By Stephen E. Lipken
Over 200 teens from Bronxville, Byram Hills, Chappaqua, Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye, Scarsdale, White Plains and outlying communities came together at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale on Monday, January 16 as part of an interfaith Martin Luther King weekend effort. The participants sorted and packed humanitarian supplies for Syrian refugees in Iraq thanks to a generous grant from UJA-Federation of New York in connection with its “Time for Good” initiative, partnering with Afya Foundation, J-Teen Leadership and Westchester County Youth Council.
“I am the founder and Executive Director of the Afya Foundation (Swahili, “Good Health”). The website is afyafoundation.org,” Danielle Butin stated. “We rescue medical supplies, equipment and durable medical furniture from hospitals in the Northeast, nursing homes and medical centers…
“We grant wishes to health centers in Africa, Caribbean and worldwide disasters… To date we have shipped over 7 million pounds of supplies worldwide. The organization started in 2008 and we have over 2500 volunteers working with us…”
Dr. Georgette Bennett, President, Tanenbaum Center for Religious Understanding and founder of Multifaith Alliance in 2013 said that she was a child of Holocaust survivors and was a refugee herself.
“As of now there are 60 million displaced persons in the world. Why should we be focusing on Syrians when we have so many refugees from the Sudan, Afghanistan, Nigeria…Syrians make up 25% of that 60 million…, 13 ½ million Syrians in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Six million of those are children.
“Why do we have a difficult time to convincing people to resettle refugees? It is because of three great fears…1) Fear of economic impact, which contradicts everything we have seen about Syrian refugees who seem to be a very successful, educated population; 2) Fear of terrorism. But the odds of being killed by your next door neighbor are hundreds of times more; 3) Fear of being overrun by Muslims. Yet we know in the U.S. that Muslims integrate very quickly and have fairly progressive values…,” Bennett concluded.
AJC Westchester/Fairfield was also a co-sponsor of the effort. They helped organize donations of the humanitarian supplies.
When the speakers finished, students packed up penlights, rain boots, grooming kits, baby blankets/hats, toiletries and office/school supplies. The J-Teen Leadership Planning Committee was led by co-chairs Ethan Afran, 11th grade at Scarsdale High School, Jordyn Glantz, 12th grade Horace Greeley High School, Aaron Hersch, 12th grade Scarsdale High School and Hannah Malter, 12th grade, Byram Hills High School.
J Teen Leadership is dedicated to empowering and inspiring teens so they can contribute to their community and the world today. J Teen Leadership provides a platform for teens to develop a collective voice, address issues confronting society, connect to one another and be change agents in repairing the world.
Westchester County Youth Council is a teen directed, adult supported, multi-issue youth advocacy program with a mission to empower teens to become critical thinkers, engaged citizens and an active voice and sounding board for important issues throughout Westchester County.