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La Leche League International
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From the Executive Director: Assuming Good Intent

Hedy Nuriel
LLLI Executive Director
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 1, December 2004 - January 2005, p. 2.

There is always something special, a special connection, when I meet an LLL Leader: her passion for mothering through breastfeeding, her warmth, her understanding of babies’ needs. LLL women and families are a special "breed" of people. How many of you felt that you were home when you went to your first meeting? How many of you feel that LLL has changed your life, and the life of your family? How many know that the way you raised your children, the lessons you learned, the skills and confidence you gained were the result of coming to La Leche League?

Since I began at this organization, I have met some of the most incredible women. I have met women who have changed the world. Starting with the Founders, La Leche League Leaders have made such a big difference, not only in the lives of members and Leaders, but also in the acceptance of breastfeeding as the norm in our society. We still have a struggle on our hands, fighting the huge conglomerates that produce and market artificial baby milk, but we have made a huge dent.

La Leche League has accredited thousands upon thousands of Leaders over its forty-eight-plus years. It hasn’t always been an easy process, as many of you can attest to.

But in the end, the strong and the capable have made it through. The skill and knowledge of accredited Leaders are incredible. As I travel around to different parts of the world, I am so impressed by the wisdom and talent that Leaders have. These are smart, committed, and knowledgeable women. Leaders are trusted to give information and counsel to mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding issues, and some of these issues may affect the lives of their babies. LLL provides resources and opportunities to help Leaders keep up to date on new breastfeeding information. We are sure they want what is best for all mothers and babies.

But too often something happens when a Leader asks for support for something out of the ordinary, when she wants to try a new activity or a different way of doing an old activity. All of a sudden, she may need to get permission or defend herself against those who do not trust her judgment. She doesn’t have to worry about this when she is dealing with the health and well-being of mothers and babies, when she is leading Group meetings or answering questions on the phone. But that seems to change in other arenas. All of a sudden, we seem to forget that she is bright and skilled and trustworthy and loyal and has the best interest of mothers and babies in mind.

This is something we all need to work on. We need to reestablish trust in each other in this organization. We need to return to the basic philosophy and mission and trust that, with some degree of guidance and encouragement, all of us—Leaders, staff members, volunteer administrators—will be doing the right thing.

I have only been here a little over a year, not like many of you who have been with LLL for many years. Yet, I too have grown to love and care for what happens: to Leaders, administrators, Board, staff and, of course, mothers and babies. As you all probably know by now, my previous work was in domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. For the past twenty-three years or more, I heard the stories of families tearing each other apart. There was anger, violence, and destruction.

Coming to LLLI, my expectation was that this is an organization for and about nurturing. It is about teaching loving and mothering and caring through all that we learned from our babies at the breast. So why am I feeling that this is not happening as an organization? Why are people unkind, suspicious, and disrespectful to each other more often than we all care to see? Why is there a lack of trust in the Board, in staff (paid and volunteer), and in Leaders in general? Something is wrong with this picture. And, from all that I have heard, this is not a new phenomenon to LLL. It didn’t start suddenly two or four or ten years ago. Recently, some Leaders blame the Renewal Initiative for causing turmoil. But this lack of trust and negativity was happening in LLL long before the Renewal Initiative began. What is the real reason behind our lack of confidence in each other to try new ways and do new things? Let’s learn from our past mistakes and not repeat them.

My goal, and I hope you will all join me, is to repair any damage, to rebuild the trust in the thousands of Leaders who have been accredited, and to let them have a voice in the decision-making. Let’s each assume the good intent of other people in our organization. Please join me in recommitting ourselves to each other and the important work we joined together to do.

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