“We are committed to enriching our culture by sustaining and ensuring the economic survival of African-Americans and other people of African Ancestry…Our recent participation in the ‘Mama Kit Baby Shower,’ is very much a part of what we do.”
-Carol Hamlin, Co-Chair of International Trends and Services
Chesapeake-Virginia Beach Chapter of The Links, Incorporated
The Links, Incorporated has supported Africare for more than 30 years. A service organization of women with continuous commitment to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry, The Links, Inc. is one of the oldest organizations of its kind. Since its founding in 1946, The Links, Inc. has grown to 12,000 members representing 276 chapters in at least 41 states. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of cumulative service hours The Links, Inc. members perform annually in their communities, they have consistently supported Africare’s mission since 1980 by funding programs in Water Access, Disaster Response, Agriculture, Economic Development and Health Care. Today, The Links, Inc. and Africare are saving lives by combating maternal and infant mortality in Liberia through innovative Maternal Waiting Homes. Our interview with Mrs. Carol Williams Hamlin of the Chesapeake-Virginia Beach Chapter (CVB) helped us get to know them even better.
Hello Mrs. Hamlin! I’m familiar with the history of the Africare-The Links partnership, but could you describe more of how The Links works in communities across the United States?
Hi! The Links has chapters across the United States and in the Bahamas, and each chapter is responsible for programs that address our five facets: Services to Youth; The Arts; National Trends and Services; International Trends and Services; and Health and Human Services. We are committed to making a change in our communities through programming, education, public information, economic development and public policy campaigns.
I am the Co-Chair of my chapter’s International Trends and Services, which is the program that encompasses our work with Africare. The goal for this facet is to expand the global platform with programs designed to improve the education, health and cultural needs of people in Africa and around the world.
With so many chapters, do chapters ever partner on the same programs?
We are a service organization, and every chapter has the same responsibility to move our mission and programming forward through the five facets. There are times when a couple chapters will work together to sponsor initiatives. Additionally, within chapters we like to have an “umbrella project” that addresses multiple facets. For example, in our work at a local elementary and alternative school, we incorporate goals from The Arts and other facets when working with the students. Additionally, in response to the earthquake in Haiti, we plan to work with the Boys & Girls Club and a local church to put together “Survival Kits” to provide continuous support to earthquake victims. These activities accomplish goals across multiple facets.
Are there specific chapters that are supporting Africare’s Maternal Waiting Homes?
The Maternal Waiting Homes program is a national initiative for The Links, Inc., but individual chapters also contribute in their own way. Our chapter’s International Trends and Services wanted to find an interactive and engaging way for our members to participate in the Mama Kit project, so we planned and held a baby shower. We spoke with your International Programs staff to learn how new mothers who stay at the Maternal Waiting Homes receive Mama Kits. We discussed what is provided in the kits and which items would be best for our chapter to provide. We learned that baby clothes, baby powder and toiletries were the best items for us to send. We also learned that cloth diapers as opposed to disposable diapers are preferred due to sanitation issues and the need to re-use them.
During lunch at our monthly chapter meeting in June, members shared baby shower gifts for the Mama Kits. We decorated the room to create a “Baby Shower” atmosphere. As chapter members presented gifts, everyone “ooohed” and “aaahed” just like at a real baby shower. The CVB Links enjoyed the activity and are very excited about the project. We plan to personally deliver the kits to Africare headquarters.
Could you speak to what motivates The Links, Inc. to support communities in Africa?
We are committed to enriching our culture by sustaining and ensuring the economic survival of African-Americans and other people of African Ancestry. We do this by participating in programs and activities designed to meet health, educational and other needs of people in Africa and in our communities. Our recent participation in the “Mama Kit Baby Shower,” is very much a part of what we do.
Since 1996, “Education Across the Miles” has been a major national project focusing on Africa’s educational needs. Chapters have built, refurbished and provided materials for over 60 schools in South Africa, impacting the lives of thousands of African students and families. The Links, Inc. is now positioning to expand this program to other countries.
How did your chapter come to be involved with Africare?
The Links, Inc. provides resources, ideas and toolkits to members for each service program. Information in the International Trends and Services materials reflects our ongoing relationship with Africare. Our chapter wanted to continue this relationship by focusing on the Mama Kit campaign since it can be an ongoing project with the potential to expand. We plan to increase the number of Mama Kits we provide each year and look forward to finding creative ways to accomplish our goal.
Thanks so much for speaking with us Mrs. Hamlin. Thanks also for the support from your chapter and national headquarters to Africare over the years. We hope our partnership continues growing too!