Revathy Ramakrishna: On a Mission to Empower the Visually Disadvantaged With Vision Aid

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Revathy Ramakrishna

LEXINGTON, MA–Revathy Ramakrishna serves as the volunteer Vice-President for Vision-Aid, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which she and her husband Ramakrishna Raju co-founded in 2004. Vision-Aid serves the visually impaired by enabling, educating and empowering them to live their lives with independence and dignity.

The non-profit which they started (with the support of many friends and well-wishers in the area), has blossomed into an organization which has offered enablement, rehabilitation and skills training programs for thousands of blind and visually impaired across ten locations in India, besides also running several programs online through the Vision-Aid Online Academy.

Vision-Aid attracts many volunteers and today has over 100 dedicated volunteers in the US and India, in addition to the paid staff at the Vision-Aid centers in India, to support its mission, fund-raising and programs. As the co-founder and a senior executive of the organization, Ms. Ramakrishna is responsible for many aspects ranging from raising funds to mobilizing volunteers, managing key programs, and providing vision, strategy and leadership to keep it growing.

An Electronics engineer and Health Informatics professional by training, Ms. Ramakrishna also works as a Program Manager at Fresenius Medical Care North America, a premier health care company focused on delivering the highest quality care to people with chronic renal conditions. She has been with the company for over 10 years and oversees the Government Reporting and Clinical Informatics program related to specific CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control) government mandated quality and reimbursement initiatives that are aimed at improving the quality of health care and patient outcomes.

Her analytical and technical background, subject matter expertise and communication and collaboration skills help her liaise as effectively with the Medical Office, Clinicians and business team as with the IT and technical teams to build consensus among diverse viewpoints and build high quality systems.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. Ramakrishna:

INDIA NEW ENGLAND NEWS: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Revathy Ramakrishna: As the volunteer Vice-President for Vision-Aid, I feel privileged to serve alongside so many other community leaders and volunteers and be in the front-row seat of this amazing cause which aims to bring independence and dignity to the visually impaired while also creating a more inclusive world for them through our advocacy efforts.

I am very passionate about this cause because I have personally experienced the immense challenges posed by visual disability faced by members of my family and have also seen first-hand how these can be mitigated and overcome, when a supportive environment is provided.

Unfortunately, even today, in developing countries like India, too many people still lack this kind of support and are turned away when their impairment cannot be cured by modern medicine and surgery! What cannot be cured, must be endured! When my husband and I first started Vision-Aid it was a small organization running out of my husband’s home town in Vizag, India, benefiting people in that region. At the present time, it is gratifying to see its more expansive scope. In 2019, Vision-Aid is bringing light into the lives of over 1000 visually impaired in 10 different locations across India each year. Our partners include the Aravind Eye Care system, the largest eye care system in the world, Sankara Netralaya of Chennai, Nethra Blind Schools in Hyderabad and Vizag and other leaders in the field.

Vision-Aid partners with such organizations to offer state-of-the-art vision rehabilitation services to the visually impaired populations they serve – a service which was previously not available.

I am honored to be nominated for the Women of the Year for New England in 2019.  I want to mention that my primary satisfaction in being part of this gala, is not to win recognition for myself but to win recognition for the challenges and accomplishments of visually impaired students in our Vision-Aid movement, and for this cause that I am so passionate about. I sincerely thank you for giving me this platform to share my love for giving back to this segment of the population.

INE: To what charitable, community and professional groups do you belong and why?

RR: I am grateful for my many blessings and have always felt the need to give back in whatever capacity I can and in my own small way, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” as Mahatma Gandhi said.

I served as a Hindi teacher at Shishu Bharathi for 12 years from 1999 through 2011 teaching Grades 4 and 8 and helping students identify with the language through interesting plays, skits and lessons.

Beyond Vision-Aid’s cause itself, I have really enjoyed working with the New England dance community to organize fabulous fund-raisers each year for Vision-Aid. These events have become a wonderful catalyst for dancers from many different schools from all over the region to come together for a cause and produce unforgettable, magnificent shows year upon year.

Apart from serving alongside the wonderful Vision-Aid family for over 15 years, my husband and I also host group meditation sittings at our home (Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka) and support the Sayagyi U Ba Khin Meditation Trust and the work it does to offer free courses on the wonderful technique of Vipassana Medication.

I have also enjoyed being an active member of the Indian Americans of Lexington in the past.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

RR: Music and singing is my passion! Life happens and due to time pressures, singing has taken a back seat but still remains a passion. I am trying to get back to singing through music classes at LearnQuest Academy.

Besides this, I am a very social being and cherish time spent with friends and family! I also love reading and travelling and experiencing the sights and sounds of new places.

