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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Lesvos: New Shoreline Transit Center Helps Migrants upon Arrival

Lesvos: New Shoreline Transit Center Helps Migrants upon Arrival

Over 26,000 vulnerable people have braved the freezing weather and rough seas to reach Lesvos in the first few weeks of 2016. Once they have been helped ashore by the Hellenic Red Cross rescue team and other lifeguards, many of them make their way to a new transit center by the shoreline.

It is bitterly cold with winds rushing between the tents at the transit center Apanemo high up in the hills. But inside a large tent it is warm and noisy with families sipping tea and children playing. They are waiting to board the minibuses taking them to the registration centers.

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This Week in Restoring Family Links News 1/4/2016 – 1/8/2016

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 1/4/2016 – 1/8/2016

US Migrant Deportations: Last weekend, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that it took over 100 individuals/families from Central America into custody for deportation in an effort by the federal government to expel undocumented migrants and send a message to would-be migrants that they will not be allowed to stay here. DHS Secretary, Jeh Johnson, while acknowledging the on-going poverty and violence afflicting Central America, says that the federal government has no option but to deport these individuals.

These actions have received harsh criticism from religious groups and migration advocates who say these migrants were still awaiting, or appealing, asylum decisions, and the raids refuse the due process these individuals and/or families legally deserve. In one instance, a mother of two was taken by immigration officers who said they just wanted to review her document, but instead, moved to deport her. She had been scheduled for a meeting with her immigration officials on January 4th.  

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Voluntary Service: A Year in Review and Reflection

Story by Liz Corrigan, Public Inquiry Associate, Washington, DC

While Voluntary Service may seem like the most straight forward of the Red Cross Seven Fundamental Principles, this year the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) took a closer look at what it means for our national society and the network as a whole. 

American Red Cross

As a part of our Volunteer Growth Strategy, we asked chapter offices across the country to take a closer look at their volunteer resources, needs and strategy for the coming years.  The idea being, that in order to achieve the goals of the Volunteer Growth Strategy, regions need to understand their current service delivery, additional demand for Red Cross services, and ability to deliver those services to the communities served by the region.        

Volunteer Growth Strategy seeks to:

  • Drive More Mission by Increasing Volunteer Presence
  • Invest more in Volunteers – Increase Resources
  • Improve Volunteer Satisfaction
  • Engage Volunteers in Fundraising

While chapter staff, leadership and volunteers met across the country to develop their volunteer strategy, National Headquarters staff did the same.  In International Services, all 15 units met with their staff to assess volunteer needs. 

This resulted in an additional 6,522 volunteer openings for International Services (6,500 of them belonging to online digital mapping volunteers).  Volunteers are especially crucial for International Services due to our smaller staff presence in the chapter network.  Restoring Family Links for example, depends heavily on volunteers to deliver casework services and conduct outreach to thousands of clients every year.  We could never reconnect this many families without the dedication and hard work of volunteers across the country.          

Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

Outside of the American Red Cross, Voluntary Service has always been at the heart of the Red Cross movement.  The official principle of “Red Cross as a voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain” began as far back as Henry Dunant at the Battle of Solferino.  During the battle Henry recruited people from the local area to meet community needs and acted as what today would be called a volunteer manager. 

This year, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies conducted a global review on volunteering. The Global Review on Volunteering was the largest and most thorough review of Red Cross/Red Crescent Volunteering ever undertaken.  600 experts, staff and volunteers were interview or surveyed across 160 countries. 

Today, Red Cross volunteers have moved beyond the battlefield where Solferino began and work in a variety of sectors across the movement and around the world.  Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers serve in health, education and prevention (37 %); disaster response, management and preparedness (26 %); social inclusion (12 %); and general support, e.g. being part of the local branch governance, logistics, administration, communication, IT, Fund-raising, management consultancy and strategic planning (25 %).  

Globally, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has more than 17 million volunteers.  While this is an extremely large number, unfortunately the volunteers are concentrated in just a few national societies.  100 out of 198 national societies have just 1% of all volunteers and 11% of the world’s population.  In comparison, 10 National Societies have more than 75% of the volunteers and 50% of the world’s population.  While many National Societies are struggling with volunteerism, In Burundi, 1 in 22 people volunteer with the Red Cross.  If this was replicated in every country, the world would have 320 million Red Cross volunteers. 

