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Apr 26

Through The Eyes of a Visionary Wonder Woman: A Look At Veronica Ruelas’ Mission of Ambition

vr1Whenever I think of what a real-life Wonder Woman embodies, concepts like bravery, determination, purpose, strength, focus, fearlessness, resilience, selflessness, and adaptation each come to mind. But rarely does any single person exhibit each of these characteristics. Despite those odds, I’m about to introduce you to one who does!

In 2007, Vero Ruelas’ life steered itself in an exciting and unpredictable direction right in front of her own eyes. It was the year she had lost her job and her relationship. It was also the year she embraced her restless soul, in classic Eat, Pray, Love style. Her autumn immersion in that modern memoir of transcendence left her at a personal crossroads, and eventually led her all the way to Machu Picchu by ‘08. Her aim was to take her talent as an optometrist to those who were most desperately in need of eye care, and to tour this magical part of the world with the inspiration of her newly-embraced practice of meditation. This exploration found Vero as part of an eye care missionary team….the catalyst to the founding of her own mission.

Setting Up Shop

When Vero returned to NYC from Machu Picchu, she resumed her yoga and meditation research, with the intention to combine her vocation with her new passion. She just knew her foray into meditation wasn’t going to be a one-off, and longed to learn more. She discovered the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, which has a NYC center, a Catskills location, and many Ashram’s in India. Attending a meditation weekend in the Catskills inspired her to buy a tent and invest in a 6-week intensive training in the Bahamas. This proved a brief stint since, upon the realization that she had the ability to help people “see” (a fateful play on words, indeed), it became clear that the ideal place to offer her services was India. The Himalayan village of Uttarkashi, an ample journey from the capital of Delhi, is the destination that called to her. It is here that her passion for yoga could be fulfilled, along with her mission towards service, for this was home to a Sivananda Ashram and an existing medical care facility where she would be able to set up shop.

All Vero had to do was, well, get there, set it up to see patients, and fund the operation. Simple, right? Not so much. But that’s just what this empathetic Wonder Woman went ahead and did. Her first pilgrimage to Sivananda Ashram entailed manually dragging the maximum weight of possessions allowed up to this high-altitude location. For Vero this did not mean clothing and heels, but eye care equipment, eye medications, and 2,000 pairs of eyeglasses. Needless to say, this was no easy accomplishment.

During this monumental trip to India, Vero’s anxiety was soaring; the US economy had crashed, and her greatest investment—her home, had tanked. She was digesting all this while living in a different culture, where amongst other things, women weren’t allowed to display their ‘bumps’ (In her efforts to train for the 2008 NYC marathon to raise money for this mission, she had to run through the Himalayas dressed in men’s clothing and a baseball cap!). She was also traveling solo all around India sourcing fabrics and beads for Ashram Chic, a yoga and meditation lifestyle company that she created to fund her eye care mission, now named ThirdEyeVision Foundation.

Vero accomplished all this while working long hours tending to hundreds of eye patients, many of whom would embark on as much as a 7-hour walk each way from their homes to receive Vero’s eye treatment. She admits that during this period of her life, she was scared, but was learning to trust her intuition. Meditation played the additional role of allowing her to take a clear look at who she was, keeping her on the path of discovery.

A Selfless Success Story

tevOver the course of 6 years of mission work, Vero admirably realigned her priorities, placing emphasis on the spiritual over the material. She had been compelled by the market crash to shed her layers of possessions, and without the luxury of looking outward for comfort, she managed to find it within. Her service to others helped in this process by rebuilding her spiritual fortune, which now dilutes the need for a financial one. This is where I feel her superpower shines through. Vero may not have x-ray vision, but she does possess a crystal-clear picture of her own vision, which poetically relates to optical vision: helping thousands upon thousands of people to see! And in great strides, this vision is materializing.

Since her first pilgrimage to India, Vero’s one-woman efforts have grown to an entourage that has included 5 surgeons, 3 general volunteers and 3 to 4 optometrist volunteers. She even facilitated bringing Rotary to the Himalayan region in 2011, which turned out to be a HUGE blessing as two natural disasters have occurred in the region since. With Rotary in place, this section of the Himalayans was officially recognized as a part of the organization, and Delhi was prepared to assist.

The clinic is now a year-round operation. Due to Vero’s efforts, numerous individuals have been trained to provide locals with eye care. A new surgical center which meets international standards has been built, and donations have poured in, including a recent one for $300K! In six short years, over 3,000 people have maintained their eyesight thanks to ThirdEyeVision. Vero: We at DRIVEN solute you as a world-class example of a real-life Wonder Woman!

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