Thursday, June 19, 2014

World Refugee Day – More Than a Number

by Lauren McMinn Clarke, volunteer contributor

Every year, on June 20th, countless international civic groups, including the American Red Cross and the United Nations, celebrate World Refugee Day. This annual celebration honors refugees and displaced persons for their courage and resilience in the face of conflict and strife.

This year, the Restoring Family Links program of the American Red Cross is working with partners and members of the refugee community around the United States to celebrate World Refugee Day. The Restoring Family Links program works two ways; it initiates cases here in the United States to loved ones abroad, and it also connects displaced refugees overseas back to family members in the US. 

In Texas, we receive an average of 4,500 refugees per year. In fact, the North Texas region is the second busiest region in the United States for the Restoring Family Links program. The primary source of refugee cases coming to the Dallas area is from Iraq, because there is a large Iraqi population spanning the Metroplex. After that most cases to Dallas come from East Africa, from refugee complexes in Kenya and Uganda. 

Recently, our Dallas Red Cross team was able to reconnect a local family with a refugee family member in East Africa. After our volunteers did a great deal of internet research, tracking down addresses and phone numbers, the team reached out to the family in a local apartment complex via phone. The message wasn’t received, so our team went out in person to the address, donned in their Red Cross vests. After visiting the apartment, it was clear the family had moved. As our volunteers were leaving, the landscape staff of the complex stopped and asked why the Red Cross was there. When they heard, they led our staff to the complex office and found a new phone number for the family. The next day, our team was able to deliver a message from the cousin in Uganda to the family here in Dallas.

Are you interested in helping? We need volunteers. The Red Cross team appreciates volunteers with abilities that may include: an interest in interacting with people of different cultures, knowledge of current global events, ability to speak a different language and availability of time (because it is a very involved process).

If you are not already a Red Cross volunteer, please visit our website to sign up for a volunteer orientation and at the appropriate time, designate your interest in International Services and Restoring Family Links.

If you are interested in more information on our local Restoring Family Links program, please contact Alexis Chase at (Metro Field Specialist, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services), or Jack Wilson at (Assistant Director, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services).

Lastly, there is a local event being held this Saturday, June 21, 2014 (10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.) at which the American Red Cross will be in attendance. More information can be found here,

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