Sankara Eye Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that helps drive community eye care activities in India, where 12 million people are legally blind. Partnering with Sankara Eye Care Institutions, the organization helps operate and manage eight eye care hospitals throughout India. Hightail helps Sankara volunteers share marketing collateral around the world, so the organization can raise funds and help more people see the world around them.
What they do: Help eradicate curable blindness by performing eye surgeries throughout India.
No. of volunteers: 200+
“We were scared to start.”
In 1996, K. Sridharan (“call me Sri”, he says) had the same excuses as everyone else. Life was hectic. He didn’t have time. But his late uncle kept calling him from India, talking about his volunteer work at an organization called Sankara Eye Care Institutions (SECI) that helps doctors perform free eye surgeries in rural India.
“He told my brother and me, ‘You guys are sitting in the U.S., you have to do something.’”
On a business trip to India in 1997, Sri visited one of those eye care hospitals. He was impressed.
“The attention to detail and care was amazing,” he says. “The staff looked after patients like their own family. ”
More than 45 million people in India suffer from some form of visual handicap and 12 million of those are medically blind. SECI’s rural outreach program screens potential patients for what they call, “curable blindness,” usually in the form of cataracts or glaucoma. In rural India, most people don’t know these problems are curable, and if they do, they don’t have the resources to get proper medical attention.
If SECI decides that a person can benefit from the surgery, they transport the patient to one of their hospitals for three days. Doctors educate the patient on basic hygiene, like the importance of washing their hands after using the bathroom. On the second day, they perform the eye surgery and on the third day, take the patient home.
More than 80 percent of the blindness in India is curable and as Sri acknowledges, “Eyesight can be given back in just one hour, but it changes lives forever.”
He knew he had to make time for this organization. After returning to the Bay Area, Sri, his brother and their friend founded Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF). Since 1998, the nonprofit has played a significant role in increasing the number of free eye surgeries all over India. With their India-based partner, SECI, the organization has helped drive eye care initiatives at eight hospitals in India through fundraising events, advertising and working with major donors.
With more than 200 volunteers worldwide, SEF needed an effective way to coordinate its fundraising and marketing initiatives.
“We have designers in L.A., volunteers in Seattle, someone shooting video in Chennai,” Sri explains. “We’re sharing brochures, photos, and other marketing collateral between volunteers, but we didn’t have an easy and secure way to share those files. When we started using Hightail, our problems were solved.”
Today, Sankara uses Hightail as a central repository to store data, photos and videos from all eight hospitals in India. When the team is working on a marketing campaign with an outside vendor, they share print designs, videos and TV ads through Hightail.
So far, SEF has helped pay for more than one million free surgeries, but Sri says they have even more work to do.
“Hightail has made us more productive and therefore effective,” says Sri. “The more we can do, the more people we can help enjoy healthier and happier lives.”