Remembering the Red Cross on World Day of Social Justice

Dirty water cistern where farmers and their families gather water in Northeastern Brazil

Dirty water cistern where farmers and their families gather water in Northeastern Brazil

Story by Katie Sives, Northeastern Pennsylvania Region, International Services Volunteer

For World Day of Social Justice, it is important to keep in mind the incredible work the International Services team of the American Red Cross does to bring social justice to migrant and refugee communities globally. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in his statement for World Day of Social Justice said “we must do more to empower individuals through decent work, support people through social protection, and ensure the voices of the poor and marginalized are heard.” The American Red Cross International Services team does just this, giving its time and resources to connect families separated by conflict, war, or humanitarian crisis in its Restoring Family Links (RFL) program.

Humanitarian crises happen every day around the globe. In 2012, I had the opportunity to live and research in the semi-arid northeast region of Brazil. I studied the intersection of public policy and poverty and its impact on small-scale agrarian communities. This region is beset by drought and holds the lowest development indices in all of Brazil. Unable to sustain livelihoods in an environment where crops wither, cattle die in droves, and municipal water trucks bring filthy water to fill cisterns of those desperate enough to drink it, agrarian farmers and their families have no option but to migrate. Often they move to overcrowded favelas (shanty towns) in coastal cities, seeking employment and a better shot at survival for their families. For many across the world, scenes like this are familiar; in desperation, fear and hope, they leave their homes crossing national and international boundaries in search for a better life. Unfortunately, during this process many are separated from their loved ones.

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Each year, migrants and refugees end their journey in the United States, disconnected from their family members. However, the injustices they faced in their country of origin do not dissipate when they reach the U.S. Psychological and emotional distress caused by losing contact with a loved one, whether it is a child, parent or sibling, weighs heavily on the conscience. The Red Cross/Crescent Movement and its global partners open their doors to refugees and migrants, reconnecting them with their family members using tracing and messaging services. This gives peace of mind to the person who is searching and knowledge of the well being of the lost family member(s).

For this year’s World Day of Social Justice, we should remember the unique services provided by the International Services Restoring Family Links (RFL) team of the American Red Cross. Their work is essential to bringing about social justice for marginalized communities. We should be mindful that we can become agents of social justice by serving the needs of our community members and in the words of Ban Ki-Moon, “empower individuals through decent work, support people through social protection, and ensure the voices of the poor and marginalized are heard.”