This week in Restoring Family Links: 07/18/2016-07/22/2016

This week in Restoring Family Links: 07/18/2016-07/22/2016

Turkey: Friday night, July 15, Turkey experienced an attempted military coup, resulting in 161 deaths and at least 1,440 people injured. After a night of fighting between the insurgent military faction and the government, President Recept Tayyip Erdogan declared that the coup was over and that the government was still in charge.   

Aside this recent coup, Turkey has gone through three military takeovers in 1960, 1971, and 1980 respectively and the people then went through gross human rights violations. According to Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist and essayist, because of this history, Turkish people are willing to defend the civilian rule against any military coups because they do not want another dictatorship even if they are not fond of the ruling government.

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Pregnant in a refugee camp

Pregnant in a refugee camp

Citegetse Laurence is due at any moment. Literally. “I’m past nine months pregnant,” she says with a grin. A maternity ward nurse at the Tanzania Red Cross Society hospital in the Mtendeli refugee camp, she is more than familiar with the ins and outs of giving birth. And, as a refugee who recently escaped ongoing violence in her home country of Burundi, she is more than familiar with the challenges of being pregnant in such an environment. Unfortunately, Citegetse is not alone. 

The doctors at this hospital see an average of 120 patients per day. As refugees transferred to Mtendeli from the overcrowded Nyarugusu camp three hours to the south at the rate of 1,500 a week, that number continued to grow. Of those 120 daily patients, 50, on average, are pregnant. Walk into the hospital any day of the week and you will hear the cries of newborns and see their mothers breastfeeding. Walk throughout the camp and you will see pregnant women everywhere. One doctor tells me that the high fertility rate of Burundian women is their way of replacing the many they have lost. It is a heartbreaking way to think about new life in the world.

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This Week in Restoring Family Links 3/7/2016 - 3/11/2016

This Week in Restoring Family Links 3/7/2016 - 3/11/2016

This Wednesday, the world came together to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.  The day has been observed since the early 1900's-starting as National Woman's Day in the US in 1909. The day eventually became International Women's Day when Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland collectively honored it in 1911, which gained quick attention after the "Triangle fire" accident in New York a week later killed 140 working, immigrant women. This year's campaign theme was Pledging for Parity, calling to mind the issue of slowing gender parity around the world in recent years. 

The United Nations' theme for the day was Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality, an initiative meant to bring attention to the challenges that hold back women from reaching their full potential. As of February 2016, pledges have been made by over 90 governments to overcome gender equality gaps, which have so far culminated in the Global Leader's Meeting on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment held in China in September 2015.  

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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.