Congratulations to CHEER CHAMPion of the Week, Leila Mahbubi, BA, Breastfeeding Counselor and Interpreter for CHEERing, our Greece-based sister organization. Leila was nominated for her passion and commitment to serving families in Elna’s shelter and other camps. She is a native of Iran where she studied pharmacy and architecture, and worked as a pharmacist for 9 years before migrating to Greece.
In her role as breastfeeding counselor and interpreter, Leila has applied her knowledge of medicine in helping the families that CHEERing serves. She measures height and weight of babies to ensure they are growing well, serves as a translator in Farsi and Turkish, and oversees the patient language board that help patients find their way through the health center facilities. Leila enjoys translating and being a bridge between the refugee populations and the services they need. When asked about her motivation to work with CHEERing, she said “I am motivated to help refugees because as a refugee myself, I know how difficult the life is. So, it makes me happy if I can help them.”
Like many people, the ongoing pandemic has affected Leila’s work. However, she remains committed in her determination to provide services to moms and babies as much as possible. “A lot of organizations and camps are closed now due to COVID, so we cannot go in there to measure babies and do the work. I have been working less hours and doing what I can”. Leila is a breastfeeding mom who loves reading, spending time with her kids, and following scientific posts on Instagram.
Congratulations Leila, thank you for channeling your life’s experiences into providing necessary health and translation services to refugee moms and babies!
CHEER is pleased to recognize the Jackson-Evers International Airport for their continuous commitment to providing safe lactation spaces for their employees and breastfeeding moms in transit. Despite many state laws protecting the right to breastfeed in public, it is still highly stigmatized in some places, and breastfeeding in public can feel uncomfortable for many mothers. Prior to the Friendly Airport Lactation Act of 2018, which requires all medium and large airports to provide dedicated lactation areas, many moms had to resort to pumping in restrooms in order to provide food for their babies. Shortly before this act was signed into law in October 2018, the Jackson Airport (a small hub) announced the installation of its first Mamava lactation suite, as part of its Strategic Plan 2021 focus on providing best-in-class customer experience.
“The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority is proud to take a progressive stance in supporting these women. The very least we can do is to create a supportive and safe environment for mothers who choose to breastfeed,” said CEO, Carl Newman, A.A.E. “This is only the beginning. We look forward to providing more in the future.”
These suites are self-contained mobile pods with comfortable benches, a fold-down table, an electrical outlet for plugging in a breast pump, and a door that can be locked for privacy. Though created for individual use, they can fit mothers with babies as well as their other children.
“We’re thrilled to support breastfeeding mamas at Jackson – Evers Int’l,” said Sascha Mayer, Co-founder and CEO of Mamava. “We believe that all mamas deserve a clean, comfortable, and dignified place to use a breast pump or breastfeed distraction-free—anywhere, anytime. Mamava pods provide flexibility for facilities and easy access for moms.”
Thank you Jackson-Evers International Airport, for your continued commitment to supporting breastfeeding moms and families!
We would also like to recognize the Mayor of Jackson, Chokwe Antar Lumumba (pictured above) for taking the time to learn about the breastfeeding work being done in MS, and for graciously posing for that picture!
Learn more about existing U.S. breastfeeding laws here.
This week's CHAMPion is Papy Kuyowa Ndotoni. Papy is Congolese and lives in Athens, Greece. Papy, the father of a breastfed baby, and husband of a CHEERing peer counselor in Athens, has consistently helped the CHEERing team, as a French translator, educator, and general supporter. His cheerfulness, support, and willingness to help out CHEERing with a wide range of tasks, is why we are celebrating him as CHAMPion of the week.
CHEERing (CHEER International Group) is CHEER's partner organization in Athens, Greece, and works primarily to support breastfeeding women in refugee camps and shelters.
Papy said, "I've been integrated into the CHEERing team of Greece for a year now, and l'm proud of the little knowledge that l bring to CHEERing. I do my best to contribute to help the babies and CHEERing, on the face of this earth, wherever women and their children can benefit from CHEERing's help."
We salute Papy's spirit and thank him for his invaluable support!
Our CHEER CHAMPion of the Week is the Sirens Motorcycle Club, also known as the NYC Breast Milk Riders! The Sirens Motorcycle Club is the oldest, largest women's motorcycle club in NYC. It was founded in 1986, and now consists of over 60 members, half of whom are in the Milk Riders group.
The Sirens MC Milk Riders program began in 2016, when Jen Baquial (sitting president at the time) was contacted by Julie-Bouchet Horwitz, the Executive Director of the New York Milk Bank (NYMB), about delivering breast milk to babies and families in need. Jen shared that she, in turn, presented the idea to the club and it was so well received that they began coordinating right away.
When the need arises, the Milk Riders usually receive a request and delivery details from NYMB through their Whatsapp group chat, and the first responder(s) make the run. “My personal favorite deliveries are the ones directly to the homes, so we can meet the mothers and often their babies,” Jen says. She shares the story of Ariella, a baby who was born prematurely with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition in which the bacteria of the intestinal wall eats up the intestines. Ariella’s mom was determined to feed her breast milk because it contains antibodies that would help her health condition, but Ariella needed more breast milk than her mom was able to pump. Jen helped by making several breast milk deliveries to their home over a few months, which made her very happy. “Doing good stuff feels good! I don’t know who would not help a sick baby!” she expressed.
The Sirens continue to provide these milk delivery services during COVID-19, except that they are more mindful of using the right PPE and there is less interaction with the families. When asked about their commitment to the milk riders program, Jen replied that it fit perfectly with the mission of the Sirens, who focus on charity work related to women’s health issues and the LGBTQ+ community. “This was a unique opportunity for us to combine doing what we love, motorcycling, with our passion for community service,” she shared.
Congratulations to the Sirens Motorcycle Club Milk Riders! Thank you for your efforts towards equitable breast milk access in NYC and beyond.
Watch short documentary about the Breast Milk Riders here.
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the support they have provided for CHEER, CHAMPS, or the general public.