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Church and Community Assistance Program Health Fair

The health fair was in the gym of the Faith Baptist Church of Kissimmee. There is an outreach part of the church, Community and Church Assistance Program, that offers a variety of resources to people in Kissimmee who are homeless and low-income. The women who run the program, Olga and Yasmin, are passionate, oriented towards the needs of others, and want to progress their program to offer more goods and services. When I arrived, they showed me around the wing of the church where they are planning to renovate a nursery and after-school rooms. We discussed the needs of their program and their ideas about parenting.

I was set up next to a domestic violence shelter and once they heard that I was promoting breastfeeding, the two women started sharing how much they loved being pregnant, when they got married, and one explained how she had flat nipples and much difficulty getting a secure latch, but she breastfed her first child for 6 months and her second for 3 months. I met a pregnant woman of 6 months who was helping another vendor and gave her a bag. She expressed that she was so excited to have her first child and it was a girl. Another mother I met was a mother of 5 and in an abusive relationship (as she discussed with the table next to me), she told me she was breastfeeding her youngest and went back to get him and his brother. She said she did not need a breastfeeding bag but she found the baby wipes to be "so helpful" and took extra samples (and lollipops for each of her kids). She breastfed her baby while covering with a scarf and sitting a few tables down and got a massage while her friend held her baby. She had explained that she was tired, so it was sweet to see her get a massage. Most of the vendors and people coming into the fair spoke Spanish, but it didn't cause any isolation for our table. The other vendors were independent pharmacies, medical insurance, Hispanic medical services, and massage therapy.

Women that had adult children showed me pictures of their grandchildren on their phones and told me how long they breastfed their children, how they balanced it with work, and how manual pumps were difficult. One woman expressed that her doctors did not give her good advice, so she fed her baby when she needed because she knew the sleep schedule that her baby and herself enjoyed. Many people who came to the table were drawn to the lollipops and in particular looked for herbs and vegetables in the seed basket, which made starting conversations easy. One woman asked me how I can talk about breastfeeding if I haven't breastfed and I told her that I care about promoting and educating about breastfeeding despite my lack of experience, which led her to reassuring me that I will be very prepared when I do have kids. The Pastor of the church is new from California and community-oriented. When I told him that our table was for breastfeeding, he backed up and laughed, and some of the older women also laughed when I told them our table was about breastfeeding. Overall, our table had an excellent personal connection to the people coming in, as many of the other vendors were businesses serving less intimate needs. Our table allowed many people to share their cherished family experiences and take away lollipops or seeds if breastfeeding didn't have a place in their current lives. I enjoyed connecting with the owners, other vendors, and the people that came to our table, as I wasn't expecting to learn or talk as much as I did. I wish a higher volume of vulnerable clients of the program would have known about the fair, as most of the women who attended the fair were attendants of the church that had daughters or granddaughters that were pregnant. I look forward to attending this fair in the future and hope to help promote the event to the vulnerable populations who would benefit from attending.

-          Chelsea