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Investing In the Village, Investing in People

Updated: May 1, 2019

April 30, 2019

By Amita Wanar, Vital Village Network


The original version of this post by was published in Vital Village's Blog and can be accessed here.


At the April Breastfeeding Coalition meeting, Lifting Up Local Leadership in Black Maternal Health, participants were asked what actions they were moved to take as a result of the meeting. Community Champion She-Tara Smith shared, “Vital Village invests people and that is something I want to do more.”


One way that Vital Village and community partners invest in Boston residents is through our Service Learning and Leadership Model where residents can gain knowledge and build skills in their fields of interest...


At the April Breastfeeding Coalition meeting, Lifting Up Local Leadership in Black Maternal Health, participants were asked what actions they were moved to take as a result of the meeting. Community Champion She-Tara Smith shared, “Vital Village invests people and that is something I want to do more.”


One way that Vital Village and community partners invest in Boston residents is through our Service Learning and Leadership Model where residents can gain knowledge and build skills in their fields of interest.

Vital Village Network’s Boston Breastfeeding Coalition aims to increase access to breastfeeding support in Boston by using the Service Learning and Leadership Model to uplift community members who are passionate about providing lactation support in their community. The pathway combines evidence-based lactation counselor trainings with volunteer opportunities in which community members provide free breastfeeding counseling creating deeply engaging and multifaceted educational experience.  


Since 2016, we have offered over 90 scholarships for community leaders to attend Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE) Community Transformer trainings,Healthy Children’s Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) trainings, and Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association’s Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) trainings. For the last two years, Community Champions She-Tara Smith, Dominique Bellegarde, and Jenny Weaver co-facilitated and provided mentorship to the 18-scholar cohort on the last day of the ROSE training. All three were 2017 or 2018 ROSE graduates. This exemplifies the opportunities for local leaders to build their skills and then share their lived experience and expertise with others seeking the same pathway. The ROSE training, which was offered this past February, focuses on the foundations of peer counseling and identifies how peer support can improve racial disparities in breastfeeding. Miriam Guerrier (ROSE graduate ‘19) shared how the training transformed her patient interactions in her work at Boston Medical Center, “Now, if we see a pregnant mom, because we did the training, we are more aware and more confident to open up a conversation about breastfeeding.”


As a part of their scholarship commitment, ROSE graduates are now fulfilling 50 hours of volunteer service as peer scholars at 9 different breastfeeding support groups across Boston. During volunteerism, peer counselors put their new skills to practice as they gain deeper clinical knowledge and community perspective, all while giving back to their neighbors. Peer counselors are also invited to participate in monthly continuing education opportunities or “Scholar Support Nights” at Frugal Bookstore and reflect on their service-learning experience. Facilitating a support group after completing the ROSE training, constructively prepares counselors to succeed during more technical trainings like the Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) course, which is known to be challenging for non-clinical providers.