This Week in Restoring Family Links News 05/02/2015 - 05/08/2015

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.

World Red Cross Red Crescent Day: May 8th is World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. The day serves as a great opportunity to highlight the humanitarian work and global reach of the Red Cross Movement. Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Movement’s adoption of their seven fundamental principles, this year’s World Red Cross Day celebration highlights the importance and impact of the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. These principles are supported and maintained by the work of over 17 million volunteers worldwide.

The reconnecting families services of the Red Cross are a great example of the seven principles in action.

Humanity: Every year, the Restoring Family Links program helps to alleviate human suffering by reconnecting separated families. The pain and suffering experienced by family separation often compounds the trauma experienced during conflict, disaster, and migration. The Red Cross understands that family connection is a crucial piece of human resilience.

Impartiality: The reconnecting families services of the Red Cross are for everyone separated from their loved ones. We’re also impartial when it comes to cultural understandings of family or life circumstances that alter definitions of family. Some may consider a neighbor who helped raise them as family. Others, such as those who identify as LGBT, may be fleeing their biological family and consider others within the sexual/gender minority community as their family. In either case, the Red Cross is there to help reconnect.

Neutrality: Regardless of documentation status, political affiliation/opinion, or other stance regarding topics often viewed as controversial, the Red Cross will reconnect you with your loved ones.

Independence: While the American Red Cross supports the humanitarian relief efforts of the US government and adheres to US law, we maintain autonomy in order to act in accordance with the principles of the Red Cross.

Voluntary Service: Across the US and around the world, thousands of volunteers are hard at work helping to reconnect separated families. In the US, this can mean going door-to-door, looking for information on a sought person. Elsewhere, volunteers ride through refugee camps on their bicycles, calling a sought person’s name on a bullhorn, hoping to re-establish communication. Without the dedication of these volunteers, this service would not be possible.

Unity: Unity means that anyone, in nearly every country of the world, can access the reconnecting families services of the Red Cross.

Universality: Through the principle of universality, the Red Cross Movement works together to provide reconnecting families services, and collaborates to improve and grow this service.

To learn more about this service, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies. This year, for World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, the IFRC set up a Facebook page to share and celebrate the work and dedication of volunteers around the globe. To see their work or join in their recognition, please click here.

Volunteer Champions Restoring Family Links Program Nationally and Locally

Story by Tiffany Cambridge-Williams, National Headquarters, Program Assistant

I would like to take the time to offer our sincerest thanks and appreciation to Viviana Cristian, our casework and outreach volunteer.  Viviana started with the Restoring Family Links team at National Headquarters back in October 2013 and has been a trailblazer for the program ever since.  Not only is she a headquarters volunteer but she is also a lead volunteer for the Restoring Family Links program and the Disaster Action Team for the Red Cross National Capital Area Region in Silver Spring, MD.  

In November 2013, the Restoring Family Links program experienced one of its largest caseload influxes after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.   Viviana’s determination and compassion shown through.  She assisted the Silver Spring office in running a call center to ensure that the separated families were able to get the assistance they needed to reconnect with their loved ones.  With her assistance, we were able to process approximately 800 cases, in which the vast majority of families were reconnected.

Viviana has benefited our program by improving coordination efforts between the local chapter and national headquarters.  She has assisted in planning and carrying out several events for both entities, of particular note:  World Red Cross Day and World Refugee Day.

Viviana worked to coordinate four World Refugee Day events for both the local chapter and national headquarters. In this role she acted as a liaison between the chapter, national headquarters and several refugee resettlement agencies in the local community including the Ethiopian Community Development Council and International Rescue Committee. Thanks to her efforts, all four of the events went off without a hitch and were a huge success. 

Viviana is currently helping both National Headquarters and the Silver Spring chapter plan the upcoming World Red Cross Day on May 8, 2015. In the past, her involvement with the event has been a crucial aspect of its success. For this year’s event, she has already been a huge help in meeting with representatives from the chapter and headquarters to arrange the logistics and begin plans for an excellent celebration highlighting the global impact of the American Red Cross. 

Viviana’s hard work and dedication has also aided us in building our outreach efforts and making the processing of casework more efficient.  She is always looking for ways to assist and get involved in all aspects of the program.  In April of this year, she became a Restoring Family Links instructor out of a desire to increase the Restoring Family Links service delivery capacity in her chapter.

We are lucky to have such a passionate, personable and committed volunteer.  Viviana has shown time and again that she is devoted not only to the Restoring Family Links program but to the American Red Cross as a whole. 

This Week in Restoring Family Links News

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.

After six years of separation due to war, the Indian Red Cross Society reunites family.

After six years of separation due to war, the Indian Red Cross Society reunites family.

