Volunteer Helps Build Restoring Family Links Outreach in Phoenix, AZ

Justin Coghill, right, at Iraqi American Society for Peace and Friendship One World Soccer Tournament for Refugee Youth

Justin Coghill, right, at Iraqi American Society for Peace and Friendship One World Soccer Tournament for Refugee Youth

Story by Vicente Baamonde, Grand Canyon Region, Regional Direct Services Manager

Justin Coghill joined the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter as a volunteer in September 2013.  He wanted to join because one of his goals is to eventually help people and their communities on an international front (e.g., International Committee for the Red Cross, Peace Corps, etc.), and he had heard that the Grand Canyon Chapter offered opportunities that could support him in his goal.

Although Justin was initially interested in serving in multiple capacities, he narrowed down his focus to support the outreach efforts for the Restoring Family Links program of the International Services department.   Although his tenure with the Grand Canyon Chapter has been a few months, below is the initial list of his highly recognized and praised accomplishments:

Film and Speaker Series at Glendale Community College, November 2013 – Justin organized a presentation in partnership with Amnesty International at Glendale Community College that provided an overview of the Restoring Family Links program.  He coordinated the entire effort with Glendale Community College, key players at Amnesty International, and gathered the resources offered by the American Red Cross to deliver a successful presentation that he created from scratch.  Designed as a Film and Speaker Series, Justin’s purpose was to create awareness about the Restoring Family Links and the difference the program makes for families who are separated by conflict, disaster, or other humanitarian emergencies in their native countries.

Restoring Family Links Outreach Grant, 2014 – Justin is leading the outreach efforts of the Grand Canyon Chapter with the support of the Grant. Activities will focus in create relationships with: Arizona Lost Boys Center, Bhutanese Community, Welcome to America Project, Refugee Women’ Health Center and the Canyon Corridor.  We will participate/organize events as a soccer tournament, Ventanilla de Salud at the Mexican Consulate, and Breakfast with Refugees.

Iraqi American Society for Peace and Friendship One World Soccer Tournament for Refugee Youth, April 2014 – The American Red Cross set up a booth at the 2014 soccer tournament sponsored by the Iraqi Society for Friendship and Peace where members of the refugee community from countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Somalia joined together for a weekend of friendly sports competition.  Thanks to Justin’s commitment to community outreach, he empowered several volunteers and interns to join him over this weekend event to educate these refugee communities, their families, and friends about the Restoring Family Links program and the importance of emergency disaster preparation efforts.  

2014 World Refugee Day, scheduled for June 2014 – This year, the American Red Cross is organizing the 2014 World Refugee Day.  Justin is a direct support to the American Red Cross’ primary organizer and he is also the chair of the Entertainment Committee. 

As evident by the list above, Justin is committed to not only challenging himself as an ambassador of the American Red Cross’ Restoring Family Links program, but in also establishing an instrumental reputation in the community as well.  He has been a vital connection to former, current, and new organizations whose missions and visions align with those of the Restoring Family Links program.  Despite his external commitments, Justin continues to volunteer to lead efforts in International Services department outreach, and his actions speak of his personal and professional growth to humanitarian efforts.  We are proud and lucky to have someone so personable, easy to work with, and who is committed beyond convenience to be one of our shining volunteers.  

Growing the Restoring Family Links Program in Arizona

Story by Vicente Baamonde and Elissa Maish, International Service Program Managers for Phoenix and Tucson

The American Red Cross is more widely known for its drives with blood banks, first aid and CPR classes, and for supporting families in local, national, and international disasters. One service, however, that is making its mark in Arizona lately is Restoring Family Links.

Facilitating the Restoring Family Links course at the Third Annual Grand Canyon Chapter Disaster Symposium

Facilitating the Restoring Family Links course at the Third Annual Grand Canyon Chapter Disaster Symposium

During the first weekend of September, the Restoring Family Links (RFL) course was offered within the Third Annual Grand Canyon Chapter Disaster Symposium.   The goal of the Symposium was to improve the ability to deliver services through all phases of the disaster cycle. During the course of three days, the symposium brought specialized and less commonly offered trainings, as well as the traditional disaster classes offered by the Red Cross.  RFL was part of the effort to bring specialized training this year.  Volunteers and partners from many cities throughout the State attended the training symposium.

Elissa Maish and Vicente Baamonde, International Services Program Managers for Tucson and Phoenix areas, respectively, worked together to prepare the course. This was the second occasion that they collaborated together to offer the training in Arizona.  The RFL course, taught by both Vicente and Elissa, attracted 15 participants, with the audience primarily consisting of disaster responders.  They assured an interesting and active class where the exercises kept the audience engaged. Attendees really imagined themselves in the shoes of a RFL caseworker, playing the roles with great passion. They particularly enjoyed the role plays acted out by the instructors involving RFL caseworker interviews with a refugee client.  Elissa and Vicente illustrated the course with numerous cases that both Chapters had previously or are presently managing, raising the interest in the subject and creating numerous questions from the participants.

At least two of the participants will join the RFL team in Phoenix and at least one will join the Tucson Chapter. Elissa and Vicente are quite sure that the rest of the participants will help to spread the RFL message around the state and, if the opportunity presents itself, help the main offices to support cases in remote areas. The variety of ages and different backgrounds within a group of people helps ensure that they will be excellent voices for the program within their families friends community, especially when they all highly enjoyed the variety of topics on Restoring Family Links within the training. It is an excellent form of outreach, deeper that the regular RFL presentation or PowerPoint. 

Vicente Baamonde, International Service Program Manager for the Grand Canyon Chapter

Vicente Baamonde, International Service Program Manager for the Grand Canyon Chapter

Vicente and Elissa constantly exchange ideas, experiences and contacts. Both Regions promote RFL to the migrant population in different ways and each method complements the other.  Vicente has been successful making inroads with Central American organizations and consular officials and Elissa has developed excellent relationships with humanitarian organizations.  

The refugee resettlement program in Arizona falls under the purview of the Department of Economic Security.  Refugee-related initiatives, activities and conferences overlap or alternate between the two Regions so service needs to be consistent and seamless for refugees and organizations that serve them.  The collaborative model in Arizona has proven very successful.