I am also deeply concerned about the environment and do my bit to avoid plastics, recycle, reuse, compost and reduce my footprint on this earth and try to convince anyone who will listen about the importance of going green!

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community or your company/organization and professional field?

RR: One of my faults is that I tend to be a workaholic – be it at my day job or at Vision-Aid! At my day job, I am often a Go To person because of my knowledge and problem-solving skills. Besides my contributions there, which I have already outlined earlier, I also volunteer at IAL (Indian Americans of Lexington) as and when time permits.

For the past two years, I have also enjoyed volunteering with the Boston Accessibility Group to organize panel discussions and talks at the Boston Accessibility Conference, an important area event which aims to increase awareness about disability and accessibility.

I firmly believe in and support the work of many other non-profits apart from Vision-Aid and Vipassana Trust. Some of my personal favorites are Feeding America, Operation Smile, Wounded Warriors Family Support, America India Foundation, Udavum Karangal, Ekal Vidyalaya and Saheli.

INE: What is the most pressing issue that you believe women are facing today?

RR: I believe there are not enough women in leadership roles making decisions. Job discrimination and pay inequality still persist and one cannot deny that the glass ceiling still exists and that women have to work harder to prove themselves as capable of senior management positions.

It is also disconcerting to see that in a developed nation like the USA, a woman’s right to choose is still being questioned in the 21st century!

INE: What is your rare talent that people don’t know about?

RR: Not many of my Greater Boston friends and acquaintances are aware that music runs in my blood (my grandmother was a graded AIR artist well into her seventies and my great aunts and aunts are wonderful singers and AIR artists) and that as a youth, I trained classically and sang on AIR, on local Cable Channels and performed regularly in school and college festivals.

INE: What are your favorite books?

RR: My recent favorite is “Infinite Vision” – a wonderful book about the story of Aravind Eye Care Hospital.

So many other good reads that left a lasting impression – Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, Jumpa Lahiri’s Namesake, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth,  Arthur Hailey’s meticulously researched books – Airport, Hotel, In High Places, Final Diagnosis, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels, Jane Austen’s Classics, Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women and the sequels, P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and the list goes on and on…

INE: What are your favorite quotes that motivate you or make you smile?

RR: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” -Mother Teresa

Kabir’s Doha (Couplet) that I try to live by about the sweetness of speech –

“Aisee Vani Boliye, Mun Ka Aapa Khoye, Apna Tan Sheetal Kare, Auran Ko Sukh Hoye”

Kabir’s Doha (Couplet) that tells us that being big, powerful and wealthy is of no consequence, unless one can be a useful and contributing member of society! Kabir likens this to a date tree that is large but that such a tree is not of much use since it does not give shade to a tired traveller and its fruit is out of reach.

“Bada Hua To Kya Hua, Jaise Ped Khajoor Panthi Ko Chaya Nahin, Phal Laage Atidoor”

INE: Who inspires you the most?

RR: My parents have always been a source of inspiration for me! My father, a Metallurgist who retired as an Executive Director of Mecon (Metallurgical Engineering Consultants) and my Mother, a retired English School Teacher from Loreto Convent Ranchi, have always been my role models – simple, hardworking folks with the highest integrity, who have never felt the need to keep up with the Jonses – always happy and content with what they have while trying to better the lives of those who were not as fortunate as them.

My father to this day, personally serves food to the marginalized in the leper colony every month and growing up, I was always inspired to see them regularly serve, feed and clothe children at an orphanage in Ranchi!

I also consider my husband Ram truly my better half – a more calm, collected, equanimous, compassionate and driven yet fun loving person, I am yet to meet! I have grown and matured in his company over the 30 years I have known him.

INE: Who is the one person you would like to meet and why?

RR: I greatly admire Melinda Gates and her role in co-founding the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable organization. The incredible impact they have made “guided by the belief that every life has equal value.”

Their work in the developing countries especially focused on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty and in the United States, to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life, is incredibly inspiring!

INE: What are your core values that you try to live by?

RR: Integrity -Being truthful to oneself and to others.

Gratitude – the antidote to all negativity in the mind.

Service – Do what you can to help and give back. I truly believe that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. Mankind will make great progress towards changing the world for the better as each person recognizes his or her power to light at least one tiny flame! Not all of us may be in a position to do much, but each of us can do a little to help others. And that little is important!

My mother shared this quote with me that made a lasting impression – “If you can care about people, if you can reach people, if you can bind yourself into the fabric of society with a network of relationships that grows stronger and more harmonious with the passing years, then your life will have richness and meaning to the end.”

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