The word seva means "selfless service" in Sanskrit, and the venerable Berkeley, California, nonprofit lives up to its name: In 2008 the Seva Foundation will celebrate 30 years of fighting preventable blindness and poverty around the world. But this anniversary won't mean a break for its dedicated staff and volunteers; instead, they will celebrate by reinvigorating programs and re-energizing fundraising efforts.
The foundation—started by philanthropist Larry Brilliant (who helped eradicate smallpox), '60s peace activist Wavy Gravy, and Be Here Now author Ram Dass—is best known for bringing eye care, including cataract surgery, glasses, and routine eye exams, to more than 2 million people in developing countries. Its work began in the Himalayas and originally was run by volunteers. Seva is now training health workers in Central America as well as providing nutrition, gardening, and farming assistance to Native American tribes in the U.S. to help combat diabetes. Future plans include building ophthalmology centers in Tanzania and Cambodia.
You can support Seva's projects as an alternative to traditional gift giving. When you donate in the name of a friend, he or she receives a beautiful card in the mail and a message that indicates that a person's vision is being restored or a Native American tribe is relearning to grow its traditional foods.
"Here's an opportunity to give and receive," says Seva executive director Mark Lancaster, "and, in the process, make the world the kind of place that you want your kids to inherit."
For more information, visit seva.org.