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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

During the Holidays, Gratitude for the Ability to Connect with Family

by Kelly Wheeler
This Thanksgiving as you wrap your arms around loved ones and share a delicious holiday dinner, think for a moment about those who have no family in this country – refugees who fled from war-torn countries to find a new life, or migrant workers who cannot easily visit family in their countries of origin. For many of us, connecting with our family is as simple as driving a few miles, hopping on a plane or picking up the phone – but for them, family is far away and difficult to reach. Even if they have an active phone number for loved ones, they may not be able to afford to make the international phone call.

An American Red Cross program helps overcome those barriers and ease the pain of separation. The Restoring Family Links Phone Project allows people who are separated from loved ones by conflict, disaster or migration to reconnect with family members through a free, 10-minute phone call. The program launched in April in select states as an expansion of the Restoring Family Links program, which helps locate and reconnect families.
A woman makes a call to a relative. The Philippine Red Cross,
like the American Red Cross, offers free mobile phone calls
as part of the Restoring Family Link program.

In Colorado, Red Cross workers are delivering the Phone Project by partnering with community groups, agencies, schools and organizations to offer the program on-site at locations with high populations of refugees and migrants. Red Cross volunteers bring cell phones to the site and allow participants to make 10-minute calls to their loved ones using the phones.

In one situation, a Denver refugee reconnected with seven family members in Africa, to whom she had not spoken in 15 years. The family was separated during the Burundian Civil War and had lost contact since being torn apart.  The 30-year-old refugee excitedly shared the news with her family that she had a baby now, and was enjoying life in Colorado. There were tears of joy during the call and promises for sustained communication in the future via mail or email.

So as we gather around the table this Thanksgiving, let’s try to remember how lucky we are to have family around us, to hear about their lives and give them hugs and kisses – because there are many who are not that fortunate.
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