"I am alive"

The confusion and chaos of conflict and disaster separates families just when they need each other most, causing unbearable suffering. Often, the three simple words “I am alive” may be all that’s needed to ease the minds of loved ones. Known as Restoring Family Links, The American Red Cross works through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide to search for missing loved ones and reconnect families.

“I am so happy to know my family is well.”

Onesphore Ndaribitse was living with his wife and four young daughters in a refugee camp in Tanzania. When the camp closed in 1996, they were forced to separate camps and lost contact. For more than 12 years, Onesphore heard no news about his family’s well-being.

Now living on the North Side of Chicago, Onesphore opened a tracing inquiry with the Greater Chicago Red Cross. We were thrilled to inform him that his family was alive in Rwanda. We brought Onesphore handwritten messages and photos of his adolescent daughters – just babies last time he saw them. Thanks to the Red Cross Network, Onesphore and his family are in touch and communicate regularly through free Red Cross Messages.

This past week I visited Onesphore because we had another message from Rwanda. It was our first time meeting and his timid character and limited English proved to be an initial barrier. However, the minute I tried to communicate in French, his face lit up. He appreciated our visit and personal care in delivering the news directly to him. At the end of our visit, Onesphore walked us down to our car. We said good-bye in French and he waved back to us with a big smile.

Red Cross Message from Rwanda

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago helps to reconnect families each year, with services including:
Locating missing loved ones separated by armed conflict or disaster;
Sending Red Cross Messages between separated family members – civilians, prisoners of war and political detainees;
Obtaining information about the fate of civilians, including those separated during the Holocaust and World War II;
Providing Certificates of Detention to former detainees visited by the ICRC;
Securing ICRC travel documents for people who have been offered permanent resettlement; and
Providing information and referral services.

For more information about the Restoring Family Links program, please contact Emma Crandell Ratajczak at ratajczake@usa.redcross.org or 312.729.6238.

Meredith Sanna, International Services Intern

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