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The Sister Group Program

Cecily Harkins
Portland OR USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 3, June-July 2002 p. 59.

The International Division (ID) Directors proudly announce their "Sister Group" program! A sponsoring Group, usually, but not exclusively an established Group, is matched with a recipient Group seeking assistance—creating a "Sister Group."

How did this idea come about? This idea has been used in the past as a means of keeping Groups in touch with one another, but participation dwindled. Leaders began talking about this possibility again. The advent of widely available email made it workable; a chance meeting made it happen.

During a session at the LLLI Conference in Chicago, Illinois, USA last summer, a Leader wondered aloud how her Group could link with another Group outside the USA. A Leader from South America who was in the room heard her and responded, "We’d love to help." The two Leaders met after the session and with this exchange, an idea began to take form. The idea was enthusiastically supported by ID Directors, Elaine Dawson from South Africa and Yanet Olivares de Saiz from the Dominican Republic. I pressed for taking advantage of the international gathering to form and publicize the project, and thus found myself with a new job!

Two nights later, tables at the World Fair highlighted LLL countries from around the world. Each displayed their flags, maps, photos, souvenirs, clothing, and food. Thanks to Sue Ann Kendall who allowed me access to computers to print Sister Group signs and Judy Guarco, who gave me a table, our new project had a small hastily assembled presence. Twenty-six Leaders signed up; remarkably, half of them wished to be Sponsors, and half Recipients.

My initial and continued excitement about this project is both the manner in which it began, a chance meeting between two Leaders, and the continued independence and autonomy as each Group determines its needs.

Janaki Costello, California USA Leader, agreed to be the initial coordinator of this project. She developed email forms for both types of Groups, verified sign-up emails, and began to link these Groups. Janice Pickett, South Carolina, USA is now the new coordinator and will continue the work.

What types of help do Groups provide for one another?

  • Mentoring and mutual support
  • Exchanging meeting ideas
  • Sharing materials such as copies of the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, pamphlets and other LLL publications
  • Donating money for a particular project or need
  • Learning about LLL in countries outside one’s native area
  • Experiencing firsthand the particular local difficulties—language barriers, money exchange rates, breastfeeding trends
  • Making new friends
  • Sponsoring new Leader Applicants by defraying monetary costs

As one Leader, Pushpa Panadam, said, "In sharing, help is bilateral …for poorer groups may have less funds…but may be richer in other resources."

Matches so far include Groups from: Maryland USA and Argentina; South Africa and Paraguay; Germany and Guatemala; Michigan USA and Israel; Nebraska USA and Mexico.

To become a part of this program please contact Janice Pickett preferably at: pickett.james.Janice at att.net.(email) or 4716 Lattimore Drive, Macon, Georgia 31210 USA. List your Group name, contact person, address, and email. Include any special needs, such as sponsoring an LLL Group in a particular country or needing help with donated books.

Matthieu Chazelle Fund

A separate international project is the ongoing Matthieu Chazelle Fund, established in loving memory of the youngest son of French Leader, former LLLI Board and International Division (ID) Board member, Martine Chazelle. The purpose of this fund is to accept monetary donations to sponsor ID Leaders to attend enrichment and educational meetings. Through generous donations to this fund, 14 Leaders were able to attend the 2001 LLLI Conference. The fund provided airfare, which is usually higher and less competitively priced than in the US, and/or lodging or food supplements. For Groups who want to help spread LLL outside of the US borders, especially in developing areas, and have a surplus of money but no time to commit to a Sister Group, this is a perfect opportunity for you.

Contributions can be made to: Matthieu Chazelle Fund and sent to Cecily Harkins, 4055 SW 48th Place, Portland, OR 97221-3735 USA. Questions or comments may be emailed to Cecily at: cecilyharkins at hotmail.com

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