By Stephen E. Lipken
Over 200 UJA-Federation of New York J-Teens and other young volunteers converged on Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, on Monday, January 20, for the Martin Luther King Day interfaith teen volunteer event, packaging 5,000 pounds of surplus medical supplies serving 100,000 people and writing 100 letters to elected officials from all levels. The event was partnered by AJC Westchester/Fairfield; J-Teen Leadership; UJA-Federation of New York; Afya Foundation (Swahili, “health”) and Westchester County Youth Council.
Elected officials observing the activity included NYS Senator Shelley Mayer; NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin.
“Today’s activity is one of 60 events happening across New York, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, New York City, Manhattan, Westchester and Long Island,” Adina Frydman, UJA- Federation Executive Director of Community Services noted. “We are mobilizing close to 6,000 volunteers from the Jewish community and beyond to honor Martin Luther King’s legacy.”
“I am the founder and CEO of the Afya Foundation,” Danielle Butin stated. “Afya has done an enormous amount of work in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. We have long term partnerships with the Department of Justice Elder Task Force on the island with a great social service agency, Accion Social (Social Action).
“When this earthquake swarm began weeks ago; it is not one or two major earthquakes with aftershocks, it is truly swarms. People feel earthquakes day and night. They are traumatized. You even feel the earthquakes as north as San Juan.
Butin added that they were investigating tents for schools, since many school buildings had totally collapsed. “Whether elders are living on plots of grass or under bushes, since some of their stilt-houses have collapsed, Accion Social will see that they get the medical supplies they need,” Butin concluded.
Volunteers wore color-keyed tee shirts: White for J-Teen Leadership; Purple, for UJA volunteers in general; Afya in orange, “the color of the African sunset,” according to Butin.