Red Cross Partners with PinnacleHealth to Reconnect Family Torn Apart by West African Violence

Red Cross Partners with PinnacleHealth to Reconnect Family Torn Apart by West African Violence

Imagine being separated from your children due to war and not knowing how to contact them. Years go by and you wonder whether or not they are still alive. Had they managed to escape the violence? You have little information about their whereabouts and don’t know where to turn. You, yourself, are alone in a different country and speak little of the native language. Where do you go for help?

This was the situation facing Victoria, a refugee from Liberia now living in the United States.

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This Week in Restoring Family Links News 1/11/16 — 11/15/16

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 1/11/16 — 11/15/16

This past Monday, long-awaited relief finally came to Madaya, a remote Syrian town on the outskirts of Damascus where more than two dozen people have starved in the past two weeks as a result of humanitarian blocking from pro-government forces. The last time Madaya received any form of aid was October 18, driving residents into such desperation that many have been trying to survive off of grass, leaves, and boiled water.   Madaya has garnered an immense international response, with many prominent figures speaking out about the state of horror there. UN Secratary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Thursday called the use of starvation as a weapon a "war crime", and relayed reports from UN teams that the residents of Madaya were "little more than skin and bones: gaunt, severely malnourished, so weak they could barely walk"

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Celebrating World Refugee Day in Chicago, Part 2

Story by Michelle McSweeney, SAF and International Services Manager, Chicago, IL

Foster Beach, June 20th 2015

On Saturday June 20th, the American Red Cross of Chicago and Northern Illinois continued our World Refugee Day celebrations with our annual Soccer Tournament and Potluck event at Foster Beach Soccer Fields located in Uptown, Chicago.

The tournament kicked off at 9am in the morning, where 8 teams competed for the Championship, and home pride. Teams represented communities from Iraq, Karen (Burma), Chin (Burma), Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, and Ethiopia.

Red Cross staff and volunteers promote the organization's reconnecting families services.

Red Cross staff and volunteers promote the organization's reconnecting families services.

Alongside watching the soccer games, there were a variety of youth activities including kite-building and flying, face painting, finger painting and more. Attendees also had fun at the flower potting station, and many stopped by the advocacy table to sign up for voter registration, and sign petitions for fair housing for refugees. Then they headed over to the food station where cuisine from Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, India, and Burma covered the tables and drew lines around the park!

Event attendees join the dance.

Event attendees join the dance.

Following lunch, it was dance time! Performers from After School Matters, Living Water Church, and the Burmese Youth Dance Group helped continue the festivities and fun throughout the afternoon.

The Red Cross had our own booth as well, where we were able to provide 136 free emergency first aid kits to refugee families. We shared Restoring Family Links keychains and information in multiple languages about how the Red Cross helps reconnect separated families. And while our health services team was there, they fortunately did not have many injuries to attend to!

A representative from ICNA speaks about the importance of supporting refugees.

A representative from ICNA speaks about the importance of supporting refugees.

At the height of the event, we all took a few minutes away from celebration and soccer to reflect on the reason we all came together that day, and to recognize those who are observing Ramadan. Our partner from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) USA spoke to the crowd on how “Ramadan teaches us all to remember how many around the world go without, and that service to others, no matter how small, can make the largest impact on someone else’s life.”

The winning team: United Star (Liberia)

The winning team: United Star (Liberia)

It was a wonderful day of family, celebration and recognition. Oh and who won the tournament? United Star (Liberia) of course!

Celebrating World Refugee Day in Chicago, Part 1

Red Cross volunteers pass out cake to celebrate World Refugee Day and the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross Greater Chicago Chapter.

Red Cross volunteers pass out cake to celebrate World Refugee Day and the 100th anniversary of the Red Cross Greater Chicago Chapter.

Story by Michelle McSweeney, SAF and International Services Manager, Chicago, IL

Daley Plaza, June 15th 2015

Cultural performances, exhibits, birthday cake, and rainstorms!  On June 15th, we kicked-off our celebration for this year’s World Refugee Day at Chicago’s downtown Daley Plaza. This event marked the first time in several years that the World Refugee Day Planning Committee, which includes members from over 15 refugee service provider organizations, hosted a public awareness and cultural event. The goal was to draw in members of the community who may not be aware of or understand our refugee communities here, and provide a platform to showcase the people and talents that make our city so uniquely diverse.

Red Cross volunteers educate the public about refugee issues and Red Cross services.

Red Cross volunteers educate the public about refugee issues and Red Cross services.

This year is also special because it is the 100th Anniversary of the Greater Chicago Chapter, since it opened its doors on June 18, 1915. Despite the heavy rain and storms, our Red Cross team remained outside in Daley Plaza, serving Portillo’s birthday cake in honor of our 100th birthday. And as individuals came into the tents we were able to share information about the Restoring Family Links program, our partner organizations, and how the Red Cross supports our international mission locally.

We simultaneously invited our guests to enjoy the event inside, and while there were quite a few moments of heavy rain, luckily the tents protected us (for the most part). And the rain did not deter the 300+ pieces of chocolate cake from disappearing in front of us!

Chicago's CBS2 news anchor, Mai Martinez, takes a selfie with the crowd in Chicago's Daley Plaza.

Chicago's CBS2 news anchor, Mai Martinez, takes a selfie with the crowd in Chicago's Daley Plaza.

The World Refugee Day kick-off event continued on inside, emceed by Chicago’s CBS2 news anchor Mai Martinez.  And crowds gathered, including our team, to watch and listen to international sounds and dance of the Chicago Chin Baptist Choir (Burma), Oud player Amro Helmy (Iraq), and guitarist Abraham Mellish (Liberia).

Surrounding the room were several exhibits, including one from Changing Worlds that described examples of the extensive journeys refugees take to get to safety; another from Photovoice Exhibit that showcased a project between Heartland Alliance and Sulzer Regional Library, where 12 refugee clients where provided photography equipment and training, and selected their favorite photo in Chicago describing what their experience was like arriving in the new city; and displays that highlighted leaders in Chicago that came to our city as refugees.

Chicago Chin Baptist Choir performs for World Refugee Day

Chicago Chin Baptist Choir performs for World Refugee Day

Overall, the event was an exciting success! We were able to connect with at least 200 individuals to share our Restoring Family Links program, a Red Cross service that helps reconnect loved ones separated by war. Those who may be less aware of our refugee communities or have misconceptions about their experiences hopefully walked away with a new understanding and respect for those forced to leave their homes and everything they know behind, in hopes of finding safety for themselves and their family.