World Red Cross Red Crescent Day: This week’s celebration was highly promoted on both Twitter and the RFL blog. On the blog we heard Restoring Family Links stories from Ireland, Bulgaria, and South Africa. There were also stories about what the American Red Cross is doing to educate US youth about refugee issues as well as celebrate and promote the fundamental principles of the Red Cross movement. In addition to these stories though, we also promoted this year’s celebration in the Philippines along with several stories from the nation on the recovery progress being made after last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. Around the globe the Red Cross Movement continues to make a humanitarian impact from reconnecting families in India through the Indian Red Cross Society to improving the health conditions of detainees in Mali.

Burma: Last Saturday, May 3rd, was World Press Freedom Day. While recent reforms in Burma have improved the freedom of citizens to discuss and report on political, social, and cultural happenings within the nation, many advocates highlight the continued need for improvement as much of the public still feels barred from expressing itself. Many activists have used the opportunity of a freer press to encourage the conflict parties within the Burma to end violence. This includes peaceful demonstrations made by activists of varying faiths coming together to promote peace between Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian communities. Outside of the nation, many Burmese rights advocates and refugees frequently contribute to public awareness on issues in Burma. One teen recently screened his documentary about unaccompanied migrant refugees fleeing violence in the nation. As the nation continues to build its democracy, it is important to voices like these to be heard in order to strengthen the peacemaking process.

Story Campaign 2014 Update: The winner of April’s special recognition for the 2014 Story Campaign has been selected! Cassie Schoon contributed two stories this past month for the story campaign: one, highlighting the work of her chapter to promote international humanitarian law and another recognizing a local volunteer for her dedication to the Restoring Family Links program. In addition to the small prize every story contributor receives, Cassie will receive a certificate of recognition and one of her stories will be featured on redcross.org.

And the Story Campaign continues! There are still two months left to submit your Restoring Family Links story. For more information on the campaign or to submit a story, please email Jon Dillon at jonathan.dillon@redcross.org.

Celebrating World Red Cross Red Crescent Day

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Story by Jon Dillon, National Headquarters, Casework and Outreach Associate

Yesterday, the American Red Cross, along with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and our partner National Societies around the globe, celebrated World Red Cross Red Crescent Day. Established on the birthday of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross Movement, this day celebrates the fundamental principles of the Movement and its humanitarian impact around the globe. Here at the American Red Cross, this included a celebration with food, dance, and story sharing.

Taylor Elementary International Folk Dance Team joins the American Red Cross in celebration of World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.

Taylor Elementary International Folk Dance Team joins the American Red Cross in celebration of World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.

Domestically, the American Red Cross provides lifesaving programs that include disaster preparedness and response, and blood services. The tireless work of volunteers and staff ensure that when disaster strikes or when there is an emergency taking place for a military family, the Red Cross is there to help.

Internationally, the American Red Cross works in coordination with the ICRC, the IFCR, and its partner National Societies to provide relief. Matthew Anderson, Roster Officer with the International Response Operations Center, shared the impact of the Red Cross for those affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Deploying 46 disaster specialists and committing over $56 million, the American Red Cross provided support ranging from sheltering activities and recovery planning to technical expertise through mapping and telecommunications technology. Together with the global Red Cross network, we helped provide cash assistance for more than 59,000 families to empower them to make their own decisions for how to rebuild their lives after the typhoon.

Matthew Anderson discusses the disaster response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Matthew Anderson discusses the disaster response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Matthew ended by underscoring that “whether you are making maps…distributing items…[or] directing traffic, it is volunteers that are truly the heart and soul of disaster response operations.”

The evening concluded with a speech by Anna Nelson, spokesperson for the ICRC. She highlighted some of the stories published on the IFRC’s tumblr which recount the impact the Red Cross has made on individuals ranging from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to a third generation Red Crosser in Kentucky. She stated that on World Red Cross Red Crescent Day “we are connected geographically, but also through time. We are connected by this day to millions of people across the globe who are also celebrating Henri Dunant’s birthday. We are connected to generations of individuals who believed in the same fundamental principles…who believed in the power of humanity.”

While World Red Cross Red Crescent Day is a special occasion to recognize the important work of this movement, it is also a call to daily support and promote the fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. As a member of the Restoring Family Links team at National Headquarters, I feel honored to be surrounded by passionate and dedicated humanitarians on a daily basis who do just that. From reconnecting refugee family members separated because of conflict to providing migrants the opportunity to call their loved ones to let them know that they are okay, the RFL program brings peace of mind to thousands around the globe. Together with its other lines of service, the American Red Cross and its global partners continuously strive to uphold the mission of Henry Dunant and embody the spirit of World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.