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Danielle  Butin

Danielle Butin

International Activist & Humanitarian


Danielle Butin, MPH, OTR is the Founder and Executive Director of the Afya Foundation, a medical supply recovery organization located in Yonkers, NY. Since its inception in late 2007, Afya has shipped several hundred 40-foot containers packed with recovered humanitarian and medical supplies to more than seventy countries globally. In 2014, the New York State Senate recognized Ms. Butin as a Woman of Distinction for her role in using local medical resources and volunteers to promote global health. In 2017, she was presented with the Woman of Distinction Award from the City of Yonkers. Read More >

The Afya Foundation dedicates itself to the support of on-going health missions worldwide, and is an unstoppable force in the realm of disaster relief. Afya’s prompt and effective response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake provided short-term assistance to acute conditions, and later evolved into a network of rehabilitave medicinal clinics that are still in use. Ms. Butin was honored by the Greater New York Hospital Association for Afya’s comprehensive involvement in Haiti.

The Afya Foundation’s approach to aid is not just swift, but efficacious. In 2017, after a tempestuous hurricane season compromised living conditions throughout the Caribbean, several relief organizations found their efforts stymied by challenging distribution conditions and ineffectual communication. Meanwhile, Ms. Butin, drawing upon her ebullience and knack for human connection, bypassed these frustrating circumstances to address the situation with Afya’s characteristic fervor.

In Puerto Rico, this response was made possible by a direct relationship with local doctors.  Rather than ship containers to highly congested ports, Afya, with the support of generous donors, chartered more than twenty flights to the island. Once there, supplies were passed to doctors, who travelled to even the most rural parts of the island to establish clinics and provide care. Ms. Butin later parlayed this network into a relationship with Puerto Rico’s Prosecuting Attorney, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez Velez, who had established a taskforce to investigate the conditions of nursing homes and assisted care facilities post-Maria. Afya subsequently directed significant attention and resources to the care of elders throughout the island.  In October 2018, the United Hospital Fund awarded Afya a Special Tribute for its work in Puerto Rico.

Afya centers local community and empowerment as the backbone of its work. In its international efforts, Afya takes the lead from doctors and clinics to make sure that patients are receiving care and support tailored to their unique needs. Afya does not operate on a “one-size-fits-all” aid agenda - it rather relies on communication and trust in local leaders to provide custom and comprehensive relief packages. 

In placing community at the forefront of its work, Afya has established several programs to aid people in the New York area. Many such programs draw upon Ms. Butin’s background as an occupational therapist.  In 2010, Ms. Butin was awarded the Eli Lilly Welcome Back Award for Afya’s special pre-vocational programs for at-risk populations, which provide the opportunity for local men and women to work on skill-development at the Afya warehouse with Occupational Therapy students. In 2011, Ms. Butin received the Lamed Vavnik Award from the J-Teen Leadership in New York for Afya’s educational and volunteer programs for high school students, and she is frequently invited to lecture at college campuses to discuss medical waste recovery. Afya provides engagement opportunities to local folks of all ages and backgrounds, to build community at home while supporting health abroad. 

In 2015, Ms. Butin’s leadership role in the Ebola Relief efforts in Sierra Leone was recognized and awarded by Voices of African Mothers and at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. In 2015, she also received the Brava Smart CEO Award. Ms Butin’s story, and Afya’s incredible work, has been featured in Real Simple Magazine, MORE Magazine, Family Circle Magazine, on the Katie Couric Show and on Good Life Project radio.  The Afya foundation has been covered by national sources such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, various initiatives have been highlighted by local news sources.

Before starting the Afya Foundation, Ms. Butin was the Director of Health Services for the East Region of Senior and Retiree Services for United Health Care. In this role, she provided health service leadership for the East Region of the Medicare line of business, which served approximately 300,000 Medicare Members in NY, Ohio and Rhode Island. Prior to her role at United, Ms. Butin was the Manager of the Health Promotion and Wellness Department at Oxford Health Plans, which served approximately 80,000 Medicare members in NY. In the Medicare Division of Oxford Health Plans, Ms. Butin developed a number of innovative health screening, self-management and wellness programs. Ms. Butin has received national recognition and awards for her leadership in the development of health education programs and materials. She served as a board member for the National HMO Workgroup on Care Management for 8 years, and continues to serve on the advisory board for Practice Change Fellows, a grant sponsored mentoring program to develop national leaders in geriatric care.

Ms. Butin received her Masters in Public Health with a specialization in Geriatrics and Gerontology at Columbia University and her B.S. in Occupational Therapy from New York University. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at Columbia University. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

TEDx: When Your Life Calling Calls Afya: There’s Always Another Way

2016 Steinhardt Commencement Speech

Speech Topics

Getting Out of Your Way so You Can Follow Your True Way

No matter how quiet one is, we each have a unique inner voice directing us to lead our best life. When we learn to really listen to it, this voice can cut through the noise of doubt and fear. It can also presents a path to true happiness and purpose. Eleven years ago, downsized by a Fortune 500 company, Danielle took a huge risk and flipped her expected life script by creating a global health organization that today has impacted hundreds of thousands worldwide. Join Danielle on an honest and humorous  journey of trusting the sounds of self and summoning the courage that can ultimately lead to a life that fits and is rich in meaning. Her thought-provoking story will wake up the toughest inner critic and is guaranteed to inspire.

When Those Helped Are Invited to Become The Helpers: Transformative Power of Altruism

By inviting those who often receive care to help others,  Danielle has successfully created a profound program for volunteers with intellectual, processing, and psychiatric disabilities, and for many who are challenged by the circumstances of their lives.  Even those sentenced to probation following a criminal conviction give back in this uniquely designed and powerful program. As an Occupational Therapy Leader and Professor, she brings a lifetime of clinical experience to The Afya Foundation’s Volunteer Program. A global medical relief organization that couldn’t exist without them, Afya’s volunteers learn quickly in this altruistic environment that their lives matter and that they can live with purpose. Every person can make a difference, and at Afya, these volunteers proudly help to save lives all over the world while becoming their best selves. Be inspired by Danielle’s stories of how this investment led to unimaginable self-fulfillment and change in others. Let the success stories of others inspire you to lay down the welcome mat for the often overlooked and ready.

Untaught Lessons in Finding Happiness

What if everything we’ve ever learned about how and where to find happiness is wrong?  What if leaping into the unknown, and seemingly impulsive, is the landing spot where we can actually see what we’ve got? What if it’s there that we find happiness and can feel completely alive? When we stretch and become uncomfortable, what do we discover about ourselves? What version of self is found there? Join Danielle as she leads you through her firsthand experiences of such a leap. From the comfortable predictability of working as medical a professional in a Fortune 500 company to leading an international global health organization and working at disaster sites worldwide, she takes you with her, into the trenches of what was discovered along the way. Learn about finding happiness in life’s surprising corners, and how once it takes hold, it can stay.