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20 years of La Liga de la Leche del Paraguay

Lili de Verón
Asuncion Paraguay
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 6, December 2003 - January 2004, pp. 137-38.

A long time ago-20 years-a beautiful mother of two children arrived in Paraguay from far away, with so much love in her heart that she gave life to La Liga de Leche del Paraguay so children and mothers could live a life with more love.

Bernadette Stabler was accredited as a Leader in April, 1983 after moving to Paraguay from Germany with her husband, Dieter. She founded La Liga de Leche Materna del Paraguay on the sixth of September that same year together with some friends and doctors at her home in Asuncion, Paraguay. Breastfeeding support group meetings were held at Bernadette's home until she returned to Germany at the end of 1987.

Bernadette and two women from the USA, Dorothy de Burt and Alba Valdovinos, visited the Red Cross Hospital from the beginning until 1986, supporting mothers and bringing human milk donated by Liga mothers to orphaned babies. After the Red Cross Hospital was certified as Mother and Baby Friendly, visits by LLL Leaders were renewed and still continue today.

In 1988, the first Leaders were accredited in Paraguay: Alba Valdovinos and Dorothy de Burt (USA citizens living in Paraguay); and Paraguayan Lidia de Verón (Lili). In 1991, Elizabeth Weber de Gavilán (from Germany) became a Leader followed by Paraguayans Liz de Carmona and María Stella Peña (Pili Peña). Five Leaders were accredited in 2000: Pushpa Panadam, Lilian Florentín, Cyntia León, Avelina Maciel (Lika), and Maren Gronert. Today there are three Groups in Paraguay: in Fernando de La Mora, in San Cristóbal, and in Villa Morra.

Highlights of the Liga's Outreach Work

  • Since 1991, La Liga de La Leche Paraguay has participated in six La Leche League International Conferences and four regional workshops.
  • In 1995, La Liga de La Leche Paraguay participated in the Second International Course for the "Training of the Trainers" for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, 1995; Leaders' presented on support groups That same year, the Liga was represented in the International Seminar of the Commercialization and Monitoring of Breastfeeding Supplements.
  • Between 1993 and 1996,Lla Liga de La Leche assisted in training health personnel for the Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Also, workshops were held to train breastfeeding peer counselors at five Baby Friendly Hospitals.

Today, the Liga continues the outreach tradition begun by Bernadette. Pili Peña visits the Hospital Cruz Roja, and Cyntia León often accompanies her. Pushpa Panadam supports mothers and health personnel at the Hospital Barrio Obrero. Lily de Verón helps teenage mothers at the Hogar Rosa María (Rosa Maria Home) to ensure exclusive breastfeeding and good maternal care.

  • We hosted the Third La Liga de Leche Latin American Workshop, held at the "Gran Hotel del Paraguay" in Asuncion in August, 1996.
  • Through our work with the Baby Friendly Hospitals, Liga celebrated the World Breastfeeding Week with the hospitals in 2003. There were special meetings for support groups and we approached the media with some favorable response.
  • Since 2000, the Liga Walk for the World Breastfeeding Week has been coordinated with the "Rights of the Children Walk." It is a national event organized by an non-government organization called "DEQUENI," which means los niños vengan a mi (meaning "let the children come to me") taking place in Asunción and neighboring cities.
  • Beginning January 2002, the Liga participated at the "Worktable on First Infancy," which received official recognition in July 2003 by the "Secretariat of the Child and Adolescence" of the Presidency of the Republic, called CONADIPI, which stands for Coordinadora Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Primera Infancia (meaning National Coordinator for the Integral Development of the First Infancy).
  • The year 2003-Liga's 20th anniversary year-has been very special. We were given space on national media TV, radios, and newspapers. We started including the word "Materna" (Maternal) in our publicity materials because we have been approached for "a glass of milk!"

We celebrated our first 20 years with the following exciting events:

On Thursday, September 4, there was a panel at the Citibank Cultural Center where the panelists were doctors and other specialists in Maternal Infant Health and Liga Leaders.On Friday, September 5, Liga Leaders were panelists at the Global Forum for Infant and Adolescents, a Paraguay national event on the state of the rights of children and adolescents.

On Saturday, September 6-Liga's anniversary date-Leaders gathered at the house of Leticia Báez de Ibarra, a new Leader, for tea to share emotional moments amongst ourselves and with new mothers and their babies. Also present were the people who have supported us.

Our founder, Bernadette, was remembered through a photo exhibition of the early years of our Liga. The new Leaders were welcomed with lighted candles to recognize the love and joy in their role as Leaders.

Amongst the Leaders were District Coordinator Elisabeth de Gavilán, Lili de Verón, Pili Peña, and Cyntia León; the new Leaders were Leticia de Ibarra, Heidi Weber, Ana Lucia Fracchia, Alicia Villalba, Nancy Vega, and Stella Olmedo. Leaders unable to be present included Alba Valdovinos, Susan Spezzini, and Maren Gronert, who have returned to their countries, the USA and Germany respectively; Dorothy de Burt and Liz de Carmona are on Leader Reserve. Mothers who have been very important in our work include Susan Spezzini, Annie Granada, Maura Albertini, and Herenia de Musi.

As we go forward, La Liga de La Leche Materna del Paraguay expresses its gratitude to Bernadette Stabler, whose love, ability to give, and human warmth gave life to la Liga. Bernadette returned to her country with her family, but a part of her has remained in Paraguay.

Lili de Verón, Leader since 1988 and mother to seven children, lives in Asuncion, Paraguay.

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