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La Leche League International
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Online Help Forms and the New Leader

Heather Voccola
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 34 No. 6, December 1998 - January 1999, p. 120

New technology has given us the computer and now the option of helping breastfeeding mothers online. Although some feel that the computer is an impersonal medium, others feel it is the anonymity they need in order to feel comfortable. Offering accurate information and support online is just another way we achieve our mission of helping mothers breastfeed.

A great way for new Leaders-those who have online access-to start their helping careers fast is to begin answering online Help Forms. The advantages are many.

First, a new Leader concerned about giving the most accurate information possible has time to research questions when helping online. Our current deadline for Help Form replies is one week. This allows a new Leader time to gather all of the information and determine how best to present it to the mother.

Help Form situations also allow a new Leader the chance to share her assessment of the situation with other, more experienced Leaders. A Leader can contact another local Leader or PL Leader or she might use The Leader Connection (TLC), a non-LLL-endorsed, private email list of Leaders around the world. This collective expertise can be used along with a Leader's research.

Helping online also allows a new Leader time to collect her thoughts and be as objective as possible before responding, something that might not be as smooth and polished as she would like those first few phone calls.

Answering Help Forms can also be a great confidence builder. A new Leader is able to begin helping mothers immediately, rather than waiting for the phone to ring. Unlike phone calls, however, a Leader can determine her availability. She can choose the number of forms she would like to handle a week, even every two or three weeks, and the best time to receive them.

With more than 30 Help Forms received from mothers a day there is a big demand for volunteers, especially outside the United States. Mothers are matched whenever possible with Leaders from their own country.

All Help Form volunteers need to check with their District Advisor/Coordinator (DA/DC) or Area Coordinator of Leaders (ACL) for current online Leader guidelines. Some Areas use a form to keep track of Help Form activity, others require Leaders to keep an online Leaders Log. Leaders in Affiliates should check with their support Leader before volunteering.

The LLLI Online Council supports online Leaders in several ways. An online Leader with access to Area/Affiliate Directories can supply Leaders with local LLL contacts for mothers. In addition, a network of Online Professional Liaison Leaders (OPLs) is available to help Leaders with resources and approaches to challenging Help Form questions.

One of the greatest advantages to being a Help Form volunteer is that the work of LLL can be seen internationally. A Leader in one part of the world can help a mother in another part. Our world becomes a much smaller place when mother-to-mother breastfeeding help reaches around the world.

Contact the LLLI Web site team for information about volunteering for Help Forms [revised 10/03/06]

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