Mar 2004.
3.Sankara Eye Hospital, Krishnankoil, T.N, donated to us in 2004
4.Sankara Eye Hospital, Bangalore, Karnataka; Inaugurated in Mar 2008
5.Silvassa, Dadar Nagar Haveli; joined Sankara family in 2008
6.Sankara Eye Hospital, Shimoga, Karnataka; inaugurated Oct 2008
7.Sankara Eye Hospital, Anand, Gujarat; inaugurated Oct 2008
8.Sankara Eye Hospital, Punjab; inaugurated Mar 2012
9.Sankara Eye Hospital, Uttar Pradesh; expected to be inaugurated in 2014
Q. How often do you conduct rural eye camps?
Several camps every week!!! Not a single week has gone by without an eye camp.
Q. How can SEF continue to support so many Hospitals in future?
As part of our replication model, every SEF Hospital is expected to become financially self-sufficient in 3 to 5 years after inception.
Q. What is the approach to achieve self-sufficiency?
All our Hospitals will provide the advanced and highest quality eye care to attract paying patients also. With a Free-vs.-Paid patient ratio of 70:30 (may vary slightly from state to state), we believe every Sankara Hospital will attain self-sufficiency within 3 to 5 years. The Coimbatore hospital recently started doing Lasik surgery for vision correction which is a good source of revenue. The Guntur Hospital is well on its way to attaining self-sufficiency.
Q. Can you help me with the options to contribute?
You can donate for Capital Funds for the construction and update of various hospitals: Guntur, Bangalore, Shimoga, Anand and Punjab. Now we are also collecting funds for Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan – our next new projects.
Our popular option is the Wall-of-Founder: Donate $1000 towards the construction of a Hospital of your choice and become a founding donor with your name or that of your loved one inscribed at the Hospital forever.
We also have sponsorships at higher levels (room, ward, Operation Theater etc), if you are interested we will have our Project coordinator talk to you or visit our website for more information. For the hospitals already inaugurated, we are raising funds for camps.
We also collect funds for surgeries $30 for a cataract surgery and provide a monthly donation program – Open an Eye a Month with a $30 donation per month. All donations to SEF are tax deductible in the U.S. In many instances, your employer would match your charitable contribution; we can help you find out. Of course, we will gladly accept any amount you choose to donate.
Q. Can I choose the Hospital where my donation should go to?
You can choose to donate for specific hospital construction projects – Please check our website for latest opportunities. But if donating for surgeries, we leave it to the Hospitals in India to use the funds where they are needed the most.
Q. How can I contribute to the construction of new SEF Hospital?
You can donate towards a Ward, Room, and recognition on the “Wall of Founders” at the new Hospital. For hospitals beyond Rajasthan, we also need support in acquiring the land. You can also volunteer to further this cause.
Q. How much can I contribute for hospital construction?
Any amount will go a long way in helping our cause.
Following are some of the examples you can contribute towards
- $1,000, $5000, $10,000 Wall of Founders
- $20,000 + Rooms
- $100,000 Patient Wards
Please check the website for more details or call 1-866 Sankara
Q. Do you have monthly-donation programs?
Open an eye a month with $30/month. You also have the option to signup for automatic monthly direct-debit from your checking-account. Of course, you can signup to donate any amount - either towards surgery or new Hospital construction – on monthly basis.
Q. Will I get a receipt for my contribution?
Every donation, regardless of the amount, will be acknowledged with a receipt by mail, in about 3 to 4 weeks. For surgical donations, we also send the donors a certificate with information about date of surgery and the name of the needy patient, the beneficiary.
Q. How can I become a volunteer?
SEF primarily depends on volunteering efforts – so we need a lot of volunteers. There are many exciting areas to help with. Please leave your contact telephone number, email and a convenient time to contact. A representative from our Volunteer Resources team will get in touch with you soon. You can also contact us 1-866-SANKARA.