When Charles Song was 12-years old, he was wounded during a bomb attack in his native Cambodia. Song’s family had no money to pay for medical care at the local hospital, and Song could have bled to death. However, Song’s family finally found a way to transport him to another facility where a Red Cross doctor immediately performed a surgery that saved his life.
After that bomb attack, Song’s brother, Heng Lucky Song, escaped from Cambodia and immigrated to the United States. Several years later, with the assistance of the International Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, Heng Lucky located Charles and his family and – with the aid of a local church -- Heng Lucky was able to act as a sponsor and ultimately to bring Charles and his family to the United States.
In June, at a Restoring Family Links information day held at the Red Cross Greater Long Beach Chapter office, Charles Song stood before about 20 members of the Long Beach Cambodian community to tell them how the Restoring Family Links program had helped reunite his family. Song, who survived a childhood of war, hunger, and deprivation in Cambodia before escaping to the United States, is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Red Cross Long Beach Chapter.
“Some have probably gone through life cheating death once or twice. I have a lifetime of that,” Song told the crowd.
The Restoring Family Links program, which is free of charge, helps families reconnect with relatives who have been separated internationally as a result of war, disaster, migration or other humanitarian emergency. In the past year, the program has helped thousands of families, renewing vital connections between new communities in the U.S. and their families around the world.
Svetlana Fusekova, L.A. Region International Services and Service to the Armed Forces manager, explained that last month’s event was dedicated to addressing the Cambodian community in Long Beach because many of its members were affected by the Cambodian Genocide of the 1970s and by the subsequent Cambodian-Vietnamese War.
“All of you here are our important messengers because we are trying to make sure that as many people as possible know about this service,” Fusekova said. “We are ready to assist people if they would like to reopen a chapter of their life that might not be easy to open.”
Event attendee Sara Pol-Lim, executive director, United Cambodian Community of Long Beach (social services agency), said she expects the community will benefit a great deal from the program when they understand it.
“If you didn’t come out (of Cambodia) with your family, the presumption is that they are lost, and that’s not always true,” Pol-Lim said.
Fusekova noted the importance of reconnecting families in the wake of war, disaster, and other humanitarian emergencies.
“Family is the most important thing,” Fusekova said. “This program is so valuable because we are able to give people hope and sometimes vital information about missing family members.”
To learn more about the American Red Cross Restoring Family Links program, please visit redcross.org/familylinks. To open a tracing case, please contact IntlTracing.LosAngeles.CA@redcross.org or call (626) 407-4536.