Monday, November 5, 2012

Restoring Family Links Helps Reconnect Separated Loved Ones

Mary Jacoby Hastings
Through its Restoring Family Links (RFL) program, the Red Cross helps thousands of people around the world in their search for loved ones separated by war or disaster. The separation could be the result of an extreme natural disaster or war somewhere in the world, some kind of major event that severs normal communication between immediate family members.

In an ongoing case, Michele, a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo now living in Colorado, contacted the Mile High Region of the American Red Cross in Denver when he learned about the program in August 2012. A widower, Michele had been separated from his three children by war and was desperate to find his family, the family he had not been able to contact for five difficult years.

He began the paperwork process with Tim Bothe, manager of International Services in Colorado. The National office of the American Red Cross completed the screening process then put the search into motion. Typically the International Red Cross (ICRC) and other international societies conduct the actual search overseas.
Michele Lubembela

Within two months, Michele’s three children, the youngest of which is five years old, were located in a refugee camp in Zimbabwe. The two older children wrote letters to their father, which were then personally delivered to Michele by American Red Cross staff.  Michele reciprocated with letters to his children, letters which are now on their way to Zimbabwe.

The American Red Cross will continue to facilitate the process of delivering messages between Colorado and Zimbabwe. If a reunification becomes a possibility, the American Red Cross will provide referrals to help the family connect with the appropriate agencies.

“War affects everyone involved; the humanitarian work we do transcends religious, ethnic and geographic boundaries to provide assistance to the families that need it most,” says Lisa Ghali, a caseworker with the American Red Cross.

Thanks to the many volunteers and staff who dedicate countless hours, the Red Cross is able to successfully resolve 74 percent of the cases it receives through the Restoring Family Links program.

For more information on how the Red Cross reconnects families or to receive help in locating a loved one through this service please visit

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