This Week in Restoring Family Links: 9/27/2016-9/30/2016

This Week in Restoring Family Links: 9/27/2016-9/30/2016

Gabon: On August 31st Ali Ondimba Bongo of Gabon was reelected as President of Gabon winning 49.8% of the vote. His running opponent Ping believed this to rigged claiming the court manipulated the votes and demanded a recount.  Protests broke out after the reelection in the capital of Gabon, Libreville, where the reelection itself took place. The military was called to take measures to control the crowds of protesters, some of whom were shouting to set the National Assembly building ablaze.

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L.A Volunteer Recognized for Helping Stop Ebola Outbreak

L.A Volunteer Recognized for Helping Stop Ebola Outbreak

Los Angeles, September 22, 2016 --- Santa Monica resident and Los Angeles Region Red Cross volunteer Stephen McAndrew, who served as Head of Ebola Operations for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), was today presented with an a Member of the British Empire medal by the British Consul General Chris O’Conner for overseeing humanitarian services during the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. 

McAndrew’s work in Sierra Leone involved leading a team of over 300 international staff and 3,000 volunteers to respond to the biggest Ebola outbreak to ever take place. 

“The Ebola response operation should give all us hope and inspiration, that the world still can work together, to focus and solve problems when faced with a serious challenge,” said McAndrew. “I accept this recognition on behalf of all the Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff who answered the call for help from all over the world and right in their own affected communities and villages to stop Ebola.” 

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This Week in Restoring Family Links: 9/19/16/-9/23/16

This Week in Restoring Family Links: 9/19/16/-9/23/16

London: Outside of Parliament Square in London was a “graveyard of life jackets” to honor and raise awareness of refugees and migrants who perish at sea. These were the same life jackets worn by the refugees crossing from Turkey to the Greek Island of Chios. There are hopes that the 2500 worn refugee life jackets, with 650 of them being worn by children, will urge international governments to address and take action to help the crisis.

Those who took initiative to spread out the life jackets were campaigners of the International Rescue Committee, with the timing of this protest planned purposefully due to the United States Migration Summit occurring in New York. The Director of Policy at the IRCSanj Srikanthan, said that the protest was “meant to represent just some of the people who have died crossing the Mediterranean- refugees fleeing conflict just trying to get to safety.”

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Rwanda: Son finds father after 22 years of separation

Rwanda. Raymond Ngendahimana and his father Jean Biziyaremye. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Rwanda. Raymond Ngendahimana and his father Jean Biziyaremye. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

The Rwandan genocide separated Raymond Ngendahimana from his family in 1994 when he was four. He spent 22 years not knowing whether he would see them again. But a new life began for Raymond on Friday 26 August when he was finally reunited with his father.

The young man was unable to hold back tears of joy. "I thought my relatives were all dead and I would never see them again. I can't believe that all my family are still alive," he exclaimed.

Rwanda. Raymond's father signs the handover certificate for his son. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Rwanda. Raymond's father signs the handover certificate for his son. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Tears of joy running down his face, his father Jean Biziyaremye (60) hugged the son he last saw 22 years ago. "It's unbelievable! I never forgot your face. I've kept dreaming about you and now I see you in front of me. Thank the Lord!"

Rwanda. After his father has signed the handover certificate, it's Raymond's turn to sign the paperwork marking the end of 22 years of separation from his family. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Rwanda. After his father has signed the handover certificate, it's Raymond's turn to sign the paperwork marking the end of 22 years of separation from his family. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Raymond was part of an ICRC Restoring Family Links (RFL) programme helping people get back in contact with their loved ones. Most of the participants are unaccompanied children separated from their families by armed conflict. The ICRC had been seeking his relatives for over 12 years, but confusion about his place of birth had complicated the search. In June 2016, Raymond asked the ICRC to try one last time. A radio announcement was aired and a week later the ICRC received a letter from a Jean Biziyaremye claiming that Raymond was his son. The ICRC put them in contact and Mr Biziyaremye instantly identified his son from among a group of five young men.

Struggle for survival

In 1994, Raymond fled the genocide in Rwanda, losing contact with his family. He found himself alone in a refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, near the Angolan border, supporting himself by doing domestic work. "Conditions were worse than you could ever believe," he said. "Can you imagine how a 4-year-old boy could survive?"

Rwanda. Raymond displays a photo of himself taken in 1994, shortly after the Rwandan genocide separated him from his family. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Rwanda. Raymond displays a photo of himself taken in 1994, shortly after the Rwandan genocide separated him from his family. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Raymond had no idea about his origins. When the ICRC repatriated him from the Congo to Rwanda, he was first placed in an orphanage and later in a host family. Life got tough in the host family, so he decided to take to the streets, where he lived for about five years. He had just one aim: to survive, so he could honour his family's dignity, as he thought he was the only family member still alive. In 2010, he decided to get a job. During the day, he works as a supervisor for a cleaning company in Kigali and at night Raymond is a guard at a health centre.

New life

"Now that I've found my parents I have new hope for the future. I have people I can turn to for advice. It's a new life for me. I've found someone I can call father," said Raymond. He now knows that he is from Nyamata sector, Bugesera district, in Rwanda's Eastern Province.

Rwanda. Raymond Ngendahimana embraces the father he has not seen for 22 years, after tracing him through the ICRC. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

Rwanda. Raymond Ngendahimana embraces the father he has not seen for 22 years, after tracing him through the ICRC. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Emmanuel Nyandwi

The ICRC continues to help separated family members find each other, working with the Rwanda Red Cross Society. As of May 2016, we were still searching for the relatives of more than 150 unaccompanied Rwandan children and more than a hundred adults separated by conflict. In addition, we are helping Burundian and Congolese refugees in Rwanda who want to stay in touch with their families abroad, or find them if they have lost contact.

Read more about how the ICRC is reuniting families in Rwanda.

Human+Kind: Mauricio's Story

Human+Kind: Mauricio's Story

Mauricio — I joined the Army in 2000, as soon as I turned 18. I was under the impression I was a United States citizen. I didn’t know. I served over 160 combat missions in Afghanistan.

In 2006, after re-enlisting, I went home on leave to take care of some personal affairs before heading off to Iraq. I was heading home from the store with a bag of cereal and a gallon of milk for my kids when I was stabbed during a robbery. One guy was holding a golf club and I took it away and beat him with it. The other guy was holding a 10-inch knife. He ended up stabbing me multiple times before he ran away. I chased them, then got back to my car and drove myself to the hospital.

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