At environmental fairs, baby expos, and similar events, a Real Diaper Association information booth is usually festooned with pictures of happy babies in cloth diapers, as well as with actual cloth diapers, in order to draw attention. Often a curious mother wanders up to the booth and tentatively asks a few questions. Where are the pins? What about the plastic pants? She runs her fingers over the soft, organic cotton and her eyes scan the pretty fabrics and colors.
She calls her husband over. He voices his concerns. What do you do with the poop? What about the extra water use? Washing routines and research results are shared. Then he asks the real kicker: how much do they cost? When he hears about the huge savings real diapers can offer, the next question is usually: Where can we get them?
Often, all it takes is a conversation and a sample to set a parent on the path toward using cloth diapers. That’s why the Real Diaper Association (RDA) is committed to helping local leaders bring the message of cloth diapers to their communities. As an example, one of RDA’s active groups is the San Diego Real Diaper Circle, which was founded in April of 2008. Since then, the group has staffed booths at the 2008 and 2009 EarthFairs in Balboa Park and the BabyTime Expo at the Convention Center. They have also presented cloth diapers in childbirth classes and held more than 50 meetings in central and North County San Diego. More than 150 members support one another via the meetings and an online forum, and they have exposed more than a thousand parents and caregivers to reusable diapers. (See here for a recent blog post about the group.)
Since its founding in 2004, RDA has put training local educators and supporting their local efforts at the core of our mission. Through local Real Diaper Circles, RDA organizes volunteers who advocate and educate about cloth diapers locally, meeting with new parents face-to-face to make their diapering choices easier. (To find if there is already a Circle in your area, check this map.) To become a Circle leader you must:
- use cloth diapers full time for at least a year (or must have done so when your children were babies).
- be a Real Diaper Association member.
- demonstrate support for and dedication to the mission of the Real Diaper Association.
- be respectful of others and enthusiastic about cloth diapering.
- be creative, persistent, and organized in doing the work to get a local Circle started.
There are several steps to accreditation. Most volunteers find that this process takes about 30 hours over the course of 3-4 months.
- Volunteers apply to begin leadership training by submitting a short application.
- Volunteers put together a vision for what advocacy and education will look like in their area.
- Leaders in training will prepare to practice Nonviolent Communication by reading Marshall Rosenberg’s book by that name. RDA will provide a reading guide with questions, many of which are specific to situations you might encounter in a local diapering group.
- Leaders in training will have a series of interviews, by e-mail and by phone, with an RDA organizer.
- Leaders in training will participate in an online discussion group to support one another through the training period.
- Leaders in training who are also cloth diaper business owners will develop a plan to separate those roles when working in their community.
Once a leader is accredited, Circle leadership usually involves:
- Coordinating regular local meetings.
- Organizing Circle members to conduct outreach in the community.
- Setting up an online component to support Circle members beyond meetings.
- (Optional) Raising funds to support Circle events.
The time and effort that it takes to run a Circle depends on a number of factors such as how new the group is, how many volunteers a leader develops within the Circle to take on responsibilities, and how much outreach the Circle does. Each leader must individually decide how to balance their commitment level and interests with the needs of their community.
RDA currently has more than 65 leaders in training around the country. If you are interested in starting a Circle, be sure to volunteer as a Circle Leader when you join RDA. In the event that someone else from your area is also interested (or already in training), RDA organizers can help you work together to share responsibility for a common Circle.
Executive Director, Real Diaper Association