People all around the globe reach out to the Red Cross to initiate an International Tracing case. They’ve been separated from their loved ones by war, conflict or disaster and they hope to send a message to get back in touch.
When a case is initiated, the national Red Cross office will print out a list of potential addresses based on the person’s last known whereabouts. As an International Services Casework volunteer, it’s my job to start tracing them from that information in order to deliver a message.
After I retired from a career as a librarian, I wanted to pursue something that was stimulating but where I could interact with people and use my skills for something good. My 30 years of research skills are a huge asset - but I also perform what’s essentially detective work, pounding the pavement to knock on doors, ask questions, build relationships and follow clues to find the long-lost family member.
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No one would answer the cell phone number provided, so I visited the suggested address in Thornton. The first time I went, I knocked and no one answered – but a child peeked out of the shutters. I showed her my Red Cross badge to let her know it was safe. She recognized the Red Cross emblem and took me to a family member. The sister I was seeking was not home, but I was given her direct cell phone number. After several failed attempts to arrange contact, I finally met the woman in person and hand-delivered a hand-written message in Swahili from her brother.
I got to watch her reaction as she read his letter. She was astounded to hear from her brother after all these years, and to read that he had married and had children. Soon, I will deliver another message complete with photographs from the refugee camp.
That is just one of the dozens of interesting cases I have worked over the past year. Reuniting families is one of the most gratifying things I have ever done. It is a privilege as well as a great adventure.
Find out more about Red Cross Restoring Family Links programs.