Danielle’s Stepping Stones to Afya

01_tjallan_butin_10-15-12_fxThe Stepping Stones

• In the summer of 2007, Danielle Butin, an occupational therapist on vacation in Tanzania, had an epiphany while talking with doctors on medical missions who could not do their work because of a dire lack of basic medical supplies.

• Returning to New York, she founded the Afya Foundation, named for the KiSwahili word for health. Its goal: to collect unwanted medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and ship them to African nations and other places with great need.

• Beginning a long-term association with Dr. Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health, Danielle began gathering items and storing them first in her garage, then in a series of ever larger warehouses in Yonkers, NY. Afya shipped its first container to Haiti in early 2008.

• The work attracted volunteers with a wide variety of backgrounds. Danielle’s Occupational Therapy training and strong belief in the healing power of altruism led her to solicit at risk populations as volunteers in the warehouse.

• A massive earthquake hit Haiti in January 2010 and Afya became a crisis center, sending some of the first supplies via airplane and shipping container. More volunteers poured in.

• Afya set up rehabilitation clinics in several Haitian hospitals and displaced person’s camps and has trained nine Haitian rehab techs and eight adaptive builders who build and adapt furniture and equipment according to the needs of the patients.

• In NY, internship programs were developed for graduate and undergraduate students in occupational therapy and global health. Additionally, Afya welcomed young leaders (middle and high school) with an interest in honing their skills and applying them to the world of altruism.

• A maternal health initiative was started involving the creation of birth kits for African Traditional Birth Attendants.

• Natural disasters struck–the tsunami in Japan, the typhoon in the Philippines, Hurricane Sandy in New York, oil spill in Virginia and Ebola outbreak in West Africa—and Afya responded quickly and efficiently.

• Afya’s list of partners at home and abroad continues to grow. The majority of hospitals in the greater New York area donate, and these supplies are shipped to 56 countries. Some 2500 volunteers log in over 20,000 hours annually. Afya’s view of supplies necessary for medical care has become increasingly holistic and collections also include complementary humanitarian supplies.