This Week in Restoring Family Links News 04/11/2015 - 04/17/2015

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

Holocaust Remembrance Day: Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, was this week from the evening of Wednesday, April 15th to the evening of Thursday, April 16th. This day is set aside to honor and remember the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust. Around the world, millions recognize the importance of this day as an opportunity to stand against anti-Semitism and the hate that divides humanity. It is also an important opportunity to discuss the legacy of those who survived the atrocities committed during World War II, and how future generations should and can combat genocide and prejudice.

In recognition of this day of remembrance, the American Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links program held an event in honor of victims and survivors of the Holocaust. Rabbi Levi Shemtov, a well-respected and world renowned leader in the Jewish community led a candle lighting ceremony remembering the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust. The event highlighted a campaign encouraging interaction between youth and Holocaust survivors to help ensure that their legacy and hopes for the future live on in future generations. Three youth who participated in the campaign participated in a discussion about their experience.

To watch the full event, please click here.

Refugees in Kenya: Kenya’s second in-command recently released an ultimatum to the United Nations – resettle our refugees, or the Kenyan government will relocate them. While Kenya has been negotiating the resettlement of its Somali refugees for years, this push comes largely as a response to the Garissa University attack, where al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization, killed 147 students. The Dadaab refugee where more than 600,000 refugees reside, is believed by the Kenyan government to support al-Shabaab. The threat has alarmed both refugee communities and the UN Refugee Agency, both of which believe Somalia to be unprepared, and in many places still unsafe, for resettlement.

Conflict in Nigeria: One year ago, the insurgent group, Boko Haram kidnapped 219 schoolgirls. While hope is dwindling for their return, the “Bring Back our Girls” campaign continues to fight to ensure they will not be forgotten. Since the beginning of the insurgency in northeastern Nigeria, over 800,000 children have been displaced by fighting. Many have fled to neighboring Niger, Chad, or Cameroon, while other remain displaced within Nigeria itself. Regardless of where families and children have fled, the displacement has created a humanitarian crisis. While aid organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, continue their work to protect and aid the displaced, the needs far outreach the available resources.

This Week in Restoring Family Links News 03/07/2015 - 03/13/2015

Do you follow @intlfamilylinks (Restoring Family Links’ account) on Twitter? See an interesting article but just don’t have the time to read it? “This Week in RFL News” is a weekly blog segment that highlights and summarizes some of the news items posted by RFL’s twitter.

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Syria: This week we highlighted some of the ongoing problems facing Syrian refugees. With the war in Syria entering its fifth year, millions of displaced people continue to suffer from a lack of humanitarian aid. International President of Médecins Sans Frontières, Joanne Liu, describes how her organization faces a series of political and social obstacles in providing medical services to the region. In addition to facing physical threats, Syrians are also in danger of losing part of their cultural heritage. With ISIS and other military forces continuing to operate in Syria, fighting has led to a transnational effort to protect cultural and historical artifacts that lie within the combat zone. 

Outside of Syria, the country’s neighbors also face numerous obstacles due to the massive influx of refugees requiring assistance within their borders.  As the war drags on, deeper issues outside of meeting basic living standards have arisen. With much of the adult Syrian men back at home, a large proportion of refugees are women and children. As a vulnerable population group, they have been subject to numerous challenges including forced prostitution, child labor, and religious persecution. In Turkey, for example, only 1/3 of Syrian youth are receiving a formal education – raising fears of a poorly educated generation entering the labor market.  Unless there are some radical new developments the situation will only get worse since the total number of Syrians forced out of their country could exceed 5 million by the end of the year (from roughly 4 million now).

Unaccompanied Children - Pressing obstacles and issues still exist for minors around the globe – specifically youth who have been separated from their families. In the US, research has indicated that some states are far more likely to deport unaccompanied minor migrants who have entered the country than others (i.e. 30% in Georgia vs. 9% in Florida). These differences in court processing present an interesting situation regarding federal oversight of state policies. In cases where migrant youth have obtained legal status there have already been successful stories of their acclimation into American society.

Globally, hundreds of fleeing minors have perished during treks across the Mediterranean, facing deceitful traffickers, extortionists, and the ferocity of the high seas. This week, the UN announced proposals for actions European nations should take to address their migration crises, including meeting the needs of unaccompanied children. Organizations such as Save the Children have already been mandated by respective governments to provide services to youth that land on European shores.  

International Women's Day-  This past week celebrated International Women’s Day, with Restoring Family Links giving a special shout out to current and former female activists.  This week, a group of women announced plans to walk across the demilitarization zone between the Koreas in a call for peace and “to help unite Korean families tragically separated by an artificial man-made division.” In addition, we highlighted the ongoing sociopolitical struggle in much of South East Asia – Burma in particular – where Zin Mar Aung, a female rights activist who has spent 11 years in prison for protesting government policies, continues to promote democracy and increased female agency within the region. We also honored Clara Barton, a powerful social agent and founder of the American Red Cross in her quest to alleviate human suffering and promote principles that affirm the intrinsic value of every person within society.

