This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Kirsten Krane, MS-MPH, RDN, Project Manager for CHEER. Kirsten started working for CHEER in 2014 and has done an excellent job managing a wide variety of projects. Sadly, Kirsten will be ending her work with us on May 3, 2019. We’d like to honor and thank her for all her wonderful contributions!
“CHEER has done a lot of great work, and I’ve been really fortunate to have been a part of it!” shares Kirsten.
Kirsten’s work has spanned across the nation, encompassing our American Indian/Alaska Native health projects, our early Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices (CHAMPS) work, and our more recent Mississippi CHAMPS work. When Kirsten first began with CHEER, she helped manage our first CHAMPS initiative, which focused on assisting hospitals across 4 states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Tennessee) with achieving Baby-Friendly status. Then, she helped when CHAMPS began our project to assist tribally-operated birthing facilities in Alaska, Arizona, and Oklahoma to achieve Baby-Friendly status as well. Kirsten has also managed CHEER community health assessments in Native communities in Montana; and data and evaluation projects in Native communities around domestic violence prevention, suicide prevention, substance use prevention, and youth empowerment. Kirsten has worked collaboratively with hospitals on improving their substance use treatment practices with pregnant women, and assisting those hospitals to build community support and momentum around this work. Lastly, Kirsten has coached hospitals in our MS CHAMPS program, and many hospital staff have expressed gratitude for Kirsten’s consistent encouragement and support. To all her work, Kirsten brought a tremendous amount of positive energy and enthusiasm.
“My favorite part of working with CHEER has been getting to be a member of an incredibly dedicated team of people who are working on really important health and equity projects across the nation. I also love getting to know all of the different people and communities that we engage with through our work. It really grounds me to connect with people who show up for their jobs every day and go above and beyond to make their communities better places to live,” Kirsten says.
Prior to CHEER, Kirsten worked as a Public Health Nutritionist for the Indian Health Service in Browning, Montana; helped lead the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative at the Blackfeet Community Hospital; served in the Peace Corps in Guyana, South America; and worked for WIC and as a clinical dietitian. Kirsten is a founding board member of FAST Blackfeet, a non-profit on the Blackfeet Nation working to educate and advocate for changes to the local food system to create food sovereignty for the Nation and food security for individuals in the community. She served for 4 years as Chair for the Public Policy Committee for the Montana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and is still active with the committee.
Congratulations and farewell, Kirsten! Best wishes and thank you for all your work!
Irene Paphiti, MD, IBCLC is President of the Cyprus Breastfeeding Association, ”Gift for Life,” of which she was a founding member in 2009. In this role, she represents the Association on the Cyprus Breastfeeding National Committee.
Irene has been a pediatrician in private practice for 14 years, and uses her position to advocate for breastfeeding mothers.
“I work to empower women to breastfeed, and to try to get better prenatal education to prepare them,” she says. “My goal is to change the culture in Cyprus, and to establish Baby-Friendly hospitals in Cyprus.”
Irene’s "signature" presentation, which she recently gave at the 12th Annual National Galaxias Conference in Athens, is titled “Empowering or Diminishing the New Mother: The Health Professional’s Superpower,” in which she discusses positive versus negative language that clinicians can use to support breastfeeding women.
Irene says that the most enjoyable aspects of her work are: “I make a lot of friends, and we are all working together as a team to increase breastfeeding rates. It is good to know you help many women who have now succeeded with breastfeeding, and sometimes these are people you don’t even know!”
CHAMPS will be working together with Irene and her team going forward to help support the Baby-Friendly work in Cyprus as needed. Congratulations Irene on your great work – go breastfeeding Cyprus and Gift for Life!
Congratulations to CHEER Champion of the Week, Millicent (“Milly”) Barrios, CLC, Peer Counselor 3 for the Mississippi WIC Program (MS WIC) in the Southern Region/Mississippi Coast. Milly was nominated as CHEER Champion of the Week for her wonderful work with moms and babies on the Gulf Coast, and for her helpful contributions to a recent CHAMPS site visit at Garden Park Medical Center.
As Peer Counselor 3 for MS WIC, Milly counsels and supports prenatal and breastfeeding moms in MS WIC; educates them on the benefits of breastfeeding; prepares them for what to expect during their hospital stay; and familiarizes them with Baby-Friendly. Milly also teaches breastfeeding classes; reaches out to the community to spread the word about WIC’s breastfeeding services; and collaborates with nearby hospitals on their Baby-Friendly journeys, offering WIC services to support Steps 3 (prenatal education) and 10 (postpartum breastfeeding support) of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.
“I don't really think of my role with MS WIC as a job,” Milly shares. “It's simply who I am. I love working with women that might not be able to get support anywhere else, including from their families. I love connecting with women from all different walks of life. I love the heartfelt thank yous. One of my favorite things is teaching classes, especially when dads come and ask questions, or when a mom that's unsure about her feeding choices by the end of class says, ‘I'm definitely breastfeeding.’ I love all these rewards.”
Milly has been a Peer Counselor for over 10 years. For 4.5 of those years, she worked in Louisiana with the Central Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition, and Milly is proud of the work they did in their community. She has been with MS WIC for almost 6 years. Milly breastfed all 4 of her children, for a combined total of 7.5 years. She has one granddaughter who was breastfed for over 2 years, and another grandchild on the way.
Just as Milly is impacting the lives of others, her life and work have also been impacted by those around her.
“Initially I was motivated by the wonderful lactation consultants that helped me in the past, and I will always will be thankful to them for not only the support, but also for putting me on this path,” she says. “But I have to say what keeps me motivated is the women that I serve in the WIC program. Opening their eyes to not only the benefits of breastfeeding, but also helping them to realize that they really can do it, and that I'll be with them every step of the way is my motivation. I often say that they help me as much as I help them.”
It was lovely meeting you, Milly, and we wish you the best in your important work!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is CHEER International’s interpreter and peer breastfeeding counselor, Shaista Karimi, who works with the CHEER team in Athens, Greece.
Shaista is originally from Afghanistan, and is a trained physiotherapist. She arrived in Greece nearly three years ago with her husband and four children, after trekking over the mountains through Iran and Turkey to seek refuge from the conflict, in Greece. As CHEER International’s Farsi Dari interpreter and breastfeeding counselor, Shaista communicates with the women, children and families living in refugee camps and shelters where CHEER provides lactation and nutrition consulting and support group sessions. She is particularly skilled at counseling women who have questions and doubts about breastfeeding in a different environment and culture from their own.
“I love what I do, and the women I meet have so many questions. I answer and help them ease their doubts as much as I possibly can. As a mother, I understand their fears of having a baby in a different country,” Shaista says.
What motivates her to continue with the work that she does are her four children.
“I want the best for my children, as all parents do,” Shaista shares. “I believe that when given the opportunity and information, all mothers will always do what is best for their child.”
As a peer counselor, Shaista is the main facilitator for CHEER International’s work at the Provocant La Pau’s shelter in Athens.
Congratulations Shaista, and keep up the good work!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each week, we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the work they have done for CHEER (Center for Health Equity, Education, and Research)/CHAMPS (Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices).