Story by Sarah Day, West Michigan Region, Regional Military and International Services Director
In early January, a group of Restoring Family Links (RFL) colleagues and I made the trip to Washington, DC to attend the RFL Best Practices Meeting being held for RFL Outreach Mini-Grant recipients. Our two day meeting was packed with presentations, workshops and activities that focused on the Restoring Family Links program and how we might improve our local outreach efforts this spring.
During our time together, we were also given the opportunity to connect with National RFL Leadership and get an in-depth look into the work being done at National Headquarters and the future of the program. It was very exciting to meet the headquarters caseworkers as well as those working across the country at the chapter level. I would have to argue that one of the most valuable outcomes of our Best Practices Meeting was having the chance to make new Red Cross friends. It has been very helpful to know that I now have a network of colleagues whom I can reach out to for support and suggestions now and down the road.
Back home in West Michigan, we are actively working to develop and grow our RFL program, so the mini-grant and meeting couldn’t have had better timing! The Greater Grand Rapids area, where our regional office is headquartered, is home to a large international population and welcomes a regular influx of refugee families each year. We’re lucky to have over a dozen refugee support agencies and non-profits in the area, but we hadn’t been successful at making lasting relationships with many partners in the past.
Taking a fresh look at our local program during the Best Practices Meeting allowed me to identify new ways to approach outreach and community partnerships. The mini-grant, along with the tools gained while in DC, have provided us a supportive boost that will help us grow and develop into a skilled and trusted source within our local refugee community and among partners. Hopefully by building stronger relationships with these organizations, they will come to associate reconnecting families with the American Red Cross and we can reconnect even more families who have been separated by conflict, disaster, migration, or other humanitarian emergency.
I know we have a long way to go in West Michigan, but I am so thankful for the few days my colleagues and I had together to focus directly on RFL.