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VIMALA GOES TO PARIS!

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Hello everybody! After many years I was finally able to attend the Trainers’ Meeting and General Assembly in Paris in October-November this year. I traveled with our Trainer from Arizona, Olga Morris, who was a wonderful traveling companion and became a close friend; we had a great time together. Our Trainer from Venezuela (and my good friend), Andreina, made sure everything was arranged for me; she met me at the venues and was at my side at every turn, making sure I had everything I needed.

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Andreina from Venzuela helped me so much

The Trainers’ Meeting was held at a hotel in the town of Dourdan just outside Paris; the weather was a bit cold and rainy. Jet-lag assailed me for a few days when I first arrived—I felt as if I was in a boat all the time! But I didn’t mind. The French team was amazing. Our French Trainers Christel and Claire were very attentive to me and we became very good friends. The Trainers’ Meetings were very intense as we made our way through a strict agenda. Olga and others were at a table with computers, pounding out the minutes of each meeting while Jody Wright used her computer to put the agenda on a screen that everyone could see. There were a few Trainers that would conduct the meetings, and Trainers from around the world would put forth proposals that were then discussed and “voted”on; consensus was used, so if there was not a consensus, the proposals were left for a future meeting. It was amazing that we got through the entire agenda and Stroke Review in exactly the allotted time. I was so happy to meet Trainers from all over the world, and to look forward to our next meeting in Madrid, Spain in 2018!

img_0104Trainers’ Meeting Stroke Review

After the Trainers’ Meeting, we hopped on buses and were taken into Paris, to the FIAP Hostel, a beautiful venue. I had a lovely suite on the 7th floor, with a terrace that looked out on the rooftops of Paris. The weather was warm and sunny. Christel took me to see the sights of Paris and to a little shop where I bought a birthday present for my granddaughter.

I can’t even express how incredible it was to meet instructors from 36 countries around the world! Every moment of my time was spent taking selfies with them, signing books and programs, hundreds of hugs, having meetings, walking with them to meals and other meetings. I gave my speech in the morning on the first day, and I think it went over very well—there was a standing ovation. The French chapter people were very appreciative that I started my talk in French with a greeting to them. My talk was about infant mental health, the infant brain, and what parenting practices both hinder and support healthy brain and emotional development in children and how early brain development expresses later in life, using my life story as an example. I addressed the audience and how they can help keep their own brains healthy as they age.

The next day I conducted a workshop in the morning, and then in the afternoon. It was based on the recently published book It Didn’t Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle by Mark Wolynn. This is fascinating scientific research about how traumas can and do pass down from one generation to the next through our DNA. I introduced the topic, divided the room into four groups, gave them each a different study to examine and come up with a strategy about how infant massage could be used to affect outcomes in each situation.

The food was fantastic! I enjoyed every meal, again meeting instructors from so many countries around the world at every meal and every coffee break. I went out for dinner several times; first, at a fancy hotel restaurant, with Christel, and with the other speaker—Dr. Hughes Reynes, an obstetrician from France, and Dr. Rodriguez, a pediatrician from Italy. Then with our lovely Chapter Representative from Serbia, Marija Eanes, for amazing pizza at a restaurant near the FIAP; it was nice to walk around our block and have time to talk with her. Then, on the third night, we all went on a boat ride down the Seine river, where we had a lovely dinner in a rather fancy restaurant on the boat. We passed by the Eiffel Tower, which was lit up in sparkling lights, the back side of the Louvre and the Notre Dame cathedral. It was magical!

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Our boat ride down the Seine

The General Assembly was a little bit like the Trainers’ Meeting, with a projected Agenda that was worked through. All the Chapter Representatives sat at the front, each one with a little flag from their country which, when they voted, they held up. The International Board sat at the front, and someone (sorry, can’t remember his name) conducted the meetings. I sat at the back with several Trainers, observing and having a jolly time. I was quite taken with the little flags and told my good friends Mia Elmsater and Sylvie Hetu that I wanted a flag! Mia said that next time she would bring a “Founder’s Flag” for me!

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Chapter Representatives with their flags

There was so much laughter, smiling, so many hugs and so much fun. Of course, all the meetings were very serious, but everyone had a good time, especially me! I was treated like a queen and with so much love my heart was bursting. Instructors from all over the world came with gifts for me—so many that I couldn’t fit them in my luggage. The French team gave me a suitcase, and our Linda Storm offered to check it for me and send it to me when she got home to the U.S. When it got here I spent hours taking out each gift, remembering who gave it to me, cherishing each moment and each incredible gift.

I wish I could tell you what topics were discussed, but the agendas were so long that I can’t possibly do that. I was so impressed by the professionalism of the Trainers, the Chapter Representatives, and the International Board. A new International Board was chosen; Jody Wright stepped down as Treasurer and everyone thanked her for her years of service. IAIM is amazing in that we maintain our professionalism while also maintaining a loving community—everyone is kind and thoughtful and open to each other. There were spontaneous outbursts of “Ami Tomake” when everyone would link arms and sing; once I was pushed to the middle and surrounded by it. I was overwhelmed by all the love coming my way and I just cried.

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I am so proud of IAIM. I could have never imagined, 40 years ago when I first began to teach infant massage, that it would grow into this international organization with instructors all over the world, literally millions of parents’ and babies’ lives being changed by our work, and being recognized as a leader in infant mental health around the world. I am so proud when I see the Trainers that have been with us since the early days—some of which I trained myself—who have dedicated their lives to bring IAIM into the present and on into the future.

About the Author

Vimala McClureI brought the art of infant massage to the Western world after learning about it in India in 1973. After years of research and having my first baby, I developed a curriculum to teach parents. I wrote the classic INFANT MASSAGE, A HANDBOOK FOR LOVING PARENTS (Penguin/Random House), first published in 1979, revised and updated several times since. I began training instructors, then training experienced instructors to be international trainers. I then founded the nonprofit IAIM, now the "Gold Standard" for infant massage information, instruction, and training worldwide.View all posts by Vimala McClure

IAIM MISSION: The purpose of the International Association of Infant Massage is to promote nurturing touch and communication through training, education and research so that parents, caregivers and children are loved, valued and respected throughout the world community.