The Restoring Family Links Blog is made possible by the work and dedication of Red Cross staff and volunteers, as well as community partners, across the United States and around the world. Their stories share not only the great work of the Red Cross to reconnect families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies, but also the outreach work of chapters to ensure their local communities know about and have access to these services. Their writing also covers the global work of the Red Cross Movement and other humanitarian organizations; and topics relating to the communities the Restoring Family Links program serves.
Below are the pictures and biographies from some of our contributors. If you are interested in contributing to the Restoring Family Links Blog, please contact Jon Dillon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cody is the International Services Coordinator with the American Red Cross of Western Washington. He received his B.A. (2013) in International Relations from Drake University, where he focused on the study of Arab politics and Islamic civilization. He has travelled in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Israel, Egypt, and the UAE. Cody also enjoys crossword puzzles, good coffee, and great conversation. His other writing can be found here.
Hank Bernstein is a volunteer for the North Jersey Region of the Red Cross. He works primarily on the Red Cross’ Restoring Family Link Service, which includes International Disaster, Health and Welfare and WW2/Holocaust Tracing. Hank also supports Community Outreach programs, providing information about the Red Cross to local organizations and groups.
Hank has been with the Red Cross since his retirement 8 years ago from the business world, where he was a Senior Vice President and a Research Director for an international communications company. Hank is a past President of the New York Chapter of the American Marketing Association.
He has a PhD in social psychology and an MS, both from Carnegie-Mellon University.
Hank resides in Pine Brook, NJ with his wife, Ruth, and spends much enjoyable time visiting his son and daughter and his 4 grandchildren.
Carmela Burke has worked in nonprofit communications and fundraising for 25 years. Prior to that, she was a copywriter for public relations agencies. "You name it, I've drafted it--and there is no pride in authorship," she said. Carmela became a volunteer for the American Red Cross in 1992 when she deployed to Kauai to support Hurricane Iniki relief efforts.
- Reconnecting Families Casework: How One Lead Led to Another
- Inter-Agency Links: Key to Connecting Vulnerable Populations and Their Families
- A Visit from Documentary Producer of "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport"
Jon Dillon is a Casework and Outreach Associate with the Restoring Family Links program at the American Red Cross’ national headquarters in Washington, DC. In this position, he has helped raise awareness of the program with national partner organizations as well as the general public through social media platforms including the Restoring Family Links Blog and Twitter. He also supports the outreach efforts of the American Red Cross chapter network, providing tools and resources for local staff and volunteers to build relationships with partner organizations and communities in need of reconnecting family services.
Before coming the American Red Cross, Jon completed his Master’s in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. Through this program, he conducted research in Uganda and wrote his thesis on human rights, sexual identity, and conflict in Uganda. Before moving to Washington, DC, he studied International Studies and English Literature at Indiana University.
- American Red Cross Celebrates World Refugee Day
- Burundi Families Reconnecting after Years of Separation
- Celebrating World Red Cross Red Crescent Day
- The New Year's Resolution of a Restoring Family Links Caseworker
- Reflections on the International Day of the Disappeared
- Social Justice for Gender and Sexual Minorities and Restoring Family Links
Meron Estefanos is an Eritrean journalist and human rights activist. She is a radio presenter for Radio Erena, with her own weekly radio program called "Voices of Eritrean Refugees." Ms. Estefanos is the executive director of The Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights (EIRR) an advocacy organization for the rights of Eritrean refugees, victims of trafficking, and victims of torture. Ms. Estefanos has been key to identify families throughout the world who have been blackmailed to pay ransom for kidnapped family members, and was a key witness in the first blackmail trial in Europe. She is a co-author of the books Human Trafficking in the Sinai: Refugees between Life and Death and Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond. Ms. Estefanos received certificate of appreciation from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement, was honored by Amnesty International and the Movies that Matter Festival for her roll in the film "Sound of Torture," and is the 2011 winner of Dawit Isaak Prize.
Connecting Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Red CrossMike has been a Volunteer for the American Red Cross for over four years as a DAT team leader as well as a RFL chapter lead for the Greater Long Beach Chapter, L.A. Region. He is also an IHL instructor along with being a disaster services instructor for the region. Mike is also the SAF lead for the Long Beach and Rio Hondo Chapters. He is also the Director of the Veterans History Project for the L.A. region.
Daniel currently works for the West Michigan Chapter in the International Services and Services to the Armed Forces department. He was born in Seoul, South Korea and grew up in Santa Maria, California. He graduated from Calvin College, Michigan with his bachelor’s degree in International Relations.
Daniel comes to us with diverse experiences in the refugee, migration and humanitarian services field. Before coming the American Red Cross, Daniel completed his internships in the Civilian Fellowship for International Exchange, Lutheran Social Services for Refugee, and World Renew. He also completed semester long study-abroad programs in Korea University in Seoul, Korea and York St. John University in England, United Kingdom.
