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Milpitas, CA – Bay Area volunteers organized the Sankara Eye Foundation’s (SEF) Annual Banquet on Sunday, November 13 , at the India Community Center, with the goal of raising $1 million dollars.

Six hundred thousand dollars were raised, but that number fell short of the $1M mark that organizers hoped for, despite a fundraising auction hosted by long-time SEF (USA) ally Erin Ward.

Ritesh Tandon puts on his name tag while two other guests do the same at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Honoring Donors

Major donors from previous years were honored with a plaque, and included Drs. Subha and Yeturu Aahlad and Facebook Vice President Santosh Janardhan and his wife Purvi.

Purvi and Santosh Janardhan are honored for their previous donations to Sankara Eye Foundation by Dr. R.V. Ramani with Murali Krishnamurthy (left) at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Guests raise their placards to make fundraising bids at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

The first eye clinic, established in 1977 in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, evolved into the non-profit foundation SEF (India )and SEF (USA), which focus on eradicating curable blindness in India, particularly in the rural areas. 

This year alone, SEF (India) performed over 300,000 free eye surgeries, said Murali Krishnamurthy, Founder and Executive Chairman of SEF (USA.) SEF hopes to perform one million free eye surgeries yearly by 2030.

Murali Krishnamurthy, Founder and Executive Chairman of SEF, USA, speaks at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

“The surgery is very simple,” explained SEF Board Member Sundar Radhakrishnan. “It’s not a medical problem. It takes 10 minutes, 15 minutes, for our experienced Sankara surgeons to do a surgery.”

However, outreach into the community poses a challenge. “We have to reach out to the poor and actually deliver the service,” said Radhakrishnan.

SEF Board Member Sundar Radhakrishnan speaks at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Musician Geetesh Iyer, a 2010 Indian Idol finalist and winner of Voice of Tamil Nadu 2012, kicked off festivities with his band, singing Maha Ganapathim, followed by the Kishore Kumar hit Ek Chatur Naar Karke Sringar from the movie Padosan.

Musician Geetesh Iyer performs at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Speakers who came from India included Dr. Kaushik Murali and Bharath Balasubramaniam, who shared information on the SEF (India) programs.

Dr. Kaushik Murali speaks at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Bharath Balasubramaniam (right) receives technical help before his speech at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Chief Guest Dr. R.V. Ramani, a 2019 Padma Shri Awardee and the Founder and Managing Trustee of SEF (India), also flew in from India. He acknowledged that SEF’s journey from its start 40 years ago, to its current ventures building hospitals in Hyderabad and Varanasi, was possible only because of the generosity of donors.

“It has been a long journey with all of you, my dear friends, we have enjoyed the journey. We have enjoyed the challenge.” 

Dr. R.V. Ramani speaks at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
A guest raises his placard to make a fundraising bid at Sankara Eye Foundation’s Annual Banquet at the India Community Center in Milpitas, Calif. on Nov. 13, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

As volunteers tallied up the donations, Murali Krishnamurthy’s words from his speech resounded in the air.

“This is your charity,” he said. “You have grown this, you have sown the seeds.”

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy is a writer, photographer and disability advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a 2022 CatchLight Local Fellow and part of the California Local Visual Desk program. Sree also...