By Louise Jewell, International Social Services Intern, Spring 2014
The chaos and confusion that accompany war and disaster can separate families when they need each other most. It can leave families seeking answers to questions, such as “where is my sister … brother …mother … father?” and “are they alive?”
When this happens, the American Red Cross helps families search for loved ones across international borders, offering a unique, complimentary service that allows families to reconnect. This program is called “Restoring Family Links” and we are proud to announce that we now have local staff and volunteers trained to do this amazing work. These Red Crossers are getting out in the community to identify people who need our help reaching a loved one they haven’t heard from in months or even years.
Restoring Family Links services include locating missing loved ones, exchanging family messages, making family welfare inquiries during and after disasters overseas, making health and welfare inquiries about family members around the world in non-disaster times, securing travel documents from the International Committee of the Red Cross to reunite separated family members, and providing information and referral services when another agency can better meet a particular need.
Red Cross messages can be exchanged between families and their loved ones in refugee camps and detention centers to allow them to keep in contact and share family news. The three short words “I am alive” may be all that is needed to ease the minds of distraught relatives half a world away.
The Red Cross also continues to provide services that reconnect Holocaust Survivors and their families, which includes activities in many countries affected by World War II.
The Restoring Family Links services have brought comfort to thousands of families. In 2013, the American Red Crosshelped reconnect nearly 900 families separated by international war and disaster (source: http://www.redcross.org/what-we-do/international-services/global-impact). We are thrilled to have more volunteers than ever before trained to help families through the Restoring Family Links service in Central Texas.
Local families wishing to search for relatives overseas can contact: CTXISS@redcross.org