Reading: From Downsized to Dynamo

Second Acts

From Downsized to Dynamo

We follow up with Danielle Butin, founder of Luggage for Life, which was featured in our last email

by Lesley Jane Seymour

Danielle provides crutches to a boy who lost his leg after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

We have a treat for Covey Club members who read last week’s “One More Thing: Save Lives While You Travel” email, which featured Danielle Butin, founder of the AFYA Foundation. Founder Lesley Jane Seymour sat down with Butin at AFYA’s Westchester, New York, headquarters to learn more about what led Butin to her charitable Second Act.  Check out the video below to watch this informative and inspiring discussion and to see an example of what an iconic orange Luggage for Life bag looks like. (Luggage for Life is AFYA’s project that allows travelers like you to bring unused medical supplies to clinics in need around the world.) Or if you prefer, you can scroll down and read a transcript instead.

LJS: I’m here with my good friend Danielle Butin who you probably saw the email about, talking about Luggage for Life and AFYA. We’re at the AFYA offices, you can tell by all the things that are in the background here. Danielle was somebody who I wrote about a long time ago at More, and she is really the most inspirational person you will ever meet in terms of re-inventing herself. So, Danielle, tell us a little bit about how AFYA came to be.

DB: So I’m an occupational therapist, I have worked in aging for most of my professional career. I worked for managed care, taught at big universities, and then I was downsized.

LJS: Ah, we’ve all been downsized.

DB: Yes, I was downsized and it was a secret gift that I didn’t realize was being delivered to my life at the time. So while in Tanzania in a tent in the Serengeti, I sat in a tent with a woman who is a physician from London [who was] crying, talking about the fact that there were no medical supplies, there were no tools at all to save children who were dying in a clinic where she was volunteering. I like big challenges, I find them interesting—I’ve always been drawn to complexity—and so this was complex.

LJS: And what was the next step for you in terms of getting off the ground, and where did you get funding? Did you fund yourself? Did you raise money like in Silicon Valley, were you one of those seven percent of women who actually gets funding?

DB: I used my severance package and I continued to work part-time, teaching [and] consulting in healthcare. I think people who go full force ahead without having a [financial] bridge to walk on are setting themselves up for failure, fast. So I needed to know that I could make an income while I was establishing AFYA and creating it, and I did that well. Then I came home, I spoke to Ophelia Dahl at Partners in Health—the executive director of that amazing organization in Boston—and said, “I know how to lead, I know how to execute, I know how to have conversations with major hospitals in the United States, I just don’t know how to collect medical supplies.” The Partners in Health folks who work in Haiti tutored me in how to do this work, and then the most beautiful part is that then the earthquake happens in Haiti in 2010, and we were able to respond [immediately] because we were ready and because they [had] trained us so well.

LJS: Do you want to talk briefly about Luggage for Life? In the email about AYFA that the Covey Club [members] have received, it talks about this endeavor which is something everyone can do with that extra 50 pound luggage that you’re allotted when you go abroad — there’s always the opportunity to have that 50 pounds (I travel with one bag only–as we all learned, don’t check anything, right?) and Danielle’s figured out a way to use that shipping for free so you can help save a life.

DB: Yes, Luggage for Life allows people who are on vacation [or] on a medical mission, to bring an extra bag — an orange AFYA bag.  Orange is everywhere in this place, for the African sunset–that’s why we have orange everywhere. And what we do is ask people to pack a bag. Most of the time we find the clinic, or they find the clinic, that the bag is going to and we ask what [the clinic] needs. For anybody going right now, we do a lot of work in Senegal, so anyone that knows anyone that’s going to Senegal, I’d love to hear from them.

LJS: Anybody going to Senegal, call AFYA!

DB: Yes.

LJS: So anyone can go to AFYAfoundation.org, they can call anytime. And you can also sponsor a bag for missions.  Even if you don’t want to take your own bag, you can pay for a bag that people on missions will call AFYA for when something bad happens.

DB: Exactly, thank you!

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