Reconnecting Families, Reconnecting Humanity

Story by Jon Dillon, Casework and Outreach Associate, Washington, DC

Humanity. It’s what binds us all together. A seemingly simple concept in that it represents the collective of homo sapiens, but increasingly complex if you think about the diversity, the variety, both the individuality and multiple collectivities found within it. And it’s here that we struggle with humanity. How do we, as a collective humanity, address – or even agree on the need to address – some of the most pressing issues of our time whether it be Syria, or unaccompanied children, or climate change? How do we work to protect the thing that binds?

The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement is founded on the principle of humanity – to alleviate human suffering wherever it is found and to ensure respect for the human being. Like the concept of humanity itself, this Red Cross principle is both simple in theory but complex in practice.

In today’s world, there are so many ways in which people suffer, most of all as a result of conflict, disaster, and migration. From providing medical care, to shelter, to cash assistance to help a family, and a community, get back on its feet, the Red Cross along with a variety of international humanitarian actors are there to respond when crisis happens and prepare communities so that when disaster takes place, its effects are less severe.

Working with the Restoring Family Links program of the Red Cross, I have had the opportunity to witness first-hand how reconnecting families is another integral aspect of alleviating human suffering following crises. Following a disaster, people need food, water, shelter, and medical care, but they also need their loved ones, and having communication or in-person contact with those nearest and dearest to you, often makes accessing those other needs a lot easier. Every day, I have the fortune of working with passionate people, dedicated to finding and reconnecting separated loved ones.

And while it isn’t necessarily the most talked about need during and following global crises, people still recognize its importance. Just today, I read an article about unaccompanied children in Europe and the work of organizations to support their resilience and ensure that once the dust settles, these kids have the opportunity to build productive, dignified livelihoods. And the best way to protect these minors from exploitation, trafficking, and abuse is to reconnect them with their families.

It makes sense that reconnecting families is such an integral piece to the principle of humanity and the work of the Red Cross as a whole. After all – and at the risk of sounding ridiculously cheesy – we are all part of the human family. As the world responds to an ever growing number of crises, it is crucial that we not only support the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross and other organization working to reunite families, but also those building bridges between communities and individuals to ensure that all of humanity is reconnected following the conflicts, disasters, and population movements that so often divide us.