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Red Cross Reconnects Sudan and Rwanda Families After Years of Separation

The “Lost Boys of Sudan” have some of the most heart-wrenching stories in Africa. Thanks to the Richmond chapter of the American Red Cross, one of the 20,000 boys who were orphaned or estranged from their families during the Sudanese civil war has been reunited with relatives after years of searching.

Manyang was separated from his family at age three. Initially cared for by another Sudanese family, he lived in a refugee camp for 10 years before coming to the United States in 2005 and settling in northern Virginia.

Over the years Manyang wrote hundreds of letters to Africa hoping to reconnect with his family. Once he learned about a Red Cross program that helps reconnect family members he began working with the Richmond chapter in Virginia, which forwarded his letters to the Sudanese Red Crescent, a member of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network.

“I had almost given up hope,” said Manyang. “I have a chest filled with letters that had been returned to me as undeliverable.”

The Red Cross helped him connect with relatives in Africa, and eventually he heard from an uncle, who was able to share news of his family. He learned that his father had died, but his mother and sister were alive.

Another Red Cross reunification success involves a family who lost touch 15 years ago in Tanzania.

Onesphore Ndaribitse was separated from his wife and four young daughters for years after the Tanzanian refugee camp where they were living closed in 1996. Thanks to the Red Cross, he and his family in Rwanda are in contact again.

With no news of his family for many years, Onesphore eventually moved to Chicago. After learning about a Red Cross program to reconnect family members, he opened a tracing inquiry with the Greater Chicago Red Cross and learned that his family was alive in Rwanda.

“I am so happy to know my family is well,” said Onesphore.

The Red Cross brought Onesphore handwritten messages and photos of his adolescent daughters, who were just babies last time he saw them. Now Onesphore and his family are in touch and communicate regularly with the help of the Red Cross.

The confusion and chaos surrounding war and natural disasters often separates families when they need each other most. But through the strength of the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network and the assistance of local tracing volunteers around the world, the American Red Cross helps families reconnect through its Restoring Family Links program.

Each year the Red Cross locates missing family members separated by armed conflict or disaster, sends Red Cross messages between separated family members including civilians, prisoners of war and political detainees, and obtains information about the fate of civilians, including those separated during World War II.