Story by Christian Zazueta, International Services Intern, Denver, Colorado
As part of the American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming Region’s outreach to the ever growing Latino community, we have been putting in efforts towards innovative ways to become more accessible and involved with our communities. Recently, I became involved with Volleyball Latino as we started up a Red Cross team called the Humanitarian Servers. Volleyball Latino began in 2013 as a fun and interactive fundraising effort for the nonprofit Casa de Paz, which offers free short-term lodging, meals, visits, and transportation to individuals and families affected by migrant detention.
Locateda couple of blocks across from the detention center, Casa de Paz opens its doors to newly released detainees who have nowhere to go and nothing more than the clothes on their back as they continue their journey. I have been working with the nonprofit to provide Restoring Family Links to its guests for a little over three months. As part of the collaboration, Red Cross initiated a phone project at Casa de Paz offering free phone calls to those newly released detainees to get in contact with their loved ones abroad. In a little over two months since launching this partnership, 94 phone calls have been made.
Red Cross has also been able to connect and visit with detainees. We are currently working in coordination with Casa de Paz’s visitation program in which volunteers visit individuals at the detention center who may not otherwise have any outside contact. The Red Cross first visited Jeanette after she learned about Restoring Family Links from Casa de Paz. During this visit, we learned that she has a sister in Cameroon.
The Red Cross called on Jeanette’s behalf to let her sister know that Jeanette was detained and how the two of them could maintain communication. Having no other family in the United States, Jeanette was very thankful to have that visit, saying that despite being detained she felt as if she was already on the outside thanks to the time that Casa de Paz and the Red Cross took to visit her.
Prior to playing in the Volleyball Latino league, the Red Cross conducted outreach and surveyed participants about the knowledge of Red Cross services. We spoke to more than 30 individuals during the two outreach events, culminating in better understanding the needs of the community and the initiation of one Restoring Family Links case. Humanitarian Servers, composed of both paid and volunteer staff, began to play in the new season soon afterwards, starting in mid-February. Many of us did not have any experience beyond the casual game at the park, struggling to understand the rules of the game and coalescing as a team. Despite me taking a hit to the head during the first game, bringing back memories of Daria, nothing stopped us, aside from the spontaneous, yet predictable, Colorado spring blizzards, from playing and having a great time “serving” for humanity.
Migration leaves millions of people around the globe in urgent need of humanitarian assistance every year. American Red Cross caseworkers at local chapter offices help families locate missing relatives that have been separated due to migration. Caseworkers reconnect families through local phone projects, Red Cross messages or tracing cases. In 2015, the Red Cross provided 3,867 phone calls to migrant families. To learn more about the migration work of the Red Cross, please visit our blog.