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Restoring Family Links: A Program that Speaks a Familiar Language

restoring family links la

Photo from l to r: Red Cross volunteer Nerida Mackay, Carlota Ayapan (owner of Uniformes Carlita) and volunteer Claudia Espinosa

“I believe the message of Restoring Family Links is a powerful one - a message of hope, humanity and caring.”

The Red Cross International Services Restoring Family Links Program helps reconnect families who have been separated due to armed conflict, disaster or migration.

That’s the message Red Cross Los Angeles Region volunteers conveyed in February by canvassing L.A.’s Westlake community to tell community members about the program.

By reaching out to local businesses, residents and shoppers, as well as setting up booths at community events, L.A. Region volunteers aimed to establish one-on-one conversations and talk about how the program helps families reunite.

On Feb. 21, the outreach was targeting Salvadoran, Guatemalan and Mexican communities, according to Svetlana Fusekova, International Services and Services to the Armed Forces manager, Red Cross LA Region. “We explained how our program gives families a way to restore contact free of charge,” she said.

Claudia Espinosa, a Chilean professional who recently moved to the U.S. to expand her international experience in humanitarian issues, was one of the RFL volunteers who canvassed the neighborhoods in the predominantly Spanish-speaking L.A. area of Alvarado, between Wilshire Avenue and 6th Street.

“We received a very positive response,” she said. “All the people we spoke to recognized the American Red Cross and were interested in learning more about the program.”

Volunteers noticed that shop owners, such as Carlota Ayapan, the Guatemalan-born owner of Uniformes Carlita (pictured), were excited to see “Cruz Roja,” (as the Red Cross is known in Spanish), in the neighborhood.

Ayapan said, “Everyone knows the Red Cross helps people and I’m happy to help family and friends who lost contact with their families after immigrating and fleeing from conflict in Central America.” Ayapan agreed to post information in her store and was excited to learn more about RFL.

Anna Laine, a volunteer from Finland who recently joined the Los Angeles Region’s team of International Service volunteers, remarked, “I believe the message of Restoring Family Links is a powerful one - a message of hope, humanity and caring.” Laine is a Conflict Studies MSc graduate from the London School of Economics, who learned about Guatemala and El Salvador’s internal conflict and consequential migration flows in college.

As many in the team recognized during February’s campaign, the program reminded the community of a very important message: the American Red Cross is a familiar community friend around the world. More importantly, they experienced what all Los Angeles American Red Cross volunteers convey every day: everyone matters and all disasters count.

To begin a search, or for any questions on the Restoring Family Links program in the Los Angeles Region, please call (626) 407-4536. Caseworkers will contact partners – International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Once a family member is found, the local Red Cross will help them reconnect. RFL services include: Family Tracing and Location Services; Red Cross Messages; Health and Welfare Inquires; Disaster Welfare Inquires.