Admiring the grass roots...

Admiring the grass roots...

Having just finished verifying the unofficial results from hosts to submit to Guinness to claim our NEW WORLD RECORD, I finally have a minute to breathe after the 2014 Great Cloth Diaper Change. And this post has been writing itself in my mind all week, so…

For the last four years, I’ve been lucky enough to work with hundreds of volunteers around the world to create an annual grassroots event that highlights cloth diapering. (Just appreciate that for a moment!)

This is the heart of the cloth diaper movement:

parents spreading the word to other parents about how they can benefit from using cloth diapers.

These are not huge events – maybe 35 participants on average. But the impact of those events spreads far beyond the participants, well into their communities, both through word-of-mouth and, in many cases, through local news coverage.

Every year, there are reports from hosts about poorly-mannered individuals who approach the events grubbing for free gear. And the cloth diaper world has a limited tolerance for this as many small businesses and blogs use giveaways and freebies to grab attention all year long and are therefore unable to continue to feed these expectations sustainably for this growing event.  I am sympathetic to this as we need our industry to survive in order to keep the practice of cloth diapering alive.

But I can’t help but see the bigger picture of THOUSANDS of people going out of their way to make this event a success – from the babies on up! And even if each host had 5 people complain (and that’s a huge overestimate based on the many conversations I’ve had with hosts over the years), that’s still a drop in the bucket.  This year alone, we had HUNDREDS of events in TWENTY-TWO countries on SIX continents, all celebrating cloth diapers.  With that perspective in mind, it makes it easier for me to take the complaints that inevitably happen with any event.

My local experience also reflects this. Despite the one participant who was vocal in her complaints (AGAIN this year — she’s complained at past events, too!) this was another AMAZING year.

-  I’ve had the advantage of co-hosting with Julia Smith (Haute Mommy) for the last four years. (Notably, Julia has also volunteered her skills to the overall GCDC Organizing Committee for the last few years).
-  At our event this year, I arrived to find the doors just opening and five or six mothers (with babies in carriers) helping Julia bring things in from her car and set things up.
-  One of our San  Diego Real Diaper Circle Leaders, Priscilla Parra, set up a Real Diaper Association / San Diego Real Diaper Circle table and started consulting with parents immediately — nearly 20% of our 120 participants were brand-new to cloth diapering, so Priscilla was BUSY!
-  Grandma Jeannie and her daughter handled the t-shirt sales, two pregnant mamas handled the registration table, and various fathers were recruited to create the changing space with tables and ropes.
-  Our attendees contributed two enormous boxes of cloth diaper donations. (One sweet woman forgot her single diaper donation and walked a half mile back to her car with a toddler and a baby on her back to bring it back to donate!)
-  Mona Weiss (EcoNuts) volunteered as emcee.
-  My dear sister, who has no kids yet herself, volunteered for her FOURTH Great Cloth Diaper Change — this time with her boyfriend, who was critical to the checkin process happening in a timely manner.
-  Two of our four witnesses have volunteered to help multiple years – - and we had backups also willing to step in if we needed them!
-  Carolyn Russell (Padded Tush Stats) made herself generally useful all day in every possible way (including witnessing the event), and was the last to leave.

I mention all these people because I left that day absolutely overwhelmed with how willing every single person was to help in whatever way they were able. If in doubt about the goodness of people, ask them to help. It’s truly humbling to see how much people will give when asked. In fact, my recommendations for improving the event next year will start with involving more volunteers earlier in the process. People want to give — and rarely complain when they do so.

Am I tired? Incredibly so. It’s been another wild ride!  But I’m also inspired and rejuvenated by the energy of all of YOU who continue to help more families to cloth diaper.

Thank you sincerely for lending your time, skills, and energy to this movement.

Heather McNamara
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association

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