Red Cross helps Reunite Refugee Family in North Carolina

Story by Rosemary Spezzo, Heart of North Carolina Region, Volunteer RFL Instructor and Mentor

Rosemary Spezzo, RFL Instructor and Mentor, with Honorine at the family reunification.

Rosemary Spezzo, RFL Instructor and Mentor, with Honorine at the family reunification.

I first met Honorine through her caseworker at Elon University’s School of Law’s Humanitarian Immigration Law Clinic. I had presented on the American Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links program at the Clinic before, and upon meeting Honorine, the caseworker referred her to the program. With his help as a translator, Honorine told me her story.

Honorine, her husband, Ferdinand, and their family lived in a village in the Central African Republic, a nation prone to conflict. One day, her husband and some of her children and grandchildren went to the family farm. Honorine and three of her children went to the market. A battle ensued in their village and Honorine and her children fled into the bush for safety. Ferdinand and the other children also fled but in a different direction. The family became separated. After spending some time in a refugee camp in neighboring Cameroon, Honorine and her children made their way to Greensboro, North Carolina in 2010.

In April 2011, Honorine came to the Red Cross and told her story to me. She wrote a Red Cross Message to her husband saying how she had not forgotten him or the children and prayed every day that God would reunite their family. That day a case was opened and the waiting began.

Finally, in August of 2011, I was able to tell Honorine that we had found Ferdinand and the rest of her family. When I told her, she kept saying over and over “le bonne Dieu, le bonne Dieu”(the good God, the good God). Ferdinand also sent back a reply message. In it, he said that he had thought that Honorine and the others were dead. Now each knew that the other was safe.

Honorine's family sees each other for the first time in five years.

Honorine's family sees each other for the first time in five years.

It took another year and the combined efforts of the Humanitatrian Immigration Law Clinic and the African Services Coalition to finally reunite the family. Another daughter and her children are still back in Cameroon. The Law Clinic is working with Honorine to bring them to Greensboro.

It was a privilege to have worked on this case. Honorine’s happiness was a joy to behold. I will always remember the moment Honorine’s caseworker read Ferdinand’s message to Honorine. It was a very emotional moment for all three of us – albeit a happy, joyous one. Moments like this are why I am involved in the Restoring Family Links program – they make it all worthwhile!

To watch a video of the family's reunification, please click here.