Story by Jon Dillon, Casework and Outreach Associate, Washington, DC
Van’s family was no stranger to conflict, migration, and family separation. Following the fall of Saigon, he, his sisters, and mother fled Vietnam. They were supposed to leave with the rest of the family, but in the chaos consuming the days after the fall, there was no time to question, only run. Van and his family eventually made it onto a rickety boat where the fear of capsizing was constant until they were rescued at sea and brought to the United States as refugees.
While they worked hard to adjust to their new life in the US, the rest of their family was never far from mind. Van constantly worried about his older brother and father, both who had close ties with the South Vietnamese government. The family turned to the Red Cross in the hopes that they would be able to locate their missing loved ones. Days turned to weeks, which turned to months. Then one day they received a call - the Red Cross found Van’s brother.
From there, many pieces to the family puzzle began to fall in place, and they were able to learn the fate or whereabouts of many of their loved ones. Van’s father had tragically died when the boat he was on sank. Yet despite this hardship, Van’s family felt fortunate - many extended family members were safe, either in the United States or Canada, while they knew many others who had lost far more during the escape.
Van would go on to attend school, get married, become a successful businessman, and have two children. He stayed in frequent contact with his aunt in Vancouver, Canada - exchanging cards over birthdays and holidays, visiting every other year or so.
It started with the absence of a card on his son’s birthday. Van thought it strange that his aunt would be late, but then there was no card all together. With the passing of another family member's birthday and still no card, Van’s worry for his aunt’s health escalated. But given his previous experience, he knew he could turn to the Red Cross for help.
Van initiated a tracing inquiry with the American Red Cross which was then sent to the Canadian Red Cross. Within days, the Red Cross was able to locate his aunt - she had moved to a nursing home, but was well and happy to be able to re-establish contact with her family. For Van, knowing that the Red Cross is able to help maintain communication with his family, whether he’s separated from them by something as complicated as a war and migration or something as simple as a move, provides an invaluable peace of mind.