Hometown: Cary, North Carolina
Project: Vivid Vision
Sindhu Ravishankar has been working to improve the lives of impoverished people in India since her freshman year of high school. Her efforts are personal. As a first-generation American, Sindhu has traveled to India many times. It was during those trips that she first witnessed the devastating effects of poverty.
Sindhu became engaged in a wide variety of activities to help impoverished urban populations in the southwest district of Mysore. She designed a project to motivate children living in slums to work hard in school, partnering with a local organization to help kids learn about places and opportunities around the world. Sindhu also created an educational DVD to raise awareness among groups back home in North Carolina.
But her most daring idea was hatched after she saw a Lion's Club video about the inaccessibility of eye care to poor communities in India. This struck a chord with the aspiring doctor. "I learned that lack of vision caused many of the patients to lose jobs, and made it hard for them to take care of their families," Sindhu explained.
Sindhu immediately set to work with the Lion's Club of Gundulpet (a city in Mysore) to organize a free eye clinic. She worked with the Club to secure a donated location, transportation and advertising around the town. Back in her hometown, Sindhu collected eye glasses —hundreds of them. She made late-night phone calls coordinating the details and arrangements for the eye camp with the Lion's Club.
Then she flew to India to bring her dream to life. In the first two days, 945 patients were screened for vision problems, 130 patients received prescription contact lenses, 257 patients had cataract surgery, and two patients had more complicated surgeries — all for no cost. Additionally, Sindhu arranged for the training of local volunteers to assist at the eye camps vision screenings so that the program would be sustainable.
"I saw children who were struggling at school even though they were very bright kids because they couldn't see," said Sindhu. "The eye camps not only allowed them to see again, but had a tremendous impact on the quality of their lives. This experience opened my own eyes and made me much more globally aware."
Never satisfied, Sindhu is ready for her next challenge. She created and screened a DVD about the eye camp to help raise funds for a dental camp she hopes to launch next summer in the same district.