Angela is currently the Community Services Specialist with the American Red Cross of Northeast Tennessee in Kingsport, TN. A graduate of East Tennessee State University with a BS in Public Health Education, Angela began volunteering in 2001 in the school health clinic. She became a part-time employee in 2008 and full-time in 2012. She loves to work with volunteers, spend time with family and friends, and go to the beach. She has been married to her husband, Tim, for 22 years. Together, they have two children, Rilee and Tanner, two dogs and a cat.
Kathleen began her work at the American Red Cross in September 2001 as a tracing volunteer to help families find information on missing loved ones in aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In her current role at the American Red Cross she leads the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program that aids families separated internationally by conflict, disaster, migration and other humanitarian emergencies.
Kathleen’s experience in Restoring Family Links includes work on a special data collection project to help clients in the United States to identify their missing relatives in the former Yugoslavia, coordination of international assistance for family linking activities in the US after Hurricane Katrina and subsequently advising on the implementation of the disaster family linking website for the American Red Cross now known as “Safe & Well.” She has experience in reconnecting families after major international disasters including the Indian Ocean Tsunami where in its aftermath she oversaw a 2-year capacity building project in Sri Lanka to ready the national society for future disasters. Recently she led projects to enhance the efficiency of American Red Cross services including the re-design of the RFL case management database, production of online training tools and the launch of a new public inquiry tool for clients and constituents to have easier access to Restoring Family Links services.
Kathleen sits on the Advisory Committee for the implementation of the Global Restoring Family Links strategy coordinated by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Her current focus is on initiatives to improve outreach efforts to raise awareness of Red Cross services among refugee and migrant communities in the United States. Kathleen holds an MBA from the University of Maryland as well as a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition. She lived and worked in Japan for two years before joining the American Red Cross.
Whitney Trumble serves as Lead Volunteer for Outreach & Grants for the Restoring Family Links program of the Chicago and Northern Illinois region. After completing her Master’s program from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2009, Whitney returned to her home state of Illinois to work in alternative dispute resolution. She is currently Finance and Operations Director for the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago.
Thu-Thuy has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley. Professionally, she spent ten years with IBM as an engineer and then in marketing before starting her own company, TTi, a PC Disk test equipment manufacturing company. Besides volunteering at the Red Cross, she is also heavily involved in the Vietnamese non-profit community. This year, Thu-Thuy has been nominated and selected as Chair of the Restoring Family Links Advocacy Committee. She is happily married with two children and loves to cook, travel, and ballroom dance.
Shannon is a recent college graduate from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. She has a degree in International Studies and has relocated to the DC area. During the summer before her senior year she interned with the Central Illinois Red Cross Chapter on the International Services team. She also interned with NHQ and the International Humanitarian Law team during her final semester at school. While working with the Red Cross, she not only became a Restoring Family Links caseworker but she also created an internal training program for staff and volunteers in order to educate them on the inner workings of this program. She is an active Red Cross volunteer and serves on the National Youth Council. Outside of the Red Cross, she works for Millennium Challenge Corporation in their Europe, Asia, Pacific and Latin America Division.
Jack is the Assistant Director responsible for Service to the Armed Forces and International Services in the North Texas Region. After bouncing around from Texas to New York to West Africa to New Jersey and back again, he is happy to have found a home in an organization that is so connected to the world around us. Jack earned a BA in Political Science from Texas Christian University, where he studied the interactions between elected and traditional authority structures in Ghana. He then went on to study the impact of different types of military training on developing states in cooperative humanitarian missions, earning an MA in Diplomacy from Seton Hall.
Jack speaks French with a limited vocabulary and a pretty terrible American accent, but he can probably still order dinner in Asante Twi. He lives in Dallas with his books, records, a big plastic tree, and a Velvet Elvis.
Bob Wiltz, Ph.D.
Dr. Wiltz has been a practicing clinical psychologist for 40 years. He has been a volunteer with the Central and Southern Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross for 12 years, and has provided disaster mental health services and psychological first aid to survivors of tornadoes and fires in Illinois, hurricanes and floods in New Orleans, and earthquakes in Haiti. He is a Disaster Mental Health and International Services Instructor and facilitates a variety of Red Cross courses for staff, volunteers, licensed mental health professionals, partner organizations and the American public. He facilitates the Red Cross Coping with Deployment course for families of service members called to active duty, and leads workshops for veterans, active service members, and military families as a facilitator of the Reconnection Workshops developed by the Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces. He is a caseworker for the Restoring Family Links service that reconnects families separated internationally by war, disaster, and migration. He is actively involved in the Red Cross initiative to educate young humanitarians by promoting the development of diverse and inclusive student teams to raise awareness about International Humanitarian Law and humanitarian values on college and university campuses in the Midwest. For his volunteer service to the Red Cross, Dr. Wiltz was presented with the Illinois Governor’s Volunteer Service Award in 2012 and the American Red Cross International Humanitarian Service Award in 2014. He lives in Peoria, IL with his wife Becci, also a Red Cross volunteer. They have two children and three grandchildren.