Restoring Family Links Photo Contest

This year, the Restoring Family Links program held a photo contest to better share the reconnecting families work of the American Red Cross. These photos help tell the story of Restoring Family Links - from the day to day outreach and casework of volunteers and staff across the nation, to helping families reconnect and communicate through Red Cross Messages, to providing documentation to Iraqi refugees to help them receive reparations. While just a momentary glimpse, they also share the joy of being able to communicate with family, the relief that comes from knowing the safety and well-being of loved ones.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the contest. The photos below were selected for special recognition. As a thank you for sharing their local reconnecting families work, each chapter that submitted a winning photo will receive a framed copy. Thank you to everyone who helps support and grow the Restoring Family Links program locally and nationally. Enjoy the photos!

Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross - Khadra Farah receives a Red Cross Message from a sister she hasn't seen in 20 years.

Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross - Khadra Farah receives a Red Cross Message from a sister she hasn't seen in 20 years.

Norma Cavazos/American Red Cross RFL Advocate - This man from Honduras arrived in the US in early February. Thanks to an American Red Cross phone call project, he is able to call his family and let them know that he is safe and well. After making contact with his family, he thanks volunteers, MC Thomas and Alicia Ybarra, for the help of the Red Cross.

Norma Cavazos/American Red Cross RFL Advocate - This man from Honduras arrived in the US in early February. Thanks to an American Red Cross phone call project, he is able to call his family and let them know that he is safe and well. After making contact with his family, he thanks volunteers, MC Thomas and Alicia Ybarra, for the help of the Red Cross.

Kenneth Allen/American Red Cross Operations Director - A very grateful client receives his International Committee of the Red Cross Registration Record at the National Capital Region Headquarters office.

Kenneth Allen/American Red Cross Operations Director - A very grateful client receives his International Committee of the Red Cross Registration Record at the National Capital Region Headquarters office.

Every year, the American Red Cross along with other Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the globe help reconnect thousands of families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies. To learn more about this service and to begin your search today, please visit www.redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.

Connecting Sisters after more than Twenty Years

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross — Khadra Farah receives a Red Cross message from a sister she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross — Khadra Farah receives a Red Cross message from a sister she hasn’t seen in 20 years.

Story by Marissa Davis, North Florida Region, Volunteer

Photography by Amber Bierfreund, North Florida Region, Communications Manager

Fleeing what had become a horrific conflict in Somalia, Khadra Farah escaped with nothing but the clothes on her back. She left behind her home and all of her possessions to find safety in Yemen in 1988. From there, she went to the United States, her brother to Europe, not knowing what had become of their younger sister. The family thought that she remained in Somalia for another year, but heard rumors that the boat she was on in 1990 sank. For more than twenty years they feared their sister was dead.

Earlier this year, Farah was so saddened about her sister and the recent passing of their mother that she chose to confide in a friend who then gave her the number to the local American Red Cross office, suggesting she ask them for help finding out what really happened to her sister all those years ago.

Liz Smith, the Service to the Armed Forces and International Program Manager for the North Florida Region of the American Red Cross, received her call and documented the following from their first meeting. “I visited Mrs. Farah when her husband was at work and her kids were at school. She shook my hand as I took off my shoes, and she led me into her kitchen. Mrs. Farah had brewed hot green tea and served homemade flat bread with dates on the table. As we sat at her table and had tea, she showed me a picture of the sister she was seeking, and her younger sister and brother. They were all very young and quite handsome. I conducted an interview and obtained more details about the circumstances of their last communication with the missing sister.”

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross. Khadra Farah pauses for a photograph with her caseworker, Liz Smith, after reading a Red Cross message sent from her sister in Yemen.

Photo: Amber Bierfreund/American Red Cross. Khadra Farah pauses for a photograph with her caseworker, Liz Smith, after reading a Red Cross message sent from her sister in Yemen.

After the interview, Farah’s information was submitted to the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross. Smith was pleased to hear that it was accepted and forwarded to the Red Cross partner in Yemen. The Northeast Florida Chapter was then notified that they had located Farah’s sister and that there was a Red Cross message from her, which Smith chose to deliver in person.

Upon arrival, Farah was filled with great joy because she had already spoken with her sister by phone through the Red Cross partner in Yemen. She “almost died” when she heard her sister’s voice, and was overcome with happiness and relief knowing that after more than twenty years, her sister was alive and well. But tugging at her heartstrings was a longing to reunite in person with her sister once again.

Within the Red Cross message, Farah’s sister explained that she has lived in a refugee camp all these years, never knowing the whereabouts or well-being of any of her family. Farah has asked the Red Cross to send another message verifying that her family can accept and provide for her sister in the United States, with hopes that the family will one day be able to reunite. That Red Cross message is now being processed.

“It was amazing to be a part of something like this and it happened so fast,” says Smith. “This is what Red Cross is all about, helping people. I am thankful to the thoughtful neighbor who suggested our organization and provided direction to her friend in need.”

The Restoring Family Links program at the Red Cross helps reconnect families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies. To learn more about the program and how it can help you reconnect with loved ones, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.

For more stories from the Red Cross North Florida Region, please click here.

Red Cross Reconnects Brother and Sister from Somalia

Video by Kelly Wheeler, Colorado Wyoming Region, Communications Volunteer

Robbe Sokolove has been volunteering with the Red Cross chapter in Denver for three years now. A part of her work with the International Services department there includes Restoring Family Links. This program helps families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, or other humanitarian emergencies reconnect through tracing and messaging services. In the video below, Robbe shares the story of a brother and sister who were separated by the conflict in Somalia as children, and now, are able to communicate with one another through Red Cross Messages.

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