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Community of Volunteers: LLLI, A Community with Vision

Jane Tuttle, Jean Moneyhon, Carmen Vandenabeele
LLLI Board of Directors
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 6, December 2005-January 2006, pp. 121 & 141.

La Leche League International is a community with a vision -- a vision of mothers everywhere breastfeeding their babies and mothering through breastfeeding. Our community is connected by our common belief that breastfeeding is best for babies, mothers, families, and society.

What or Who Is LLLI?

The words "La Leche League International" elicit many different impressions or perceptions depending upon the receiver's experience. When you hear or see the words "La Leche League," what image do you see? Do you see a mother and a baby nursing? A volunteer Leader leading a Series Meeting with a diverse group of women learning and sharing about mothering through breastfeeding? A retired Leader working with another nonprofit? A man whose wife and mother breastfed? A dad, grandmother, or health care worker? A building in Schaumburg, Illinois, USA? The cover of the latest edition of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING? Or, maybe, all of these?

Volunteers

La Leche League International is a community of volunteers who are committed to a philosophy of mothering through breastfeeding, as expressed in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and summarized in the ten concept statements. The word community is not limited to those people who live in close proximity; rather, community can refer to people who are linked by a common interest or vision. Our common interest is mothering through breastfeeding. Leaders sign a Statement of Commitment to the organization upon becoming a Leader; they are committed to helping mothers and babies breastfeed and they are committed to the LLL community of volunteers.

LLL is comprised of mothers who volunteer to help other mothers breastfeed their babies. These accredited volunteer Leaders learn to help and assist breastfeeding mothers and their babies through mother-to-mother support. Leaders respect the individual choices that a mother makes concerning her care of and relationship with her child, because Leaders believe that each mother knows her family best. Leaders also provide the education and support that a mother needs to become an accredited LLL Leader; LLL Leaders mentor more Leaders. Volunteer Leaders are one part of La Leche League.

Paid Staff

In addition to the 47 employees paid by LLLI, most of whom work in the LLLI office in Schaumburg, Illinois (USA), a few LLL entities outside the USA also pay one or several staff members. Many staff are also Leaders who serve as volunteers helping LLL further our mission. The staff work hard to provide La Leche League volunteers with the tools they need to help mothers breastfeed their babies. As members of the La Leche League community, paid staff provide services and support beyond those that the volunteers provide for each other.

Administrators

The community is large and has been administratively divided/separated/recognized into Divisions, Affiliates, Areas, Chapters, and Groups. Each part is important to the whole as the administrative units are really people and not things. There are LLL Leaders who take a more active role in providing other Leaders with the tools, services, and support they need to help mothers and babies. Those Leaders, members of Area Councils, Area Teams, Affiliate and Division Staff, and Boards of Directors, support Leaders so they can more effectively help breastfeeding mothers and babies. These volunteer administrators extend many additional hours of service to the La Leche League community.

Publications

The publications produced by La Leche League International and by other LLL entities reflect the experiences and knowledge of the community of volunteers. The Founders wrote THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING in order to share their breastfeeding experiences and wisdom with other mothers. When volunteer Leaders indicated that they needed more lactation information to help breastfeeding mothers and babies, that need was fulfilled with THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, a collection of breastfeeding information combined with research about lactation. The pooling of our resources (time, talent, and funds) to provide volunteers and professionals with needed publications is another aspect of La Leche League.

Donors

Many generous, individual donors contribute so LLLI can provide services, materials, and knowledge to mothers and others interested in breastfeeding. Most of our LLLI donors are active and retired Leaders who provide financial support to the mission of LLLI in addition to their volunteer work. Donors, including non-Leader donors, demonstrate commitment to La Leche League and are therefore also an important part of the La Leche League community.

Others

There are also many other members of the LLL community. The Peer Counselors are specially trained personnel who share breastfeeding information with specific populations of mothers. Peer Counselors are an important part of the LLL community. There are health care professionals, lawyers, and management experts who share their professional expertise on our Advisory Boards. There are fathers, grandmothers, sisters, and friends who support LLL mothers and Leaders. All of those interested in the well-being of mothers and babies and supportive of La Leche League are also part of the community.

La Leche League is comprised of volunteers, paid staff, and interested people around the world who are committed to helping mothers breastfeed, and who share a vision of mothers everywhere breastfeeding their babies and mothering through breastfeeding. Our LLL community's connection is our common belief that breastfeeding is best for babies, mothers, families, and society.

We can all expand our vision of LLLI so that LLL is more than just a building, a person, a book, or our own personal experience. We can all work toward a larger vision of LLLI for the future -- an LLLI that is not just international -- an LLLI that is truly a global network of people who are committed to breastfeeding. Though we are diverse individuals with different experiences and varying cultures all around the world, we are a community linked by the same vision -- a vision of a world changed by the love and wisdom found in the breastfeeding relationship.

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