For my last post about AFYA, I thought it was fitting to go to the warehouse in Yonkers. There, I met Danielle Butin, the Founder of AFYA and the volunteers who sort, pack, store and label the myriad of medical equipment and supplies that will be sent to developing countries. In her wisdom, Danielle finds people from different walks of life to take part in AFYA’s mission. Many live in the margins where working at AFYA means giving them a skill, experience and an opportunity to perform community service.
I met Billy, a young adult man who comes from a program called Young Adult Institute which offers programs in work readiness. Volunteering at AFYA twice a week helps Billy acquire the skills needed to stock supplies at his job at CVS. Billy learns how to focus, take direction and talk with co-workers. He feels happy knowing that the work he does at AFYA is helping people who are sick far away, get better.
I next met Manny. Manny was convicted for stealing a half million dollars from his last employer. While waiting to be sentenced, he became quite depressed and attempted suicide. A friend from his job reached out and talked to him about G-d. The next day, his friend brought him to his church. Soon his faith increased and he began going to church each week. Instead of going to jail, the judge gave him probation and 1500 hours of community service over 5 years. He spends this at AFYA.
Manny’s probation officer introduced him to Danielle and AFYA. The coincidences in Manny’s story has enabled him to transform from a person who had no hope to a person who feels grateful and blessed. Manny is from the Dominican Republic and understands that AFYA is helping those who are like the people from his country. Now in his third year of his community service, Manny thinks he will be at AFYA for a long time. He knows there is a reason why he is at AFYA and believes this is G-d’s purpose.
AFYA’s volunteers also includes students from high schools and colleges who are interested in community service. They have AFYA clubs to organize volunteer events and promote the “Luggage For Life”program, where families can bring medical supplies when they go on vacation to developing countries.
Lastly, I met a group of Occupational Therapy Students. Danielle, whose background is in OT, supervises them. These students pointed to the sign on the wall, “You First, Work Second.” This is their mantra to teach the volunteers who are under their charge. This may include healthy work habits, stress management, social skills and listening skills. The students explained that they have a holistic focus to help the volunteers achieve a balance of mind, body and soul.
Danielle Butin built AFYA on this OT model and holistic approach where the medical supplies that are rescued are re-purposed and used. The volunteers gain experience and help save lives. Everyone involved, from those receiving aid to those giving, is rewarded. Danielle is inspiring and is inspired.