Aside from helping in times of disasters and building programs that strengthen communities torn apart by natural disasters and war, the Red Cross reconnects families separated during war and disaster. Red Cross uses its unique resources across international borders to help people find their loved ones; something that would be hard, nearly impossible to do without world-wide connections. American Red Cross caseworkers at local chapters around the U.S. help families locate missing relatives by working with other partners in the global Red Cross network, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and other societies in nearly every country in the world.
Once a family member is found, the Red Cross helps them reconnect through various means, usually through hand-written notes. Messages are generally brief, but the three short words “I am alive” is all that is needed to ease the minds of distraught relatives half a world away. Red Cross messages can also be exchanged between families and their loved ones in refugee camps and detention centers to allow them to keep in contact and share family news. This past year, the American Red Cross helped reconnect more than 4,200 families—bridging years of separation to renew critical links between new communities in the U.S. and their families around the world.
A real life example of how the Red Cross truly impacts the lives of those affected by war is the story of Emmet Larry. A refugee of Liberia, Emmet left Liberia in 1990 after enduring years of torture, prison camps, and civil war. Relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida, Emmet has enjoyed the luxuries and freedom that the United States offers but at the same time has worried daily about his family and sister left behind in Liberia. After Larry’s relocation to St. Petersburg, he sought help from various organizations that led him to walk into the American Red Cross St. Petersburg office and request assistance in locating his sister, Ida Josephine Paige. He had no idea if she was alive or not, or where she might be; but on March 30, 2011, Restoring Family Links caseworkers filed his tracing request and the international search began.
Caseworkers located his sister and were able to begin communication between the siblings through letter form. Emmet’s sister had written him a letter, a brief note that began with “my dearest brother.” Ida Paige was located in the same village where they had grown up after losing their mother at an early age. She thought Emmet had died in the war along with a five-year old nephew and their father. Paige excitedly told him of her marriage and her three children and expressed relief at finding him alive.
The Red Cross helps people everyday, across the globe, in so many ways.