Restoring Communication after Thirteen Years

Story by Kaitlin Sullivan, Colorado Wyoming Region, Communications Volunteer

Sarah in Uganda

Sarah in Uganda

Local Red Cross workers connected a Colorado mother with her daughter in Uganda after they had been separated for over ten years.

Sarah was separated from her family as a young girl when they fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to escape a violent conflict. Sarah’s father, brother, and all but one sister were killed one night in the heated civil war plaguing the DRC. Unbeknownst to her, Sarah’s mother and sister made it to the US, eventually making Colorado their new home, while she found her way to Uganda.

Dr. Naomi Leavitt met Sarah while volunteering with a small non-governmental organization in Uganda. Leavitt also serves as an American Red Cross volunteer in the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program in Massachusetts. Knowing that the Red Cross RFL program has successfully reconnected families like Sarah’s, Leavitt stayed in touch with the woman. Sarah had provided Leavitt with key information about her mother and sister that would prove helpful in initiating a Red Cross Family Tracing case. For example, she knew their birthdates and had been told the two had been sponsored to move to the US from their refugee camp.

That trail led to Colorado, where Sarah’s mom had resettled. A RFL Red Cross volunteer in Colorado located Sarah’s mother and sister and contacted the mother concerning her long- lost daughter.

“She thought she was dead. It had been ten-plus years since she had seen or talked to her daughter,” said Tim Bothe, International Services Manager for the American Red Cross of Colorado.

The mother didn’t hesitate to reach out to her daughter in Uganda. She filled out a form to re-establish communication. The form, which is routinely screened for content, included information on the family members and asked to get in touch. The rest was in the hands of her separated daughter. The form traveled from a local case worker in Denver to the American National Red Cross in Washington DC to the Ugandan Red Cross, to a local case worker there, and finally, was delivered to her daughter.

Thanks to Leavitt and the other Red Cross volunteers and staff working on this case, communication between a mother and the daughter she thought to be dead has been restored after ten years of silence. For the first time, the mother learned she has five grandchildren.

The American Red Cross assists in reconnecting more than 5,000 families in the US and around the world every year through the Restoring Family Links program. There is no charge for the program, its purpose being to locate family members and restore communication. To find out more, please visit the reconnecting families website.

For more stories from the Colorado Wyoming Region, please click here.