Typhoon Haiyan and Restoring Family Links - One Year Later

Satellite phones were used to help people reach their family and loved ones during the emergency phase. A total 35, 230 individuals were assisted through restoring family links. Photo credit: IFRC/Nichola Jones.

Satellite phones were used to help people reach their family and loved ones during the emergency phase. A total 35, 230 individuals were assisted through restoring family links. Photo credit: IFRC/Nichola Jones.

By Viviana Cristian, National Capital Region, Restoring Family Links Volunteer

It has been a year since Typhoon Haiyan affected everyone living in the Philippines as well as those watching the images unfolding on the screen. Once news of its devastation spread, people trying to contact their loved ones in the Philippines, as well as those who wanted to help with the response, started calling the American Red Cross. I was one of the Red Cross volunteers that were taking tracing requests and answering questions at the call center in Washington, DC metro area. 

We filled out many tracing inquiry forms that weekend, not only for our chapter, but for others as well.  When the call center in DC closed, Philadelphia took over for us, continuing the work of the Red Cross to alleviate the human suffering caused by loss communication with loved ones. All I could think during that time was “Let me help gather as much information as possible so that the Philippine Red Cross can find their family.”

In the following weeks, many of the cases for my chapter were closed because families were able to re-establish contact without the help of the Red Cross. Many reconnected with their loved ones through the internet, cell phone, or by traveling to the Philippines and finding them at their new location. Even when they re-established contact on their own, the client would thank me and Red Cross for all our help. It was important for them to know that if they weren’t able to establish contact, there was an organization that could help them do so. As a volunteer, it was gratifying to hear that.

This week, I saw several updates from American Red Cross on the extent to which we were able to help the Philippine Red Cross and those affected by the Typhoon. 59,000 families were given cash assistance so they could buy what they needed to rebuild homes or buy seeds for their farms. It was great to see how the American Red Cross has supported the Philippine Red Cross to provide lifesaving assistance and continue to work together in the recovery process to help rebuild communities. These two national societies are empowering Filipinos with job training, knowledge of disaster preparedness, and a means to continue with their respective livelihoods.     

Both national societies also worked together to reconnect families. I know from my volunteer work with the Restoring Family Links program at the American Red Cross National Headquarters that the Philippines Red Cross worked extensively to find those who were missing, to provide the means for them to contact their families (one way being the International Family Links website), and to keep the American Red Cross updated on each case.

The American Red Cross also worked hard calling clients and letting them know of any updates. What stuck with me is when clients, whose families had lost their homes, still thanked the Red Cross because they were able to find their family members. All that mattered is that they could talk to their loved ones. That is the joy of reconnecting families.