Story by Liz Corrigan, Public Inquiry Associate, Washington, DC
Over the past year, the Restoring Family Links public inquiry received more than 450 messages. These inquiries came from here in the United States and around the world. Many of these messages were from family members looking for loved ones. Below is a glimpse into some of the most popular inquiries we received.
Inquiries from the Ukrainian Conflict
Over the past year, Restoring Family Links (RFL) received several inquiries related to armed conflict and political unrest in Ukraine. For example, we received an inquiry from a daughter whose mother lives in Ukraine. She had not been able to contact her for over a month. The last contact they had was when her mother called her from a root cellar to avoid gunfire. Following this phone call, the daughter was not able to reach her by cell phone or other means of communication.
The daughter was very concerned that they had limited electricity, food, water and other resources. At this point the daughter turned to the American Red Cross for help. She found our international reconnecting family services online and submitted a public inquiry. Upon receiving the public inquiry, Restoring Family Links National Headquarters staff immediately referred her to a local chapter caseworker to open an international tracing case.
Refugees searching for lost family members
The public inquiry frequently receives questions related to family members separated while fleeing armed conflict. One inquirer wrote to us after he had fled from South Sudan to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. In 2000, he was given the opportunity to come to the United States as a refugee. He wanted to give back to the country that allowed him a new beginning and joined the US Army. After serving on multiple deployments he was recently asked to deploy once again overseas.
Before deployment he reached out to the American Red Cross through the RFL public inquiry to ask if we could help locate his mother. He wanted to insure her safety before leaving the country once again. It had been more than a year since he had spoken to his mother who was living at a UN compound in South Sudan. He was referred to a chapter caseworker so that he could hopefully find his mother and know that she is safe.
Family separation during war in Syria
The Syrian Civil War has forced many families to flee their homes, many times, resulting in separation from their loved ones. The RFL public inquiry has provided these families access to contact the American Red Cross in search of loved ones living in Syria and its neighboring countries. One son wrote to us in search of his father and paternal family. Others wrote in search of family who they believe to have fled to Turkey or Jordan. The Red Cross works quickly to connect each client with the appropriate caseworker in their community so that they can begin a tracing case.
Collaboration with Restoring Family Links
We also received inquiries asking to collaborate with American Red Cross' Reconnecting Family Services. One inquirer in Ohio asked to coordinate on local outreach efforts to the refugee community in Dayton to increase awareness around RFL services. Another asked to use RFL as a referral service for some of her youth refugee clients looking for family overseas. The public inquiry is a great tool for partner agencies to contact Restoring Family Links staff at national headquarters for partnership and collaboration opportunities.
Every year, the American Red Cross helps reconnect thousands of families separated by conflict, disaster, migration, and other humanitarian emergencies. The public inquiry serves as an easy way to learn more about and access these services. To start your search today, please visit redcross.org/reconnectingfamilies.