Dr Pararajasegaram, or Para as he was fondly known by colleagues and friends, was elected to the Sightsavers board as a trustee in 2009. He served on the board for eight years, bringing his extensive ophthalmic skills, knowledge and programmatic expertise to the organisation. He retired from the board in July 2017 and was then appointed as an honorary vice-president.
Ramachandra Pararajasegaram was a Sri Lankan ophthalmologist who trained in his home country and then at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London. He became an influential supporter of many eye care programmes and organisations around the world. One of his earliest roles was working as a volunteer consultant for Sightsavers in Northern Ghana in 1976. This was followed by a series of community assignments and WHO consultancies in Australia, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal.
Lady Jean Wilson OBE, vice-president of Sightsavers and widow of founder Sir John Wilson, said: “I have such fond memories of Para – he worked closely with my husband John for many years – so many I can barely remember working without him. He was a dear friend to both of us and played an immense role in bringing ophthalmic services to people in developing countries – he was often called the ‘Father of Community Ophthalmology’. Such a sad loss.”
Sightsavers’ CEO Dr Caroline Harper added: “I have known Para for the whole time I have been CEO of Sightsavers – over 15 years now. He was an absolute legend in the sector and made perhaps the biggest contribution of anyone to community ophthalmology. I was so pleased and proud when he agreed to be a trustee of Sightsavers, especially given the historic connection with Sir John and Jean. His legacy will live on in our work and in the work of so many other organisations across the world.”
Dr Pararajasegaram also served as a regional adviser for prevention of blindness at the WHO Regional Office for South East Asia and thereafter was attached to the Prevention of Blindness Programme at WHO headquarters in Geneva until 2004. In the same year he presented the John Wilson lecture at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) general assembly.
A founding member of the IAPB, along with Sir John, Dr Pararajasegaram served in various capacities in the agency and as its president from 1994 to 1999. He played a key role in launching the global initiative VISION 2020, which has made a huge difference to global eye health.
Sightsavers has partnered with the Fred Hollows Foundation and PlenOptika to pilot a new vision care strategy that aims to revolutionise eye care worldwide.
Sightsavers began working in Kenya in 1952, when blindness affected up to 7% of rural Kenyans.
Sightsavers has been awarded $16.9 million to continue and expand its deworming work, after a funding recommendation from US charity evaluator GiveWell.