The work of the Red Cross Red Crescent would be impossible without the dedication of our volunteers. Learn how you can join our movement by clicking here

Moments of Dignity

 Syrian mother Ayaat and father Thaen and their one and a half year old daughter Hasar wait for a train north to the Serbian border. They have spent 10 days traveling through Turkey and Greece. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

Syrian mother Ayaat and father Thaen and their one and a half year old daughter Hasar wait for a train north to the Serbian border. They have spent 10 days traveling through Turkey and Greece. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

Story by John Engedal Nissen, IFRC

The water runs down little one-year old Hasar’s body. Her mother, Ayaat, holds her while her father, Thaen, pours the water from a plastic bottle onto her curly hair to rinse away the shampoo. The bath, a normal activity in her homeland of Syria, is considered a luxurious moment of dignity in her life today as a vulnerable migrant.

Hasar and her family spent 10 days travelling through Turkey and Greece to cross the border into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where the Red Cross has provided them with water, food, diapers and a hygiene kit. Sitting in a tent, her sister, four-year old Faten, plays with toys spread all over a tarpaulin on the ground.

“We feel respected here as human beings. The aid makes a big difference. Our daughters can sleep and rest,” says Thaen and emphasizes that this hasn’t been the case on the journey so far.

People have exploited their situation selling them overpriced water and food. They slept on the street. Police have forced them to give their daughters sleeping pills to make them stop crying.

“They’ve been very frightened and have cried very much,” Thaen says.

 One and a half year old Hasar from Syria have just been washed by her mother Ayaat. They are assisted with food, water and medical attention by Red Cross of the FYR of Macedonia. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

One and a half year old Hasar from Syria have just been washed by her mother Ayaat. They are assisted with food, water and medical attention by Red Cross of the FYR of Macedonia. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

The worst experience for the family was crossing the sea from Turkey to Greece. They had to pay $1,500 for each of them to travel in a small and overloaded inflatable boat at 3:00am in the morning.

“We prayed to Allah the whole time fearing we would drown,” says Thaen.

Upon approaching the first Greek island, the boat was punctured after hitting rocks under water. Chaos ensued and the boat tilted over. Thaen tried to swim with his oldest daughter on his shoulders. He was tossed into the rocks by the waves, he explains, while showing the scars on his arms.

“We have faced death. The journey has been very difficult.”

 Migrant child waiting for a train north to the Serbian border. Thousands of migrants have crossed through Macedonia since the beginning of June, 2015. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

Migrant child waiting for a train north to the Serbian border. Thousands of migrants have crossed through Macedonia since the beginning of June, 2015. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

Thaen and his family lived a comfortable life in Aleppo, Syria. Ayaat worked as a nurse. Thaen had his own shop selling mobile phones. But the conflict made it impossible to stay. Prices were soaring, bombs were falling. Their two daughters saw so much fighting that they began to play war with each other.

“We didn’t want to raise our daughters in that environment, so we left Syria for their sake. We just need peace to live a safe life, but there is no such place in Syria.”

They sold everything, or “lost everything,” as Thaen puts it, to have money for the journey. Their ultimate destination is Germany where a lot of Syrians have moved, and where Ayaat’s brother currently lives.

For now, Thaen, Ayaat, Hasaar and Faten rest for a little while as they wait to catch a train to the Serbian border on their long journey.

 Slobodan Mitrovic from Red Cross of the FYR of Macedonia assists a migrant with first aid. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

Slobodan Mitrovic from Red Cross of the FYR of Macedonia assists a migrant with first aid. John Engedal Nissen/IFRC

The Red Cross of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been responding to the migrant crisis throughout the country since the start of June 2015 and now has seven mobile response teams working every day 24/7.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 193,218 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to help meet emergency needs and reduce the vulnerabilities of 10,000 people.

For more information on the work of the IFRC, please click here. For more information on the work of the Red Cross Movement to assist migrants and refugees, please click here.