Volunteers: The Heart of the Red Cross

The Red Cross is a “voluntary relief movement not prompted in any manner by desire for gain.” So states the Red Cross Red Crescent Fundamental Principle of Voluntary Service. We are an organization driven and fueled by the dedication and passion of volunteers around the globe, from those risking their lives to help those affected by the crisis in Syria to those responding to Ebola and other medical emergencies in West Africa. Similarly, the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross would be impossible without our volunteers.

Every story on the Restoring Family Links Blog is touched in some way by a volunteer. They could be a story's author, or the caseworker behind a successful reconnection; the voice in the community promoting our services, or simply the inspiration behind a story. In honor of our volunteers and the principle of Voluntary Service, we highlight below some of the previously shared stories on the blog about their amazing work and commitment to this Red Cross service.

More than one Reason for Dedication. Nejra Sumic is a volunteer with the Red Cross in Phoenix, Arizona. She was born and raised in the former Yugoslavia. When conflict erupted in the early ‘90s, her father was arrested. However, after a year of terror and tribulation, her father was saved and the family reunited by the International Committee of the Red Cross. It is because of that experience that Nejra gives back to the organization and the program that helped reconnect her family decades ago. Read more of her story here.

Outreach Creates Reconnection. An immensely important role that many Restoring Family Links volunteers fill is outreach; going to the communities we serve and letting them know about our services. In Illinois, Bob Wiltz along with other local volunteers and staff hosted an event for World Refugee Day in coordination with a local partner organization. However, they didn’t just promote the reconnecting families work of the Red Cross, but also provided phones so that refugees who may not have been able to hear the voices of their loved ones in months could talk then and there with their family. Read more about their invaluable outreach work here.

Connecting the Dots. Most of the time, Restoring Family Links casework is not straightforward. We may have a last known address or phone number for someone here in the States, but that still may lead to an extended search in the community. In Los Angeles, volunteers Doug Wiita and Carmela Burke worked with their Casework Supervisor, Kerry Khan, to develop a strategy for locating a sought person in their area. By following leads and taking to heart their role as detective, they worked tirelessly to locate the sought person. Read more about the casework process here.

Delivering a Message. Another aspect of a Restoring Family Links caseworker’s role is supporting our clients in the United States and delivering news to them when we receive updates from other Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies. In Denver, Colorado, Robbe Sokolove worked with a Congolese refugee, Yowali, to initiate a search for her family in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six months later, Yowali received a hand-written message from her sister, delivered by Robbe. Eventually, the Red Cross was able to reconnect her to all eight of her missing relatives. Read more about their reconnection here.

Our volunteers touch the lives of thousands of families each year. Without them, none of the above stories, or any Red Cross story for that matter, would be possible. Find out how you can volunteer with your local Red Cross by clicking here.