If you’ve ever been separated from a family member, you’ll understand what a heartbreaking and worrying time it can be, especially if you’re uncertain if the person involved is alive or suffering.
The American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program is a unique service that reconnects families separated during armed conflict, disaster, or humanitarian emergencies, providing hope and support for people during a complicated and difficult time.
As part of the Restoring Family Links program a refugee simulation was recently held at the Silicon Valley Red Cross Chapter, hosted by the International Services Committee of the Youth Executive Board and American Red Cross volunteers. A panel of representatives from organizations that support refugees were also in attendance to help guide 40 children and 10 youth committee members through the simulation.
Refugees often cross many borders to avoid persecution and other harm and there are many hurdles to cross before families are reconnected. The refugee simulation helped to highlight some of the situations refugees might go through, including, border crossing, applying for refuge in another country, and settling in an asylum country. Each participant was assigned a color and put into a group making up their refugee family, and throughout the exercise forms were handed out in foreign languages, small rations of food were given out and unexpected moves and escapes happened to help participants experience what it might be like to be a refugee in a foreign place.
The event also outlined the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program and what steps are taken when attempting to locate family members.
“Restoring Family Links is a program that highlights how the international work that we do can be found in our own communities and neighborhoods here,” says Naomi Pease, Prepare Silicon Valley Coordinator for the Silicon Valley Chapter.
Adarsh Nellore, a Red Cross volunteer for three years and the youth lead for the International Services Committee, worked on the refugee simulation in San Jose and outlined some of the lessons learned during the simulation.
“The refugee simulation allowed people to experience how refugees get moved around against their will, because of war or other circumstances and what being in a refugee camp in another country might feel like,” Adarsh said. “Applying for refuge in another country can often be complex and emotional.”
The services provided by the Red Cross are free and kept confidential.
“We try to reach out to the refugee and immigrant communities that settle in our area to let them know that the American Red Cross is here for them,” says Kathy Laughlin, Client Casework Coordinator for the Silicon Valley Chapter. “Among other things, we provide services to help them locate and communicate with family members who they lost back home during the war, migration, or disaster that brought them here.”
Adarsh said other difficulties refugees might face while waiting in another country include not understanding the language used and not knowing their way around the country. The process to be granted refugee status can take many years and applications might be denied.
“Even though it seems like a refugee has finally made it to their destination through extreme hardship and pain, the challenges don’t end as they are in a new country they don’t know anything about,” Adarsh said.
Are you looking for a lost family member?
Learn more about our Restoring Family Links program at the American Red Cross.