Welcome Katie Gray!

Please join me in welcoming our new Restoring Family Links (RFL) Training Coordinator, Katie Gray in her new role on the RFL headquarters team, she will oversee development of training tools for the chapter network, manage the RFL Instructor Roster and coordinate national training events.

Katie comes to us with over five years of experience in the refugee, migration and humanitarian services field. She has worked with refugee and immigrant populations, coordinating and developing cross-cultural education and skill building programing, for the International Institute of St. Louis, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC). 

She first learned about the Restoring Family Links program when members of the outreach team at National Headquarters came to present about the program at the IRC office in Silver Spring, Maryland.  While serving as a refugee caseworker and program coordinator, Katie encountered many clients who were devastated due to the lack of contact or lost connection with their loved ones.  Immediately she became interested in how refugee and migrant serving organizations could partner more with RFL services to assist in the reunification of families.  Therefore, when the opening with the RFL Program at the American Red Cross National Headquarters became available, she embraced the opportunity to make a broader impact in the migration and humanitarian service field. 

In addition to her professional experience, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of San Francisco, California and a Global Master of Arts degree in International Relations from Webster University. Katie is very excited to join the RFL team services and looking forward to the opportunity to working with all of the RFL volunteers, mentors and staff across the chapter networks! 

Welcome, Katie! The whole RFL team at National Headquarters is excited to have you join us! 

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 03/07/2015 - 03/13/2015

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

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Syria: This week we highlighted some of the ongoing problems facing Syrian refugees. With the war in Syria entering its fifth year, millions of displaced people continue to suffer from a lack of humanitarian aid. International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, Joanne Liu, describes how her organization faces a series of political and social obstacles in providing medical services to the region. In addition to facing physical threats, Syrians are also in danger of losing part of their cultural heritage. With ISIS and other military forces continuing to operate in Syria, fighting has led to a transnational effort to protect cultural and historical artifacts that lie within the combat zone. 

Outside of Syria, the country’s neighbors also face numerous obstacles due to the massive influx of refugees requiring assistance within their borders.  As the war drags on, deeper issues outside of meeting basic living standards have arisen. With much of the adult Syrian men back at home, a large proportion of refugees are women and children. As a vulnerable population group, they have been subject to numerous challenges including forced prostitution, child labor, and religious persecution. In Turkey, for example, only 1/3 of Syrian youth are receiving a formal education – raising fears of a poorly educated generation entering the labor market.  Unless there are some radical new developments the situation will only get worse since the total number of Syrians forced out of their country could exceed 5 million by the end of the year (from roughly 4 million now).

Unaccompanied Children - Pressing obstacles and issues still exist for minors around the globe – specifically youth who have been separated from their families. In the US, research has indicated that some states are far more likely to deport unaccompanied minor migrants who have entered the country than others (i.e. 30% in Georgia vs. 9% in Florida). These differences in court processing present an interesting situation regarding federal oversight of state policies. In cases where migrant youth have obtained legal status there have already been successful stories of their acclimation into American society.

Globally, hundreds of fleeing minors have perished during treks across the Mediterranean, facing deceitful traffickers, extortionists, and the ferocity of the high seas. This week, the UN announced proposals for actions European nations should take to address their migration crises, including meeting the needs of unaccompanied children. Organizations such as Save the Children have already been mandated by respective governments to provide services to youth that land on European shores.  

International Women's Day-  This past week celebrated International Women’s Day, with Restoring Family Links giving a special shout out to current and former female activists.  This week, a group of women announced plans to walk across the demilitarization zone between the Koreas in a call for peace and “to help unite Korean families tragically separated by an artificial man-made division.” In addition, we highlighted the ongoing sociopolitical struggle in much of South East Asia – Burma in particular – where Zin Mar Aung, a female rights activist who has spent 11 years in prison for protesting government policies, continues to promote democracy and increased female agency within the region. We also honored Clara Barton, a powerful social agent and founder of the American Red Cross in her quest to alleviate human suffering and promote principles that affirm the intrinsic value of every person within society.