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LLL in Caracas, Venezuela

Laurence Kher-Descourtieux
Venezuela
From LEAVEN, Vol 43 No. 4, October-November-December 2007, p. 79

I met LLL in the United States when I was expecting my second baby. I had breastfed my first baby for only a few months because of lack of support and appropriate information. At my very first meeting, I fell in love with LLL and its baby-friendly atmosphere, and I have never quit attending meetings since 1991. After returning to France, I was accredited as an LLL Leader and a few years later moved to Gabon, Africa. I have mixed feelings about my LLL Group there. Mothers came to meetings, but I never found an interested mother to continue the Group. When I left four years later, the Group closed. At that time, I joined the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD); next I became Area Coordinator of Leaders (ACL) for Future Areas in Europe and then Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (CLA) for the same Area.

I was used to being a lone Leader. After leaving Gabon, we lived in Guatemala, where LLL is very active, for two years. I was lucky to meet lovely Leaders and, thanks to them, had a good time there. We then spent two years in France before returning to Latin America in October 2005, when we arrived in Venezuela. There had never been an LLL Group or Leader there. For several years mothers had been requesting help via the LLLI Spanish Web pages, and Spanish-speaking Leaders had been answering, offering as much information and support as they could. Thanks to Graziana de Bozzo, a Leader in Chile, Marisol Ascanio, who is now my co-Leader, continued to breastfeed baby Sofia in spite of multiple difficulties.

When I started talking about beginning an LLL Group in Caracas, I was frequently asked, "Why? All mothers breastfeed here." However, in Venezuela, as in many other places around the world, mothers need information and support for breastfeeding. At our first meeting there were four of us: Marisol, two Venezuelian mothers, and me. Since then, many mothers have attended our meetings.

Soon, Marisol applied to become the very first Venezuelan Leader. In March 2006, Carolina Tredinick joined the Group (Carolina had also been helped through emails before attending our meetings).

We had monthly meetings all year, with an average of five mothers each time. Because a friendly atmosphere is important to building a network between mothers, we had an event with fathers and other children on a Saturday afternoon in May. We had lots of fun, and the dads were happy to meet each other.

We were invited by a magazine for new parents to do a speech at an exhibition for future parents. I talked about breastfeeding as well as how useful an LLL Group can be for mothers. We also had the opportunity to write an article in another magazine and to include publicity about our volunteer work. Dr. Antonieta Hernández, pediatrician at the Lecheymiel Clinic for breastfeeding mothers in Caracas, invited us to use her waiting room for our meetings whenever we wanted. At that time, Marisol was an Applicant and Carolina was about to apply. We decided we would have two meetings each month: one in the morning at a hostess' house and the other in the late afternoon at Lecheymiel.

Planning to attend the Latin American Workshop in Guatemala in September 2006, we looked for financial help from local companies. Soon we discovered we needed to be officially registered to obtain some funding; without this, no one was allowed to give us any money or any kind of help. Two magazines for parents published articles about breastfeeding and LLL in Venezuela. With this, our Web page, and Dr. Antonieta's wide advertising, the number of women attending our meetings got much higher! So did the number of members.

Marisol was accredited at the Workshop in Guatemala -- I wasn't a lone Leader anymore! Carolina, besides being the mother of beautiful baby Luigi Alberto, is also a lawyer. She helped me write the bylaws for LLL Venezuela, following Venezuelan law. At last, on November 17, 2006, LLL Venezuela (LLLV) was officially born. A private company made a $500 (US) donation, which helped us buy books and pay registration fees. Within a few months, LLL Venezuela had become a reality, and we could be very proud as we continued to make LLLV stronger. Carolina Tredinick was accredited in May 2007. With three Leaders, we know we are a stronger team to promote breastfeeding. In one year, LLLV got 25 memberships.

I want to thank all the Leaders around the world (Rueil, France; Matthieu Chazelle Fund; LLL Chile) who have given us donations, help, and support. In LLL we know we are never alone. Every time I move somewhere, I know I cannot stay long because of my husband's job. My goal has been to start a Group that will continue after I am gone. It's been such a great experience and success to have started a Group in Venezuela. I know it's only a start and that soon more and more mothers will experience the joy of attending LLL meetings.

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