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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Eats on Feets & Human Milk 4 Human Babies: my personal perspective

I'd like to tell you my personal story of how I joined a Global Milksharing Network: my experiences with the people involved and where I am today.

Months and months ago I heard about a baby that needed donated breastmilk.  The story of Camara and Anaya touch me deep inside and I immediately posted here on my blog about their urgent need and their heartrending story. Not long after that I came across stories of other babies that also needed donated breastmilk, like Kelley's baby, and the amazing story of baby Jayden. From then on I always kept my ears and eyes opened for  stories like theirs and tried to do what little I could to help moms find human milk for their babies.

October 2010 rolled around and a friend of mine Emma Kwasnica, fellow lactivist and natural childbirth advocate from Montreal Canada, put out a call that I couldn't answer fast enough.  She was creating a global network to support milk sharing.  Emma had known a midwife in Arizona named Shell Walker who had a small local facebook page called "Eats on Feets" that encouraged and supported milksharing in her neighborhood, and Emma asked Shell if she could use the catchy name for her Global Network, and thus Eats on Feets Global was born. I jumped up and jumped into the fray immediately and created the Eats on Feets- South Western Ontario page.

With in a couple of weeks we had over 100 local pages in 22 countries around the world, with more pages being created almost weekly. Emma lead us and kept us together and guided the creation of the network with her amazing personal strength and her vision. Our goal was to encourage informed choice on our pages, to be completely non-commercial, and to work with transparency and openness. It was exciting and exhausting all at the same time. While we were happy working away helping mothers who needed breastmilk find mothers with extra milk to give, problems were about to arise that we were not prepared for.

First of all Shell Walker and  her associate Maria Armstrong decided that our small FAQ, that we had written for the pages and the website, was not good enough and they pulled it down, leaving the admins and moms on our pages with out an info page to reference for questions.  This started much grumbling among the admins and when days stretch into weeks without the FAQ, the discontent started to spread.  Finally in February 2011 Shell and Maria presented their version of a FAQ to the Global Admin group.  This was not a FAQ, it was a reference manual over 50 pages long, with detailed medical information and claimed itself to be the ultimate manual on how milk sharing should happen between mothers.  The EOF Global admins were not happy and believed that this reference manual would open up the network to liability issues and most of the admins were not comfortable with handing over medical information when we ourselves are not medical professionals. When admins came to the Global group to try to discuss their misgivings about the manual and ask for changes to be made, they were ignored by both Shell and Maria. In response to this, a group of us came together to write a simple FAQ that the EOF Global Admins would be comfortable with using.  We worked for 3 days solid, night and day to get it done.  During this time things in the EOF Global admins group deteriorated significantly and many of us started to seriously worry about the future of working with Shell and Maria when they were incapable of listening to the admins and daily changed their mind about all sorts of fundamental ideals about the network and where it was heading.
Then the shocker came, in the form of a mass email from Shell Walker to all the EOF global admins.  Shell grandly announced that SHE was trademarking the name "Eats on Feets" and had created "terms of use" for all the admins to follow.  She buttered us up by saying that the pages were our own to keep and to run, but the small print stated that she had the over all power of veto and could take our pages away from us at her discretion.  The Global admins were shocked and outraged at this announcement. Shell did not ask any of us for our opinion, she didn't involve any of the admins in her decision. There was no transparency. Further, they made changes to the site that included deleting Emma's name completely, naming Maria as the goto person for the creation of new pages, and stated that admins were now "breastfeeding educators" though almost none of us have any training or credentials to claim that.  I was shocked and to be frank, completely freaked out by everything that was happening. 

On March 2nd 2011 Emma, myself and a group of admins made the final decision that we could no longer align ourselves with Shell Walker and her companions, and could no long work under the trademarked name of "Eats on Feets" and it's Terms of Use. At this point we moved forward and changed the name of our global network to Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network.  Of the 300 admins that made up the global milksharing network, 270  decided to rename their pages to Human Milk 4 Human Babies, and approx 20 admins choose to keep their pages named Eats on Feets and to stay with Shell Walker's TOU.

The first thing we did was to create new HM4HB pages to replace our old EOF pages- unfortunately Facebook does not allow pages to change their name after they have 100 "likers".  We announce to our members and "Likers" that we had changed the name of our network and that we were moving to our new pages. A couple of days later all the former EOF admins received a second email from Shell trying to convince admins to stay with her.  Then came the shock that none of us could believe was possible.

On March 7th, I was desperately trying to help a mom who had just posted on my SW Ontario EOF page find lactose and gluten free breastmilk.  I got up from my computer for a few moments only to return to discover that my eof page was gone.  Completely.  I cursed Facebook, thinking it just a glitch, I sent messages to the other admins on our page.... then I received the dreaded message from Facebook, the EOF SWOntario page had been deleted: "We have removed or disabled access to the following content that you have posted on Facebook because we received a notice from a third party that the content infringes or otherwise violates their rights" Over 60 eof pages were deleted that day, leaving hundreds of babies without the milk they desperately needed. My self and my fellow admins did not receive any warning. Needless to say the grief and anger of the HM4HB admins was all encompassing. We raged and we sobbed. But our resolve to build Human Milks 4 Human Babies into an amazing milksharing global network grew immensely, and our disgust for Shell Walker and her co-conspirators knew no bounds. But deleting pages wasn't enough for Shell and Maria, they also hijacked pages, kicked out the local admins and took them over- Israel, Tasmania, Hungary, Singapore and Nederlands ... and others were stolen from their proper admins and are now being run - in english- by people who've never even stepped foot in those countries or have any knowledge of their customs or language.

Shell Walker and Maria Armstrong have done everything in their power to rewrite the history of EOF, including deleting Emma's involvement completely, and insisting that they are the "Same" global network. They are not. They are a few people out of the network that decided to keep on using the name "eats on feets", the real network is made up of the 270 admins that changed names to re-create a truly global network. Shell and Maria have repeatedly changed their mission, restructured their organization and just recently announced that they will be involved in commercial endeavors with a company in Britain. They have no concept of Informed Choice, do not work even slightly through transparency- for their admins nor the people that look to their pages to find human milk. They say that "it's all for the babies" and that the mothers "own" the eof pages, yet they have repeatedly put their own interests before getting human milk to the babies that need it.

Shell and Maria will tell you that none of this is true, but the former eof admins have proof- we have screen shots of all the conversations, we have all the messages and emails that went back and forth between Shell and some of the admins, we have every single post that Shell and Maria made right from the very beginning of the network. For some of this info feel free to visit Eats on Feets- the ugly truth.  

We have the Truth.

...we have the global network.

And we HAVE created an outstanding milksharing network. Emma put together a group of twenty admins to be Peer Helpers to help run the various ad hoc groups and discussions on consensus, governance, and to create our brilliant Mission and Vision Statements. We do all our work with full transparency and run on consensus so that every Admin in our network can have their say. We are getting human milk to human babies every single day all over the world. We now have over 300 admins, in over 60 countries all over the world.

We Rock.