Dallas Texas celebrates World Refugee Day

Story by Alexis Chase, North Texas Region, Metro Area Specialist, Service to Armed Forces and International Services

Alexis Chase with Nanja, an active volunteer within the Burmese community in Dallas

Alexis Chase with Nanja, an active volunteer within the Burmese community in Dallas

One family torn apart by war is too many! These UN refugee agency posters lined the walls of St. Patrick Catholic Church on Saturday June 21, 2014 to highlight the plight and celebrate the courage of the over 50 million people displaced by war last year. This number is the highest since World War II. Catholic Charities of Dallas partners with numerous agencies to commemorate World Refugee Day each year. This year, the American Red Cross was a part of the celebration. Our Restoring Family Links program is a family connecting life line for many of these displaced people.

As children began running through the doors, the scent of food from several different countries filled the air, and music started playing, I was transported from one end of the world to another. There were families from Somalia to Nepal to India and Burma, all joined together through their common bond as refugees. Each person had a story of being forced from their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster, but their spirit, love of family, and hope for the future was alive in the church where we had the freedom to pray in seven different languages and give thanks for new beginnings. It was a celebration of culture with dancing and fellowship. Despite language barriers, personal connections were made throughout the day through interpretation and smiles.

On average the state of Texas accepts the highest number of refugees resettled in the US each year. Statistics for 2012 were 5,907 refugees from ten different countries. Oftentimes, these individuals and families have lost contact with family back home. When this happens, the American Red Cross is able to offer assistance in tracing their loved ones and facilitating communication through Red Cross Messages.

Alexis with three generations of a family from India

Alexis with three generations of a family from India

During the World Refugee Day celebration, the families I spoke to were over joyed with the news that they might be able to reach out and reconnect with a family member so far away. Several Somali boys in their early teens who had just been resettled in Dallas, TX were eager to take the translated information sheet about our services. Though there was a language barrier, their homesickness could be felt. It was an honor to offer them an opportunity to potentially reconnect with their families.

The Restoring Family Links program is a wonderful example of the fundamental principles of the Red Cross movement in action. Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary Service, Unity, and Universality – we provide these services freely and without expectation, to obtain the goal of reconnecting separated families, to reassure refugees and many like them that they are not alone in a new country and that contact with their loved ones is more possible than they may think. For North Texas Region staff and volunteers, it is immensely gratifying to fulfill the Red Cross mission and help reconnect families.