Sarah was separated from her family as a young girl when they fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo to escape a violent civil war. Sarah’s father, brother, and all but one sister were killed one night in the heated civil war plaguing the DRC. Unbeknownst to her, Sarah’s mother and sister made it to the U.S., eventually making Colorado their new home, while she found her way to Uganda. Dr. Naomi Leavitt met Sarah while volunteering with a small non-governmental organization in Uganda. Leavitt also serves as an American Red Cross volunteer in the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program in Massachusetts. Knowing that the Red Cross RFL program has successfully reconnected families like Sarah’s, Leavitt stayed in touch with the woman. Sarah had provided Leavitt with key information about her mother and sister that would prove helpful in initiating a Red Cross Family Tracing case: for example, she knew their birthdates and had been told the two had been sponsored to move to the U.S. from their refugee camp.
That trail led to Colorado, where Sarah’s mom had resettled. A Restoring Family Links Red Cross volunteer in Colorado located Sarah’s mother and sister and contacted the mother concerning her long- lost daughter.
“She thought she was dead. It had been 10-plus years since she had seen or talked to her daughter,” said Tim Bothe, International Services Manager for the American Red Cross of Colorado.
In this case, the mother didn’t hesitate to reach out to her daughter in Uganda. She filled out the Red Cross form necessary for establishing communication. The form, which is routinely screened for content, included information on the family members and asked to get in touch. The rest was in the hands of her separated daughter. The form traveled from the a local case worker in Denver to the American National Red Cross in Washington D.C. to the Ugandan Red Cross, to a local case worker and finally, was delivered to her daughter.
Thanks to Leavitt and the other Red Cross volunteers and staff working on this case, communication between a Colorado mother and the daughter she thought to be dead has been restored after 10 years of silence. For the first time, the mother learned she has five grandchildren.
The American Red Cross assists in reconnecting more than 5,000 families in the U.S. and around the world every year through the Restoring Family Links program. There is no charge for the program, its purpose being to locate family members and restore communication. To find out more, visit http:// www.redcross.org/what-we-do/international-services/reconnecting-families .
Sarah in Uganda