Story by Whitney Trumble, Lead Volunteer for Outreach & Grants, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago & Northern Illinois Region Restoring Family Links (RFL) Program is gearing up for a busy spring! From World Refugee Day festivities to ramping up our outreach efforts, we are excited about making connections and helping separated families restore communication.
We kicked off our outreach season on Friday, March 6th. In honor of International Women’s Day, students, non-profit professionals, international development practitioners and organizations throughout the Chicagoland area met to discuss women’s health issues at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ 3rd Annual Global Health Symposium. Entitled, Women's Health: Rewriting the Goals, the symposium discussed topics ranging from nutrition to the uses of big data (a panel which included our very own Harley Jones, Regional Chief Operating Officer). RFL staff and volunteers set up a booth to interact with symposium participants in between sessions. Through this, we were able to reach more than 25 interested individuals, and make connections with a number of organizations serving immigrant and refugee populations.
The weekend of RFL continued on Sunday, March 8, where the Iraqi Mutual Aid Society invited us to speak at an informational session for its Reunification Program. We spoke to more than 50 participants from Iraq, Syria, Burma and other countries interested in bringing relatives to the United States, and received a great deal of positive feedback regarding our services. We look forward to working with some of the clients who expressed interest in opening a case to search for loved ones they were separated from while fleeing conflict.
The following Friday, March 13th, we had the honor of celebrating International Women’s Day with our refugee community, planned by a network of refugee service provider agencies, including the American Red Cross. The women received a day of relaxation and community that included massages, henna tattoos, manicures, crafts, healthy snacks, a free-style dance party, instructor-led Zumba and giveaways from the Red Cross: RFL key chains, RFL pens and Emergency First Aid kits. It was a fun day to spend with these amazing women, and an exciting opportunity for the RFL program to support this important day within the refugee community and our core partners.
These three events mark the start of what looks to be an exciting spring for RFL outreach. We have begun a concerted push to recruit new volunteers, making efforts to reach out to our Latino as well as Iraqi and Syrian communities as our focus. We are also excited about programming for this year’s World Refugee Day: in addition to the annual soccer tournament and potluck celebration at Foster Beach Soccer Fields, planned in collaboration with fifteen partner organizations, we are also planning to host a cultural awareness event in the heart of Chicago’s Loop at the Daley Center Plaza on June 15th.
All this outreach helps spread the word about the reconnecting families services of the Red Cross. Hopefully, by sharing this information with more communities and partners, the Chicago & Northern Illinois Region will be able to help reconnect even more loved ones separated by conflict, disaster, migration and other humanitarian emergencies.