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The International Breastfeeding Symbol » Blog Archive » Jill Youse Responds, And So Do I

Jill Youse Responds, And So Do I

August 30th, 2007 by MamaBear

I received a message from Jill Youse, founder of the International Breast Milk Project, who wrote me by using my contact form last night. She sent it twice. It was the following:

Hi Breastfeeding Symbol,

Thank you for suggesting that we update the FAQs, I will do that as soon as possible.

Just to clarify, we have donated funding already to Lewa (in conjunction with Run
for Africa, our sister organization) and moving forward we have identified Village
Life Outreach, the organization focused in improving health care for the three
villages in Tanzania as a recipient of the funding. Any other organizations
interested in receiving funding should email jill@breastmilkproject.org.

Please let me know if there is anything else I can clarify or update for you or feel
free to email me anytime at jill@breastmilkproject.org.

I really appreciate your feedback and anything else you can suggest so that I can
continue to serve you and other donating moms in the future as best as possible.

Jill Youse

The first thing I want to say is that I really appreciate you contacting me directly, Jill, and I have to admit that, upon reading this, my heart softened a little. I gotta hand it to you, you do have a way with words. When I read the message, I thought to myself, “Maybe the $20,000+/month she’s getting for selling the donated breastmilk to Prolacta is all going to help African orphans after all… Maybe, just maybe, all your suspicions about the IBMP based on your observations so far have been unwarranted, Mama Bear.”

I thought about it. And then I thought some more. I think “moving forward” onto Tanzania is great, fantastic, even, but I’m still wondering what happened to the children at the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya.

“…we have donated funding already to Lewa…,” the message says, almost dismissively. That’s the only information on Kenya there is. But I have a few questions about that matter, so here’s my response:

Dear International Breast Milk Project,

When did the IBMP donate to the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya?

How much (in US dollars) did the IBMP donate to the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya?

Was the donation to the Lewa Children’s Home 100% of all the money the IBMP made while that figure (”100%”) was used on the IBMP website to collect more breastmilk donations? Because those questions are relevant and still unanswered.

I did notice that the IBMP FAQ page now has this addendum (added August 29, 2007):

Until now, International Breast Milk Project has been an all-volunteer organzition. [sic] As a result of the astounding and unexpected growth we have experienced over the past six months, we will be allocating a very small percentage of finincial [sic] donations to pay for program management and coordination of the International Breast Milk Project including a financial manager. This will ensure full accountability, progress, and transparency.

The typographical errors on “organization” and “financial” notwithstanding, I am assuming that the word “now” implies “August 29, 2007,” because that’s when that statement was written. This means that before August 29, 2007 (yesterday), the program management, coordination and financial stuff was taken care of by volunteers for free, right?

Volunteers don’t get paid a dime for their altruism. Or have some of those funds been “allocated” for some IBMP “volunteers” here in the United States? Or perhaps the volunteers didn’t get paid, but somebody has? In case you’re wondering, I don’t actually think that’s a problem, except in the case where this fact is not disclosed and something else is being implied. As of right this moment, no such fact has been disclosed and the implication is now (as of yesterday) that, other than a tiny percentage of the money made off donations, the great majority of the money will go straight to Africa. The wording also implies that this “allocation” hasn’t taken place yet, that it will take place sometime in the future (”we will be allocating” is what is written, instead of “we have allocated” or “we have been allocating”), so if the IBMP “has been allocating” already, that information STILL isn’t on the IBMP website, yet it should be, instead of “will be allocating.” Does that make sense? Also, I think people probably will want to know how much has been, is being, and will be allocated for operational expenses. It’s only fair that people be told up-front how much of what they donate in breastmilk will wind up making its way to Africa in the form of a monetary contribution, because it might change their decision to donate.

