Mary Bird and Tania Ruseva, co-ACLs for Future Areas Europe.
Do LLL Leaders in Europe Make a Difference?
By January 2022 weekly Covid-19 cases were increasing in many European countries. Leader morale was low. In-person LLL meetings were not permitted in most places. Many long-awaited Conferences were cancelled or held online. Leaders prepared themselves for yet another year of LLL Meetings on Zoom. Some Leaders offered Facebook help or WhatsApp groups to support new mothers and parents. With the health services under pressure from Covid-19, LLL community support for breastfeeding became more important than ever.
Rina Demiri, a lone Leader in Kosovo wrote that even though she was exhausted following the birth of her son, she was glad she found the motivation to return a call from another new mother, a medical doctor who was facing problems breastfeeding her newborn. This story involved hard work but ended in success. It will make a difference.
And then it was February…..
And then it was February. It only took a single day before two Leaders in Poland, Julita Hypki and Kasia Pawlaczyk, offered breastfeeding support to refugees from Ukraine. Roxana Dudus and Ionela Luciu, LLL Romania, wrote “There are a lot of people coming from Ukraine. The weather is not good – it is snowing and it is cold.” LLL Leaders volunteered at the borders and in reception centers.
Leaders in Bulgaria set up an email address especially for Ukrainian refugee parents fleeing there, following the example of Leaders in Poland. They posted some articles for breastfeeding in emergencies on their website and were prepared to answer emails in languages other than Bulgarian with the help of automatic translation.
Leaders in Russia posted on their social media channels reminders about breastfeeding in emergencies as well as ways to get support.
We worried for Leaders in Russia. We worried for Leaders in Ukraine. We worried for their families. Sometimes it took days before we knew if a Leader was safe. Leaders everywhere sent messages of goodwill and made donations. We are very grateful for this solidarity. It has made a real difference.
There was an urgent need for materials about breastfeeding in emergency situations. Requests were shared around the world for help. Many Leaders and other volunteers came forward to help with translations. LLLI Board member Ellen Mateer worked day and night to organize translations and upload them to the LLLI website. A Leader from Ukraine living abroad and a retired Ukrainian Leader donated their time and efforts, translating, editing, and helping put together materials, accessible to families in an emergency situation.
These resources on Skin-to-Skin, Cup Feeding, Increasing Breastmilk Supply and Relactation have been shared and downloaded thousands of times. Health services around the world have used these resources to provide breastfeeding support to displaced Ukrainian families. Memes with short, concise text, that address problems about feeding in emergency situations were linked to more extensive materials, translated into a number of languages and widely distributed by many LLL entities around the world. The resources have helped families in need and those supporting them to find resources more easily.
As LLL Leaders we cannot always fix the world, but through LLL we can sometimes make a world of difference to the lives of breastfeeding families.