Westchester County Correction’s Has New Program

WESTCHESTER – Program in partnership with Afya enables incarcerated individuals to give back to the community.

As part of their robust rehabilitation program system, the Westchester County Department of Correction (WCDOC) is offering incarcerated individuals the opportunity “to give back to the community.” This unique opportunity is the result of a partnership with Afya, a not for profit organization that helps global communities in need of medical supplies. Afya which means “health” or ‘wellness” in Swahili works with a regional network of medical supply donors and volunteers to meet immediate humanitarian needs in areas devastated by natural disaster or public health crises. DOC residents participating in this volunteer program are virtually taught to customize packages of surplus medical supplies that are then shipped by Afya to global communities in need.

Corrections Commissioner, Joseph K. Spano said, “Our agency recognizes the connection between volunteering to help those in need and personal growth. Helping and working with others can impact a person’s sense of purpose, and overall outlook on their life or future goals. Developing strong community partnerships such as this one is an important part of our progressive rehabilitation and reentry strategies.”

Thru educational programs, life skill groups and opportunities to serve such as this one, WCDOC aims to support and encourage personal growth and behavioral change in the population they serve. First Deputy Commissioner Nory Padilla stated that “Participation in this program has various benefits to our population, it encourage self-growth and behavioral change via the profound effect that results from working with and helping others when you give back to the community. It also educates our residents about the evolving needs of healthcare in communities around the world.”

Preparing the medical supplies packages takes place once a week at WCDOC. Participating residents meet with Afya representatives who provide instructions and guidance to ensure the work is carried out effectively. The completed medical supply packages are then shipped to all areas of the world such as Cuba, Ghana, Haiti, US Virgin Islands, Ukraine and more recently to Afghanistan refugee receiving centers in New Jersey. When asked about their experience in the program one of the volunteer DOC residents stated “This program makes me feel better as a person. It feels good to know that despite my confinement I can still help communities and people in need.” Another volunteer echoed that sentiment and stated “Being in this program gave me a different outlook on life. I did not really understand what countries in need actually needed until this program. To be able to give back feels fulfilling…we can go to sleep thinking, Wow I really just helped so many people.”

WCDOC’s goal is to improve the cognitive, social, and lifelong learning of those incarcerated in the facility. Residents participating in the Afya program are encouraged and welcomed to continue to volunteer at the Afya foundation upon release. Daniele Butin, the founder and CEO of Afya stated that, “We are honored to partner with the Westchester County Department of Correction. Altruism and the opportunity to help are transformative and in the giving to others is the giving to self. By sorting and packing medical supplies for shipment, they are helping us to make a difference in the lives of many!”

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