By Colorado Red Cross
Our client’s ‘Restoring Family Links’ file revealed her terrible circumstances. Her mother died giving birth to infant twin sisters. Her father was killed serving in their African nation’s military. She, her younger sister, and the new twins all had to move in with her grandparents, cousins … and an aunt whose husband was also murdered because of his involvement in politics.
Then, during a rebel attack, her grandparents were murdered, and her little twin sisters disappeared while she ran, with what remained of her family. They walked day and night over 1500 kilometers to a Refugee Camp. But once there, her aunt and cousins soon disappeared one night, leaving only one sister with her. And then finally, one day when she’d stayed home sick from the camp’s school, her sister, too, disappeared. Despite searching for her everywhere, in the camp, in the nearby town, with the camp officials and the town’s police, no word of her was found. Everybody and everything she’d ever known was lost to her.
After a year or two more alone in the camp, she was fortunate enough to be allowed to emigrate here. Our client attended high school but without a supportive host family, she soon found herself homeless, moving between school-friends’ houses to stay for a while in each.
Through all of this, somehow, she attended school. She learned English. She kept up with homework. Not least, she learned to negotiate our sometimes baffling American culture. She even began attending college here in Denver, helped by financial aid loans and a grant.
All her perseverance, though, could not allay her deep sadness. When I met her, her face was full of pain, her eyes were downcast and would not meet mine, her arms wrapped close ‘round herself self-protectively. Despite all she’d survived, and all she’d accomplished for herself, she was still utterly alone in the world, and felt it.
The Mile High Chapter sought her missing family, with the help of the Int’l Red Cross, though with little hope, under the circumstances -- the search continued on for two years. And yet – and yet! -- YES!! – we could at last offer the beyond-surprising, happiest, most exciting word that an aunt she’d never even known as a child had been found! Not only that, but ALL THREE of her missing sisters were there!
And as she spoke joyfully with each of them, she blossomed. A smile spread across her face, her head raised up, her eyes began dancing, and her hands were raised in happiness and thanks to God.
So yes, in case you were wondering – we at the Red Cross make a huge difference in the lives of refugees, immigrants, and our own citizens who’ve lost touch with family around the world. Restoring Family Links does the detective work, the searching, the footwork that others cannot, to re-connect people with their loved ones.
But I have to tell you … much as I deeply appreciate the American Red Cross calling its volunteers ‘heroes,’ I have NO doubt who the real heroes are. These new emigres. These survivors. These strivers after the American Dream. The ones who start with nothing at all, to rebuild lives. They impress me and inspire me every single day that I work with them. Our refugee and immigrant clients are unsung heroes living the promise of America.