Before this addendum was written, I noticed that in every newspaper and magazine article about the International Breast Milk Project that I read (and I have read dozens, believe me!), the implication is very strong that nobody in the United States has ever made any money off this endeavor, that making money for people here in the United States is NOT the focus of the IBMP, and that all those IBMP volunteers (including Jill Youse) are running the IBMP out of the goodness of their hearts. So, I actually think it’s relevant to know if Jill Youse or anyone else is receiving any money from it to keep for themselves, and if so, for how long and how much, because the implication that the IBMP is doing it for free tends to open up people’s hearts and wallets, but, more importantly, it opens up lactating women’s freezers. I don’t think they’d be so eager to help out the International Breast Milk Project if they knew most of their milk were making already well-off Americans money more than it is helping African orphans. Does that make sense? I’m asking these questions, as uncomfortable as they are, because nothing on the IBMP website and in articles about the IBMP, and nothing that I’ve learned by talking on the phone with Prolacta and the people in South Africa reassures me that the opposite is true. In fact, when I read the IBMP website and after talking to people in South Africa, I’m uncomfortably led to believe that most of the money isn’t making its way to Africa (I already know the vast majority of the breastmilk isn’t). Please set the record straight about this, as I’m sure I’m not the only person curious about the answers to these very important questions.

To clarify my point, I was under the impression that 100% of the money made from the milk sold to Prolacta, 100% of that money would go to the Lewa Children’s Home. If 100% of that money didn’t go to the Lewa Children’s Home while that information was on the IBMP website…. 100%, remember? …If that didn’t happen, I want to know why.

I want to know what happened to all that money.

I want to know what percentage of the funds made off of selling donor milk acquired via the IBMP made it to the Lewa Children’s Home. Additionally, I want to know the dollar amount (in U.S. dollars, please) that made it to the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya, as of today’s date: August 30, 2007.

And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I will be sending an email to jill@breastmilkproject.org with the information contained in this post, so that Jill Youse can have a chance to clarify all of this and update all of us. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter, IBMP.

Sincerely,

Mama Bear

P.S. I got Jill Youse’s other message, sent shortly after the first:

I went to the page….
http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://breastmilkproject.org

Worked for me…?

Jill Youse

Yes, I (and others) noticed that yesterday it started working perfectly, as well, after I posted what I did. Thanks for pointing that out, Jill. The day before, though, August 28, 2007, it was “experiencing technical difficulties” for the whole day. Also, and this may very well be the archive’s fault and not IBMP’s… Several FAQ pages are missing. Many, many months’ worth.

*******UPDATE*******UPDATE*******UPDATE*******

(The following is an edit to the above original post made September 1, 2007):

Jill responded to the post above by emailing me the following message:

Thanks so much for posting and helping me identify areas of
improvement. I will
work to answer all of your questions.

Good to see there are no hard feelings! I will be awaiting the answers from the IBMP (or Jill), which if everything is on the up-and-up, should be a cinch for the IBMP (or Jill) to answer.

Edit:  A lot of the links under the category of “Prolacta” and “International Breast Milk Project” don’t work anymore because they don’t go to the same place I originally linked to.  This is not anything I did; the changes were made externally.  I’ve chosen to leave the links there and issue this edit so that you, my readers, are aware of what has happened.

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6 Responses to “Jill Youse Responds, And So Do I”

  1. Dewi Says:

    Mama Bear,
    You’re an amazing investigative reporter. Have you considered handing over your finding to your state attorney General? Or the state that Jill Youse lives.
    Is there a formal way for you to report this non profit that is mis-handling funds?

  2. Amanda Says:

    Is this the most recent update? Has there been a response to these questions yet?

  3. MamaBear Says:

    As of right now, there are still many unanswered questions about the IBMP regarding the money and the milk. I corresponded with Jill, and she confirmed that NONE of the money paid by Prolacta from the sale of 75% of the donated milk had yet been sent to Africa as of the date of this posting. You can learn a little bit (and I do mean “little”) by going to the IBMP website and seeing yourself what questions are answered, but I have several questions still whose answers nobody has provided (even after asking directly) and which cannot be found anywhere on the IBMP website (or elsewhere on the internet).

  4. Jenn Says:

    Hello,
    Has any of this been resolved? I am seriously considering donating milk to this organization and would like to know how this matter played out. Did you ever receive any satisfying answers?
    Thanks!
    Jenn
    Jenn.mitchell1@gmail.com
    Jan 3, 2008

  5. MamaBear Says:

    Hi Jenn! I was thinking of writing a blog post about it, and I guess now I probably should. The IBMP has issued a December update which I read and also took a look at the numbers they are making available to the public. The short answer is that I would not recommend donating milk to the IBMP. :)

  6. Jenn Says:

    Thanks! I would be interested in reading your blog on these recent numbers.
    Jenn

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