Restoring Family Links: A One-year miracle in the making

Restoring Family Links: A One-year miracle in the making

For over a year, Restoring Family Links caseworkers in the International Services department have been working to reconnect a sister, Lazara, living in Cuba and her brother, Juan, living in the United States. Due to migration, the siblings were separated for over 16 years and not spoken during that time period. That’s why it was a surprise when the sister received two letters from her brother in August of 2014. Reading the letter’s distressing news of his admittance to a mental health facility, Lazara repeatedly sent letters to Juan. Receiving no response after the first two letters, Lazara reached out to the Cuban Red Cross, which contacted the L.A. Region through the International Red Cross. Lazara requested our services in the form of a Red Cross Message to know if he was alive and if so, how and where he was.

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South Sudanese Red Cross Volunteers: Dedicated to the cause despite personal loss

South Sudanese Red Cross Volunteers: Dedicated to the cause despite personal loss

Stories and photos are from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). 

Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes at the end of June when fighting broke out in Wau, South Sudan. Many of those were South Sudan Red Cross volunteers, but that hasn't stopped them from working around the clock to help others in need.

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How a Simple Phone Call Reduced Anxiety on Two Continents

How a Simple Phone Call Reduced Anxiety on Two Continents

Mrs. C is a gentle, quiet, positive woman who doesn't like to draw attention to herself. That’s why she agreed to share her story, but asked not to share her name and photo. That’s also why she didn't initially think to ask for help with a somewhat unusual need: help placing a call to Italy.

Mrs. C is petite, with dove grey hair and a soft, round, smiling face. Neatly coiffed and dressed in clean clothes that fit her small frame well, you wouldn't know at first glance that she was an evacuee who had spent the past 7 nights in a Red Cross shelter.

Mrs. C is one of the 130 seniors who were displaced from their apartments last week due to an apartment fire. She has been staying at the Red Cross shelter in Littleton since then. And while she quickly met her physical needs at the shelter through hot meals, fresh clothes, and help obtaining medications, she didn't know that the Red Cross could also help her with her other most pressing need. It wasn't a physical need, but it was just as important: she hadn't spoken with her family in over a week, and she was worried about their inability to reach her and that they would be anxious about her well being after such an extended period of silence.

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This Week in Restoring Family Links 3/28/2016 - 4/1/2016

This Week in Restoring Family Links 3/28/2016 - 4/1/2016

This week, Europe saw dramatic changes in the flows of migrants and refugees reaching its shores from the Middle East and North Africa. Over the course of the month, March saw the number of arrivals halve from what they were in February, from 57,000 to 25,000 new arrivals. Yet, the last week in particular has seen contrasting trends, with Italy rescuing 1,482 migrants over two days off the coast of Libya, indicating that arrivals along the North Africa - Italy route are on the rise. Further supporting this observation comes yesterday's tragic sinking of a dinghy carrying about 100 migrants from Libya sinking in the Mediterranean, with the total number dead so far unknown. In Greece, the numbers of arrivals entering from Turkey had drastically reduced as well, with only about 1,000 entering from Turkey per day compared to about 2,000 per day over the past few months. 

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Women's Health Week: Turning Education into Action

 Red Cross AmeriCorps members, Alicia Erwin (left) and Maddie Wright (right) teach basic First Aid techniques.

Red Cross AmeriCorps members, Alicia Erwin (left) and Maddie Wright (right) teach basic First Aid techniques.

Story by Katherine Riley, Volunteer, Chicago, IL

While my fellow classmates were stressing their way through their final AP tests, I spent my morning in a church auditorium with refugee women from around the globe.

During my last few weeks in May as a high school senior, I decided to spend my four week High School Senior Project volunteering at the American Red Cross in Chicago. After three weeks in Fund Development and Blood Services, my last week was spent with Service to the Armed Forces and International Services (specifically working with the Restoring Family Links program). I was growing sentimental that my time at the Red Cross was coming to a close; however, if it had to be my last week, I was thrilled that it was Women’s Health Week.

National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) is an observance led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on women’s health. The goal is to empower women to make their health a priority, and understand what steps they can take to improve it.

Each year in Chicago, a committee of refugee-serving organizations, including the Red Cross, plan a weeklong event during NWHW to promote a healthy lifestyle to refugee women and provide relevant educational information with useful skills and tools to make this ‘call to action’ a reality. With so many great organizations working in full force together, I was awestruck and honored to be a part of it.

As an eighteen year old girl from the suburbs of Chicago, a healthy lifestyle to me is exercising, eating carrots, and rationing my cupcake intake. However, when I arrived at the event I was blown away by the thoughtful agenda. These women were not just learning about preservatives and treadmills, but about domestic violence and family planning. The wonderful people who put on the event wanted to give these women important information that they may not have received in their past, and might not have received in their future otherwise. This also included activities demonstrating creative ways to deal with the stress of being a refugee (i.e. yoga, dance therapy, art therapy, and Zumba).

On my first day at the event, I was anxiously unfolding chairs until 10am when the women began filing in. The initial excitement was so beautiful to me. The little church auditorium filled with women and voices from all over the world. Many were wearing traditional garments, and most were corralling all the small children into the play room.  A few women came up to me to simply introduce themselves and practice their English. Yet, even if they could not speak English (and the many translators stood as proof that many were just learning) they all showed their appreciation for the event in their own way.

I was astounded by the number of people and their excitement to learn. Many of the refugee women came every single day. While we all came from different places, we all laughed during yoga, played peek-a-boo with the children, and gave thoughtful responses to the daily quiz. I can’t remember a time when I have been in the vicinity of such a worldly diverse group of women with whom I felt such a connection. My experience made me excited to begin my life as an adult and meet new people from around the world. It also made me excited to continue supporting the amazing work of American Red Cross. I know that I will be involved in this organization in one way or another for the rest of my life.