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.
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.
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 Krishnamurthy Muralidharan, Founder and Executive Chairman of SEF (USA). SEF hopes to perform one million free eye surgeries yearly by 2030.
“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.
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.
Speakers who came from India included Dr. Kaushik Murali and Bharath Balasubramaniam, who shared information on the SEF (India) programs.
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.”
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.”