Story by Vicente Baamonde and Elissa Maish, International Service Program Managers for Phoenix and Tucson
The American Red Cross is more widely known for its drives with blood banks, first aid and CPR classes, and for supporting families in local, national, and international disasters. One service, however, that is making its mark in Arizona lately is Restoring Family Links.
During the first weekend of September, the Restoring Family Links (RFL) course was offered within the Third Annual Grand Canyon Chapter Disaster Symposium. The goal of the Symposium was to improve the ability to deliver services through all phases of the disaster cycle. During the course of three days, the symposium brought specialized and less commonly offered trainings, as well as the traditional disaster classes offered by the Red Cross. RFL was part of the effort to bring specialized training this year. Volunteers and partners from many cities throughout the State attended the training symposium.
Elissa Maish and Vicente Baamonde, International Services Program Managers for Tucson and Phoenix areas, respectively, worked together to prepare the course. This was the second occasion that they collaborated together to offer the training in Arizona. The RFL course, taught by both Vicente and Elissa, attracted 15 participants, with the audience primarily consisting of disaster responders. They assured an interesting and active class where the exercises kept the audience engaged. Attendees really imagined themselves in the shoes of a RFL caseworker, playing the roles with great passion. They particularly enjoyed the role plays acted out by the instructors involving RFL caseworker interviews with a refugee client. Elissa and Vicente illustrated the course with numerous cases that both Chapters had previously or are presently managing, raising the interest in the subject and creating numerous questions from the participants.
At least two of the participants will join the RFL team in Phoenix and at least one will join the Tucson Chapter. Elissa and Vicente are quite sure that the rest of the participants will help to spread the RFL message around the state and, if the opportunity presents itself, help the main offices to support cases in remote areas. The variety of ages and different backgrounds within a group of people helps ensure that they will be excellent voices for the program within their families friends community, especially when they all highly enjoyed the variety of topics on Restoring Family Links within the training. It is an excellent form of outreach, deeper that the regular RFL presentation or PowerPoint.
Vicente and Elissa constantly exchange ideas, experiences and contacts. Both Regions promote RFL to the migrant population in different ways and each method complements the other. Vicente has been successful making inroads with Central American organizations and consular officials and Elissa has developed excellent relationships with humanitarian organizations.
The refugee resettlement program in Arizona falls under the purview of the Department of Economic Security. Refugee-related initiatives, activities and conferences overlap or alternate between the two Regions so service needs to be consistent and seamless for refugees and organizations that serve them. The collaborative model in Arizona has proven very successful.