by Danielle Butin, CEO & Founder, Afya Foundation
Afya has always made a commitment to seek out and include groups of volunteers who are often excluded from traditional community volunteer placement. At Afya we have always believed that being able to contribute and knowing one is making a difference are amongst the hallmarks of a life with meaning. The prison population is our newest outreach.
Working closely with the Westchester Commissioner’s team over the past 18 months, Afya has been leading weekly virtual satellite sorting sessions with inmates in the Young Offender jail. Just before the pandemic began in March 2020, I presented to inmates (onsite) and asked for their help to sort through the thousands of pounds of supplies needed for shipment abroad. They heard the genuine call to action and everyone felt needed. When Correction Officers asked for a show of hands of those interested in participating, every hand went up. We heard, “When can we start?” “This is great” “How do I volunteer with you when I get out of jail?”….and the list goes on.
Yesterday, I observed our Occupational Therapy students leading a virtual session with inmates. The level of engagement was tremendous, and even through the screen you could feel a shift in the room. Their agency entered. I thanked them for their involvement and shared the deeply held belief that “the highest level of spiritual giving is when we give to or help another we will never know, but because the need exists, we show up.”
The zoom room got very quiet.
OT student: “How does that make you feel?”
A young male inmate: “Like a hero”
Every week, these volunteers experience the implicit magic of helping those they will never know.
In the giving to others, is the giving to self.
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