About SEE International

Volunteer Eye Surgeons
Patients Congo DRC
Mother Son Congo DRC

Our Mission

SEE International provides sustainable medical, surgical, and educational services through volunteer ophthalmic surgeons with the objectives of restoring sight and preventing blindness to disadvantaged individuals worldwide.

Over 40 Years of Service



SEE has reached millions of people worldwide since 1974, providing free screenings and services to those who otherwise would not have had the finances or the access to quality eyecare.



Over 40 years, SEE staff and hundreds of volunteer eye surgeons have given sight to thousands of people, transforming the life of the patient, their family, and their entire community.



In many developing countries, blindness is an underlying cause of poverty and hunger. Eye care is largely unavailable, too expensive, or unsafe. SEE Docs provide high quality vision care to all.

What We Do

At the invitation of eye surgeons in developing countries, and with the approval of local health and civic authorities, SEE International recruits, organizes, and deploys numerous small surgical teams worldwide to restore sight to underserved populations. Since being founded in 1974, SEE’s eye surgeons have examined more than 3.8 million patients and performed over 460,000 sight-restoring operations. Interested in becoming a SEE Doc? Click here for more information!

SEE International is the link that connects volunteer ophthalmologists to host clinic sites that are in desperate need of help alleviating the overwhelming numbers of people living in states of blindness, both in Santa Barbara County, California and around the world. SEE International organizes the clinics and provides most of the equipment and supplies that are needed. SEE’s volunteer eye surgeons donate their time and pay for all their own travel expenses. During each clinic (approximately five days long), sight is typically restored to 50 to 200 people. Locally, SEE is the only nonprofit in Santa Barbara County that provides free eye care to uninsured individuals who otherwise may not have access to affordable vision correction.

To make this extraordinary work both far-reaching and sustainable, SEE relies on donors. We have created a network of in-kind donors, including Alcon, Allergan, Johnson & Johnson, and Bausch & Lomb, who donate most of the supplies that are used for the clinics. The remainder of the cost—less than $100 per surgery—is covered by generous individuals and foundations around the world.

 2016 Impact








Our 600+ volunteer ophthalmologists’ desire to make a difference in the world by using their skills and personal financial resources to cure blindness in developing countries inspires us. We support their philanthropic leadership by maintaining working relationships with surgeons around the world, coordinating international clinics, gathering the best medical supplies available, and offering cutting-edge training for cataract surgery.

Angel Patient Mexico

Blindness is an underlying cause of poverty and hunger in developing countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that of the world’s 36 million blind people:

  • 89% live in developing countries
  • More than 75% of the cases are avoidable or treatable
  • Over a third are blind because of cataracts

SEE International’s primary focus is on cataract surgery. This type of surgery is one of the most cost-effective of all health interventions. All it takes is about $100 and a volunteer SEE surgeon can restore the sight of a person who has been blind with cataracts for 5, 10, or even 20 years with a local anesthetic and a 30-minute surgery!



In the developing world, blind people become completely reliant on their friends and family for survival. A blind person cannot care for themselves, let alone provide for their family. When you restore the sight of someone who had been suffering needlessly for years, decades, or even their entire lives, you also give them overwhelming joy when they regain the freedom and independence that blindness stole.


Blindness is an underlying cause of poverty and hunger worldwide. When someone loses their sight, two incomes are often lost – that of the blind person and their caregiver. All too often, sight is the difference between starvation and survival. When you restore someone’s sight at no cost, they can return to contributing to society, free from debt and able to provide for their family and themselves.


Many schools in developing countries are not equipped to teach blind children, and so they may remain at home and not receive an education. Blind and visually impaired children that do attend school are often teased and bullied. Moreover, many sighted children are forced to leave school to act as caregivers for their blind family members. Restoring sight to children and adults truly gives all a brighter future.



Roughly 90% of blind people live in developing countries, where eye care is unavailable, too expensive, or unsafe. SEE International brings trained surgeons and vital medical supplies to areas where they are needed most. SEE also trains eye care providers worldwide in surgical technique to improve not only the quality of care given, but also the effectiveness so that our volunteer surgeons can provide the maximum amount of care on each expedition. Training host surgeons worldwide also increases eye care in-country, and increases sustainability of programs worldwide.

Effective & Efficient

Cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective of all medical interventions. One 30 minute sight-restoring surgery costs less than $100 and can dramatically improve the life of the person who once suffered in blindness. Thanks to the generous donation of medical supplies, and with an operational overhead of less than 2%, you know that your gift goes directly to improving lives.  SEE volunteer surgeons mostly use the MSICS technique, a quick and efficient way for surgeons to remove a cataract without heavy and expensive equipment that is unavailable worldwide in rural areas.

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