June 15, 2021 marks Vision-Aid’s 17th birthday. Vision-Aid started its journey 17 years ago, on June 15th, 2004 with its humble beginnings in Vizag with just one small center with 2 rooms
This first center operated from the then house of Mr. M.S.Raju who joined hands with his son Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju and Revathy Ramakrishna to open up the center in his own house by giving up the two rooms on the Ground Floor. One room was used for Low Vision Screening and another was used for Rehabilitation programs. All the founding members worked then, as they do today, as unpaid volunteers, because they believe passionately in the cause and derive immense satisfaction from the positive impact it is having on the lives of the visually impaired.
The total staff size at the starting was effectively 1.5 persons – one part-time Optometrist doing low vision services, one part-time trainer handling rehabilitation programs and one part-time manager taking care of all the administrative duties. Even these paid staff drew very nominal stipends, and put in their immense time and dedication because they were also motivated by the service mission of the organization. This was the first low vision center not only in Vizag but in all of what is currently the state of Andhra Pradesh. The nearest well-established low vision center was in the LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, which was an overnight journey by train, from Vizag. So the center quickly drew the attention of many local eye clinics and hospitals who were looking for such a service, and referrals of patients started flowing in.
This small center effectively served the needs of a large region with many visually impaired adults and children coming from all over the region including surrounding rural areas and towns, and just by organic reach began serving patients coming from as far as the neighboring state of Orissa.
The center was also the first computer training center for the Visually Impaired in the region and became known for its quality computer training programs which could equip the visually impaired to become computer literate.
From those humble beginnings, Vision-Aid has come a long way. Today, Vision-Aid is a an internationally respected service organization, serving thousands of visually impaired persons across a broad network of resource centers in India, and works in partnership with some of the most respected national organizations including the Aravind Eye Hospital (Madurai), the L.V.Prasad Eye Institute (Hyderabad), Sankara Nethralaya (Chennai), Shroff Charity Eye Hospital (Delhi), Community Eye Care Foundation (Pune), Voluntary Health Services (Chennai) and many others. By the end of 2021, Vision-Aid programs will be running in over 20 locations across India. The Vision-Aid staff base is also continually expanding with a broad base of talent, to meet the growing needs.
Today, in addition to the original founders Ramakrishna (Ram) Raju and Revathy Ramakrishna, the leadership team in both India and the US has a stellar constellation of leaders. The US organization is headed by Chairman Mr. Puran Dang, President Mr. Lalit Sudan and over 30 talented board members. The India organization is headed by Mr. M.S.Raju Chairman, Dr. Col. M.Sitaram, President, Mr. V.L.Narasimhan Member Secretary and Mr. Vijay Francis, Program Director.
Despite its rapid growth the organization still preserves its core values of service and volunteerism at all levels, and its commitment to the mission of enabling, educating, and empowering the visually impaired to live with independence and dignity. The journey has just begun and Vision-Aid is still taking very early steps in its grand vision of creating a resource center for the visually impaired in every under-served location!