By Daniel Kim & Alexys Lemans, Grand Rapids, Michigan
International disasters, migration, war, and conflict leave millions of people all over the world in need of assistance each year. As a worldwide system, International Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are able to help families everywhere bridge the gap caused by these issues.
Makiwa Rashidi fled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002 due to the armed conflict around her. Fleeing can be a complicated matter and she was separated from her family—across countries and oceans; from DRC to South Africa to Grand Rapids, Michigan—until the Red Cross helped reunite Makiwa with her loved one, Motema Dedieu.
Motema Dedieu had plans to follow Makiwa to South Africa but he never showed up. He wasn't able to leave Uvira, the city where they lived together in DRC. For a short period of time, Makiwa and Motema were able to connect through telephone. They spoke daily to ensure one another’s safety until one day, Motema stopped answering. A group was sent to find Motema in Uvira but there was no trace of him or his family.
In 2012, Makiwa was relocated to the United States. She contacted the American Red Cross of West Michigan to start a case in October 2014—she wanted to find Motema and reunite with him.
Restoring Family Links (RFL) offers hope to families that are victims of conflict and separation. When separation happens, the Red Cross is there to help, whether it is to deliver a message to a loved one overseas, to locate missing family members, or even to reconnect Holocaust survivors to long-lost relatives. With the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies all around the world, Red Cross case workers help connect thousands of loved ones each year. This includes searching for family members, restoring contact, facilitating reunions, and working to determine the fate of loved ones who remain missing.
“Restoring Family Links is a remarkable program,” said Daniel Kim, the International Services associate and the RFL caseworker at the American Red Cross of West Michigan. “It truly demonstrates the extent to which the Red Cross spans. It really is worldwide and it allows us to reach families who need help everywhere.”
Thanks to the Restoring Family Links program and the help of hard working Red Crossers, Makiwa reconnected with Motema early in March 2015. After he was separated from Makiwa, he fled to Uganda and is currently a refugee there. The Red Cross is working with Makiwa to take the next steps in uniting the two loved ones.