Story by Megan Norris, Intern, Washington, DC
When I first began my internship with the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links Program, I had no idea what to expect. I knew little about the program itself, aside from the idea that it reconnected families who had been previously separated. I quickly learned, however, that I’d only scratched the surface of their mission. Initially, I was under the impression that I’d be vicariously helping the people who help people find their families. Instead, I found myself directly involved in the communications that reconnected those who were separated by crisis, conflict, or migration.
The Restoring Family Links Program exceeded my expectations to no end. My main responsibility was managing the Public Inquiry, which meant receiving daily emails with requests ranging from people looking for their immediate friends and family to people tracing their great grandparents’ whereabouts during and following World Wars I and II. Occasionally I’d get a few questions that I’d have to turn over to other organizations or Red Cross team members, but, for the most part, I was able to successfully forward the majority of inquiries on to local caseworkers, who would then consider the possibility of opening a tracing case.
I’ll never forget the case I received that made me realize just how powerful and meaningful the Reconnecting Families mission can be. It came from a man who was searching for the girl that his grandmother had housed and hidden during the Holocaust. He explained how it was so important to find this girl because she served as a symbol of hope for his entire family, who greatly suffered as a result of his grandmother’s courageous actions.
He turned to the American Red Cross because he had heard of what the Restoring Family Links Program can do, and he knew that we were his best bet at finding, or learning the fate of, the figure who continued to make his family’s suffering worthwhile after all these years. This inquiry made me realize, not only how significant the program was to those in need of its services, but also how fortunate we are to have such a strong team, both nationally and locally, to fall back on if such unfortunate circumstances were to ever occur to any of us.
This brings me to my favorite part of my experience: the team at National Headquarters itself. I couldn't have asked for a better group of mentors to work with who are not only inspiring with what they do, but also incredibly informative, supportive and dedicated. I really have to thank them for giving me the opportunity to work alongside them at an organization that has the ability to save families by instilling hope and security in a situation where those factors wouldn't normally exist.
If you asked me to explain my summer in one word, I wouldn't be able to, but I could pinpoint the single most important word that not only defines, but also encompasses the organization, team and mission: family.