Action is the antidote to trauma

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

Amputation surgical kits.

Chemical protection respirators.

These are some of the items that doctors in Ukraine are asking us for.  These, and many, many more. Items you would never want to see on a medical supply request list are coming in. It harkens back to the time of Ebola in West Africa, when we were asked for thousands of body bags. Ukraine is asking for these supplies in enormous quantities. 

Fourteen years into Afya’s life, here’s what I have learned, action is the antidote to trauma. When flooded, everyone needs to find a way to act and this is where we show up. Afya offers a world of people an opportunity to use their voice, ingenuity, resourcefulness and donations towards massive good. There is no recipe for how one can be an agent of change, you simply put your faith in your own agency as a compass. At Afya, we aim to help people live through and survive a medical crisis. We become the surgical assistant, for thousands of patients we will never know. 

Yes, the light finds its way through the cracks.  We see this every single day. Yesterday, a couple from Ukraine entered our warehouse (pictured above). They were ballroom dance world champions back home, and now they own and run a Fred Astaire dance studio in Sleepy Hollow. They sponsored a fundraiser in their community and raised $8200. With family back home, and a frail mother in her 90s, tears and stories followed. I offered to give them a tour, to invite them to the light that was finding its way in. To be in it, with us. 

They witnessed a room filled with volunteers listening to music, feverishly working to help their country, their family. Hope entered desperation. Action soothed trauma.

They met Valentyna, our amazing volunteer from Ukraine, packing med/surgical bags for 20 NY Rabbis heading to Lviv this weekend. They will deliver these bags of medical supplies. The three of them spoke to each other in the language of home, and each found solace in their collective need to help.

Last night, we hosted a large sort with over 60 teens from the Moise Asher Center in NYC. The teens sorted and were activated. Talking about what they could do, how they could help, what their contribution could potentially be. It was remarkable. There, their agency was alive and well.

At the end of the evening, Beth Stevens, our board chair, and I went to grab sushi at X2O. An amazing restaurant that provided solace during many months of relief work after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.  After long hours of packing, filthy and tired, our team would walk into X20 late at night and they cared for us. Poured wine and fed us lovingly. At the time,  a Haitian waiter named Jean worked in the restaurant. I would often run into X2O, uninvited, throwing my phone at him begging for an urgently needed Creole translation.  

Fast forward. Last night, I asked for Jean and heard that he hadn’t been there for years. He went on to work for a country club in Rockland County. All of a sudden, I feel a tap on my shoulder and hear (in English with a creole accent), “you need to get up and give me a hug”. And there was Jean, who was dining with colleagues at the restaurant.  Hands down, the longest hug I have ever given or received. 

The world of goodness keeps circling back.

-Danielle Butin

Founder & CEO, Afya Foundation

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