Brigitte arrived on the doorstep of the American Red Cross, Southern Arizona Chapter, in September 2016 with the knowledge, hope and need for support to locate her missing father. She had recalled seeing Red Cross workers opening cases for families who had been separated from their loved ones due to armed conflict and violence in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Life on the run started in 2003 when Brigitte was 17 years old. Her father was placed on a target list because of his differing vision for the future of the Country. Brigitte, her father, and sister were able to flee to the nearby capital city of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, where they attempted to reestablish their lives. Thankfully, they were able to live together for a while. Brigitte was able to make some money by baking and selling bread, but the danger was ever present. Eventually, groups who had originally targeted her father in Kinshasa now offered a bounty for his return.
Brigitte’s father knew he had to keep moving. He fled to another country and for the safety of the entire family, did not tell anyone where he was going. Brigitte recalled that the violence against all refugees was now escalating. Now in her late twenties, Brigitte was alone and scared. She met with representatives from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) to explore options. Because she was young and vulnerable, and associated with her father, they arranged for her to travel to Nairobi, Kenya. Brigitte underwent many interviews with the United Nations and agencies of the United States government. In 2015 she arrived in Tucson, Arizona. By now, the remainder of her youth and the entire decade of her twenties had already passed.
While she was still being resettled, Brigitte heard from a friend and former neighbor in Kinshasa. Brigitte’s friend heard news that her father might have actually been sighted in the same town where her friend was living! In September 2016, with this lead, Brigitte met with a caseworker at the American Red Cross, in Tucson. Trusting that the sighting was accurate, Brigitte wrote out a message to her father (addressed to “Papa”) that was delivered through the Red Cross to the country where her father was likely residing. Then she waited. Months later, in February 2017, a message was received. It was indeed from her father!
The caseworker went to her house to personally present the Red Cross Message, which was the long awaited-for reconnection between father and daughter. Brigitte was astounded and elated. It appeared to those present that Brigitte’s countenance changed as she read her message. She was astounded and elated, but seemed more relaxed as she recalled her first morning in America. She said that she had awoken a very lonely person, but she felt SAFE. Her life has improved in many other ways. She now has a close female American friend with whom she is able to share thoughts and experiences. She now has her “Papa” who is alive who she is able to hold in her heart. She expressed her “gratefulness to the Red Cross people who didn’t even know her family, for making her dream come true. “I am happy. I have my friends and my family, like the times when I was a little girl.”