After years of not knowing, a Minnesota couple from Cuba learn their beloved family member is alive and well
Written by Lynette Nyman / American Red Cross
In one way, it took hardly any time at all to find Felipe’s sister in Cuba. Just months, in fact, once the Red Cross search formally started.
In another way, the search lasted years: Felipe lost contact with his sister, Carmela, in 1992 when he and his wife, Nila, moved to Minnesota. Around that time, they exchanged their last letter with Carmela.
There was no phone number to call. More letters were sent. They received no replies. Maybe she was sick. Or worse. They assumed something bad had happened. This struck Nila the hardest. “I love her too much,” she says.
Carmela was more than her husband’s sister: Carmela was her sister, her family, her best friend.
A sister lost, now found
JoAnn, a long-time family friend in Minnesota, knew that Felipe wondered about his sister every single day—for years. She found information about the American Red Cross’s Restoring Family Links program and alerted Felipe to the resource.
Once Felipe agreed to open a search with the Red Cross, local volunteers gathered all the crucial information to find Carmela and reached out the Cuban Red Cross (Cruz Roja Cubana) to locate her in Cuba.
Eventually, the family received great news: Carmela was alive!
The first phone call was short. Carmela used a friend’s phone to reach Felipe and Nila. The words were few, but their meaning was deep:
“I miss you,”
“I love you.”
“Are you well?”
The family members have spoken on the phone several times since that initial call and have exchanged email messages.
“I appreciate the Red Cross,” says Felipe, who was excited and happy to learn that his sister was alive and well. Carmela was excited, too.
They’ll have more calls, emails and letters. And they’re determined not to lose contact again.
About our family tracing services
Armed conflict, international disasters and migration leave millions of people around the globe in urgent need of humanitarian assistance every year. As the world’s largest humanitarian network, Red Cross and Red Crescent teams help reconnect families separated by international crises.
The American Red Cross helps reconnect loved ones when:
- Families are separated internationally as a result of conflict, disaster, migration or other humanitarian emergency.
- Families have already tried normal channels of communication to reconnect.
- The family member making the inquiry is able to provide essential information on the sought person.
- The family member making the inquiry is a relative who had been in direct contact with the sought person before the crisis occurred.
To begin a search, contact your local Red Cross chapter »—the critical link in your community to the vast network of the global Red Cross Red Crescent network. You can also call our free national helpline at 844-782-9441 or use the International Reconnecting Families Inquiry Form.