Story by Katie Kusnierek
Photos by Daniel Soderstrom
After five years of searching on her own, Asha Sugule turned to the Red Cross in Minneapolis for help finding her sister somewhere, she believed, in East Africa. In 2006, Asha Sugule married and moved with her new husband from East Africa to the United States, leaving behind her 5-year-old sister Layla. Fortunately, Asha was able to leave Layla with family friends who had a telephone. The separation left a huge void in Asha’s life, but she was grateful to be able to speak with her sister and know that she was doing well.
Asha continued to have regular conversations with Layla for two to three years until the family caring for young Layla abruptly left Nairobi, Kenya, and could no longer be reached by phone. The family could not afford to have a phone and Layla was too young to find the means to contact Asha. So, Asha and Layla lost all contact with each other. Distraught at the thought of her sister being so far away from her and so alone, Asha feared for Layla’s safety who was now a young lady and in need of her older sister’s guidance and love.
Asha tried desperately to find out any information that she could on the whereabouts of her sister. Asha only had rumors from friends and neighbors to go off of and continued searching for Layla for five years with no success.
Finally, Asha contacted friends in Yemen who told her to try contacting the Red Cross for help in the search for her sister. Much to Asha’s surprise, Red Cross workers with the Restoring Family Links program were able to track down Layla in a matter of months and deliver a message to Asha with Layla’s contact information this past September. After years of separation, Asha was able to reconnect with her sister, who had moved to Ethiopia, married, and was pregnant with her first child.
Today, Asha and Layla are able to speak on the phone and are once again a part of each other’s lives. Asha is hopeful that someday Layla may move to the United States so that they can be reunited, but for now she is happy to have her sister back in her life.
Asha encourages others in her community to contact the Red Cross for help and support. “I am so happy because someone was able to find my family member,” says Asha. She wants others to feel the same sense of relief and joy that the Red Cross gave her.
For more information on what the American Red Cross is doing in the Northern Minnesota Region, please visit their blog.