Robina Niaz fled an abusive marriage only to find a dearth of resources for Muslim women. In 2004, she founded Queens-based Turning Point for Women and Families, which helps women escaping violence and advocates for their rights. Recently, a Bangladeshi teenager fled to New York on a visa, escaping an arranged marriage to an older man. She found Turning Points and now herself counsels women on the dangers of domestic violence. “She has evolved so much in less than a year,” Niaz said.
Nonagenarian Ruth Kopf has logged more than 27,000 hours of community service in her home borough of Staten Island. For more than 26 years, she’s delivered meals and tackled office duties for Meals on Wheels, and the 91-year-old has no plans to stop soon. She’s also trained and supervised other volunteers and helps find new ones through the yearly membership campaign mailing, reaching 60,000 Staten Islanders to recruit new drivers and helpers.
Minerva Chin founded A Place for Kids, a nonprofit for children living in Chinatown low-income homes. During the 1970s, Chin realized Chinatown workers needed a safe, affordable place for their children to stay while they worked. Decades later, her after-school programs serve 5- to 11-year-olds. Many recent immigrants whom she helps become comfortable in school and the city — helping them read and telling them to avoid gangs.
Despite a grueling residency schedule, Noman Khan, a full-time Touro College medical student, created a special program for kids in the East Harlem Tutorial Program to learn about science. He created a curriculum especially for them, explaining how science affects their lives in ways like sexually transmitted diseases. He sets aside several hours each week to meet with the students and, in his scarce extra time, secures funding for the program.
Four days a week, Lester Solnin boards an Access-A-Ride van and travels from his Queens Village home to East Harlem, tutoring children he’s worked with for a decade. Sometimes, he takes the subway; but for him, it takes nearly two hours — which he doesn’t mind. Solnin, who has multiple sclerosis, volunteers with 8- to 12-year-olds, helping them with homework, reading and sometimes, learning English. He keeps in touch with past students, like one who just filled out his college application. Humor breaks the ice, he said. “I try to keep the relationship very informal,” he said. “They’re under a lot of stress as it is.”