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LLL Across the Miles

Cindy Garrison
Canonsburg PA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 42 No. 2, April-May-June 2006, p. 46.

You may not know the full scope of your impact and influence as a La Leche League Group Leader. Often you can see how information offered at a meeting impacts decisions a mother makes. You can observe over time how some mothers become more comfortable with breastfeeding and mothering. What you may not realize is the way what happens at a meeting in your community can have effects on mothers in distant parts of the world. Here are some examples.

Hurricanes ravaged the eastern part of the United States in 2005. Many LLL Groups lost books. Leaders' and Group members' homes were damaged. Offers of help and resources came from LLL Leaders and Groups from around the world. A traveler from Great Britain to the United States brought Leader resources. LLL of Arizona, USA, collected funds at their Area Conference to help Leaders and Groups in the Gulf States. They joined LLL of Rockford, Illinois, USA, the New Hampshire (USA) Breastfeeding Task Force, and Eastern United States (EUS) Division Leaders and Groups in donating to the "Heart-to-Heart Fund," which was established by the EUS to help replace Leader and Group materials and to cover 2006 Leader and Group dues. The response of those sending clothing and other materials was so overwhelming that the storage facility that had been established close to the disaster area was quickly filled. Leader Anne Bennett, of Houston, Texas, USA worked tirelessly to help evacuees who were sent to cities in Texas. She also initiated and coordinated the production of a free 30-second television public service announcement (PSA) by a professional television commercial producer in a collaborative effort with the African American Breastfeeding Alliance. It featured an African American woman and her nursing baby. In the PSA the mother emphasized that in times of crisis, breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death by offering a baby protection from disease and infection. The PSA listed phone numbers for LLLI and the African American Breastfeeding Alliance. The LLLI 800 line prompted mothers to choose the option to contact a local Leader.

Many Leaders joined in Red Cross efforts wherever possible. Groups have "adopted" other Groups to help them rebuild. Due to the efforts of an international group of women attending local LLL meetings, families in the areas affected by the hurricanes felt supported and encouraged.

LLL of New Paltz is a small Group in eastern New York, USA. At one meeting there were three new mothers. Before the meeting, the Leader had received a call from a grandmother who wanted her daughter-in-law and toddler to attend the meeting. The grandmother lived in the southwest part of the US and had searched the LLLI Web site to find the closest LLL Group for her daughter-in-law to attend. During the meeting, a mother expressed how proud she was that she produced all the nourishment her child needed. This touched a chord in the daughter-in-law of the caller. Her face lit up and she began talking away. All of us can probably remember a meeting that just "took off" like this one. Because of a call from one interested grandmother who accessed LLL resources, a mother living across the country found help at a Series Meeting. What a wonderful gift to that mother of a toddler and the women in New Paltz, who connected and shared the joys of breastfeeding at a Group meeting!

A Norwegian-born mother had been attending meetings of the Bethesda/Kensington (Maryland, USA) LLL Group. She mentioned that, due to her husband's government posting, her family would be moving to Estonia. The Leader looked into it and learned there were no LLL Leaders in Estonia. She then helped this mother prepare for leadership. Before moving, the newly accredited LLL Leader had an opportunity to lead with her Group. Mothers in the Group contributed books to provide a small Library to send with her. The Regional Administrator of Leader Accreditation for the Appalachian Region of the EUS, who also lives in Maryland, put her in touch with LLL support people in Future Areas of Europe. This new Leader made her move with confidence, knowing she had the support of the international resources of LLL as well as a local Maryland Group.

What better way to see how La Leche League reaches across the miles than through attending an LLLI Conference? The Matthieu Chazelle Fund provides financial assistance to Leaders in the International Division (ID). Donations come from Leaders around the world. The generosity of a Leader or Group can help further LLL in a developing country by enabling a Leader to attend, learn, and bring home new resources to use in promoting LLL in her community.

A Leader from New Zealand who attended the 2005 LLLI Conference was impressed with Alumnae member support at the Conference. (It's encouraging to all of us that women whose families have grown are still giving of their time and resources to LLL through the Alumnae Association!) She shared this with others on her return to New Zealand. The Leader came home from the Founders' Tea with a remarkable heart-shaped teapot covered with hearts. She held high teas for her local co-Leaders, then her local Group's support team, and as part of her local Chapter Meeting. Each time, the teapot was the centerpiece as she described the Founders' Tea and gave feedback about the Conference in general. The teapot traveled to and from LLL New Zealand Board Meetings, increasing the sense of connection between LLL in New Zealand and the rest of the organization.

Trudy Hartt, former LLLI co-Director of the Leader Accreditation Department and former member of the LLLI Board of Directors, once wrote about the ripple effect of what we do as Leaders. When we help one mother, we often do so within the context of our local Group and community. The mother we help may share what she knows with another mother, who passes that information to another and so on. The child nursed by that mother may grow up to be a parent who wants breastfed children and will seek out LLL for support. That mother we help may choose to become a Leader herself, strengthening the organization and extending the outreach possibilities of LLLI, not only across a room but across the miles.

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