Reflections from a Former Chris Mulford ILCA-WABA Fellow

The International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) are pleased to once again jointly sponsor the exciting opportunity for a Fellowship to travel and work with WABA on outreach and advocacy projects at their headquartersin Penang, Malaysia. ILCA has designated this annual Fellowship, the 6th to be awarded, as the Chris Mulford WABA ILCA Fellowship. Chris had been an ILCA member and helped to guide the birth and growth ofthe profession with a gentle spirit and wise leadership. Chris first joined WABA in 1996 at the first WABA Global Forum in Bangkok and became a long term volunteer for WABA. She worked mainly on Women and Work and Gender issues, bringing many achievements in supporting working women to breastfeed globally. She also paved the way for the first WABA‐ILCA Fellowship, in 2007, by being an exemplar of a Fellow. At Lactation Matters, we are proud to highlight this post, by Denise Fisher, a recent fellow, about her experiences in Malaysia with WABA.

For more information about applying to become a Fellow, please see this document. The deadline for applications is October 22, 2013.

By Denise Fisher AM, MMP, BN, IBCLC

In 2010, I was honored to be selected the Fellow to work with the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) staff on several projects to support breastfeeding worldwide.

WABA’s home office is in Penang. Penang has been called the Jewel of the Orient, and is a beautiful island off the coast of Malaysia. Malaysia is a bustling melting pot of races and religions where Malays, Indians, Chinese, and other ethnic groups live together harmoniously. Because of this multiculturalism, this tropical paradise has also made Malaysia a gastronomical paradise, and even the Malays from Kuala Lumpur will tell you that Penang is the place for the best food.

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I was incredibly excited to be given the opportunity for this fellowship to not only continue my passion for promoting breastfeeding, but to do it in such a fascinating country.

Now, while I was working on a purely volunteer basis, I was aware that ILCA® and WABA had invested financially in my travel and accommodation, and my family and work colleagues back home were also putting in big-time for me in my absence; so while the temptation was to spend many hours on the beach, I was keen to be able to help WABA as much as possible. I was given several projects to complete. They select projects that are in line with your interests and skills, so needless to say mine were either internet-related or education-related.

The biggest project was the establishment of the Breastfeeding Gateway. We worked as a small team to establish it in time to be launched for WABA’s 20th birthday celebrations. The goal of this Gateway is to provide you with all the quality information about a topic in one easy collection.  For example, you may be asked at work to develop a policy on an HIV-positive mother breastfeeding. You only need click on the HIV heading in the Gateway to open a page with links to all the quality information sites relevant to HIV on the internet, saving you hours of searching. This is perfect for students too – so easy. I loved helping to create this resource – it was such fun to work together on it.

Another project I had was to go to one of the local hospitals and film a mother doing skin-to-skin care and have baby self-attach. As a midwife, the opportunity to visit the maternity unit was one not to be missed, and then we had the most delightful mother, with a very obliging newborn who did exactly what he was supposed to (phew!).

Presenting a full-day workshop for the medical and nursing staff at the local university was pretty nerve-wracking, but on the day it all went smoothly and everyone was happy. Doing a workshop for the mother support group that had been established by a previous WABA/ILCA Fellow was much less stressful and I got to cuddle babies!

IMG_6511It wasn’t all work though. The WABA staff welcomed me into their lives and social events, and were all very friendly. I still keep in contact with some of them. I’ve been told I have to come back when the durian are fruiting (!). A young intern from America was working there at the same time I was, so both being visitors to the island, we spent our leisure time exploring – most memorable was the bicycle tour through Georgetown (the capital of Penang). You think traffic is bad where you live – wait until you’ve ridden a bike through the streets of an Asian city! This was a history and food tour – we went to lots of the historical sites (Georgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and our guides (two lovely young men) told us about living and working in Penang now, and what it was like for their parents and grandparents. And then there was the food – they took us to each of the places that was famous for each of the dishes Penang is famous for – lucky we did lots of riding to work it off. Another tour I did with my son was a guided taxi ride around the island. It truly is a tropical paradise.

Since my time in Penang, I’ve become one of a select group who get to meet up at the ILCA conference and talk about the good old days – the former WABA/ILCA Fellows! And even better, this year ILCA decided to honor us with a special Fellow’s pin. Based on my wonderful experience which was so personally and professionally rewarding I’d encourage everyone to consider applying for this yearly fellowship. You won’t regret it.

IMG_6093Denise is a registered nurse, midwife practitioner, and lactation consultant who has worked in education for many years. In recognition of her services to health professional education, specifically in the mother and baby area, Denise was inducted as a Member of Australia last year. Recognizing that the internet was the way of the future, Denise and her team created Health e-Learning in 2000, followed by the very popular GOLD conferences, to provide breastfeeding education for lactation consultants and other health professionals. She is now the Director of Step2 Education, a company that delivers Baby Friendly education to hospitals worldwide. Denise is married to Steve and mother to 3 beautiful young adults – James, Nicholas and Laura, and lives outside a little country town in Queensland, Australia.

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