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Interview with New Executive Director Hedy Nuriel

Susan Deo
LLLI Board of Directors
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 1, February-March 2004, p. 21.

Last year the La Leche League International Board of Directors conducted a successful search for a new Executive Director (ED). At the end of 2003 we announced the hiring of Hedy Nuriel. On January 5, 2004, Hedy began her work as LLLI ED. In order for all of you to get to know Hedy a little better, here is an email "interview" that Hedy and I did in December.

Susan: What excites you about the LLLI Mission?

Hedy: Twenty-seven years ago, I learned the benefits of breastfeeding, both for the health of my children and for the closeness it brought to our relationship. I believe that every child deserves the healthy start that only breastfeeding can give. I believe that children deserve the opportunity to grow up with the nutrients they can only get from mother’s milk. I also believe that the bond formed between the nursing baby and mother will provide the support they need for future mental and physical well being.

For the past 23 years, I have worked with women and children who live daily with abuse and fear and I have strongly fought for the right of all women and children to live violence free lives. I look forward now to working to improve women’s and children’s lives in a nurturing and fundamental way.

Susan: How do you feel about working with 6,000 volunteers who are passionate about the LLLI Mission?

Hedy: Since working with the over 6,000 Leaders will be a fresh and exciting experience, I hope I can bring some new ideas that have been successful in other arenas. The volunteers have given so much of their lives to the cause of breastfeeding and the improvement of women’s and children’s lives. I hope together we can spread the word, and bring more new mothers into the fold.

Susan: Hedy, you mentioned people have been telling you stories about their experiences with LLL. Would you share here one of your favorites?

Hedy: Here is one of my favorite stories, quoted from an email sent to me by an employee at my previous agency, HAVEN.

I wanted to tell you that I’ll always be proud to say that I worked under you here at HAVEN. I know that you are going on to a wonderful organization. My life has been touched personally by La Leche League. When I was a newborn (and the last of four children), my mother was no longer able to breastfeed. Turned out that I was severely allergic to everything but human milk and became very sick. It was coordinated through La Leche League that a breastfeeding woman two hours away pumped enough milk for me and the postman delivered the milk a couple times a week when the chartered mail plane came in. That’s what kept me alive for the first several months of life. My whole life, I’ve heard my mother talk about what a wonderful organization La Leche League is. I just wanted to share a personal story about my experience with them. Good luck, I wish you all the best!

Susan: Not everyone knows that LLL exists. What are some ways you would like to help "spread the word" about who we are and what we do?

Hedy: I have lots of ideas. Of course, I don’t know what has been tried or what is already in place. One idea that I had was to develop a curriculum for high school classes. Even if Leaders were able to go into the classroom for one hour in the 12th grade, the message could be presented. I would love to see a way that we could reach young people, before they have children, to tell them about the benefits, and in the future they may turn to us when the time comes.

I am also interested in working with low-income women and employed women. When I worked in a shelter for battered women, we very seldom had women come in who were breastfeeding. Not only was it expensive to buy formula, but the mothers would often prop the bottle up by using a towel. So, these babies were deprived of not only the benefits of mother’s milk but the warmth of the contact only a mother could give. They were torn away from their homes and all that was familiar to them. Had their mothers been breastfeeding, at least they would have been calmed by the closeness and stability that nursing provides.

As for employed mothers, I think that there are many ways we can reach out to them. Many corporations have child care on site. We could reach out to those women as well.

Susan: Is there anything else you would like to share with the LLL community?

Hedy: As a young mother living in Israel, I was hungry for the support of other women who thought and believed as I did. It was hard to find 27 years ago. Like so many "developing" countries, as Israel was back then, women wanted to do what was considered modern. Breastfeeding was not the modern thing to do. I wanted to do what was best for my child and I knew from reading and experience that "modern" isn’t always "best." I sought out and found a small group of women, other Americans, who thought as I did, and gave me the support I needed to keep going. I was fortunate that my sister sent me THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, and I was able to prepare myself for the experience. When I gave birth to my first son, I was in a ward of 10 women. I was the only one who could breastfeed without pain! The doctors in the hospital wanted the new mothers to breastfeed, but none of them had received any guidance prior to the birth, and were unprepared and uninformed. My experience of breastfeeding my two sons continues to be one of my fondest memories.

Thank you to Hedy for taking the time to answer these questions for the readers of LEAVEN. We in the LLL community are all looking forward to a long and productive relationship with Hedy.

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