Friday, August 29, 2014

It’s a Preparedness Training Bonanza!

Are you looking for ideas on activities you can undertake during National Preparedness Month? Check out these free online resources from FEMA. Below are clickable links to training that relates to preparedness and disaster response. These links will open in a new window. These courses are free and online so you can take them at your own pace.  The American Red Cross also offers a number of online or in-class courses that will help improve your families understanding and awareness of the recommended procedures for preparing for, responding to and recovering from a disaster. Visit the Red Cross to find out more information.

IS-909: Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone helps participants define preparedness, describe the role of individuals and households in preparedness, identify community preparedness principles, describe the purpose of community-based preparedness activities, identify the steps for planning and conducting a community-based preparedness program and identify resources for supporting community-based preparedness programs.

The Preparedness Activities for Communities Everywhere Toolkit  (available in English and Spanish) can educate individuals about simple steps they can take to become more prepared.

IS-22 - Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness
IS-909 - Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone
IS-394a - Protecting Your Home or Small Business From Disaster

IS-100b - Introduction to Incident Command System (ICS)
Introduction to the Incident Command System for Schools
IS-200b - ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents
National Incident Management System (NIMS) An Introduction
NIMS Multiagency Coordination System (MACS) Course
National Incident Management System (NIMS) Public Information Systems
NIMS Resource Management
NIMS Communications and Information Management
NIMS Intrastate Mutual Aid - An Introduction
National Response Framework, An Introduction

IS-120a - An Introduction to Exercises
IS-130 - Exercise Evaluation and Improvement Planning
IS-139 - Exercise Design

Professional Development Series
Exercise Design
Fundamentals of Emergency Management
Emergency Planning
Leadership & Influence
Decision Making and Problem Solving
Effective Communication
Developing and Managing Volunteers

Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP):
Continuity of Operations Awareness Course
Introduction to Continuity of Operations
Continuity of Operations (COOP) Program Manager
Devolution Planning

The Role of Voluntary Agencies in Emergency Management

Emergency Support Function (ESF) #6 – Mass Care, Emergency Assistance, Housing, and Human Services

EOC Management and Operations

Community Hurricane Preparedness

Emergency Support Function 15 (ESF 15) External Affairs: A New Approach to Emergency Communication and Information Distribution

Basic Instructional Skills

Anticipating Hazardous Weather & Community Risk

Planning for the Needs of Children in Disasters

Implementing the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program

Developing and Managing Volunteers

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Geneva Conventions: Celebrating 150 years of Humanitarian Action

By Bill Fortune, American Red Cross

Geneva Conventions
 poster from Library of

Every day we are bombarded with the horrors of war. We wake up in the morning and bear witness to atrocities. Many live in fear for loved ones that are trying to survive in the midst of conflict. Many of those loved ones struggle to survive.

Wars have raged throughout the centuries and each one becomes the "worst ever". The rules of engagement may have changed and our weaponry has become more sophisticated but that has only served to escalate the need for humanitarian action.

Wars now rage in densely populated areas resulting in direct impact on civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people become refugees as they try to avoid a conflict. Regard for human life has declined to the point where civilian casualty counts exceed those who are actually doing the fighting.

But, even wars have limits, or at least they should have.  The Geneva Conventions were written to set a standard of humanitarian action. The Conventions are still relevant today and perhaps have more meaning than ever. Have we forgotten that? We know there are forces today that do not "sign on" to the Geneva Conventions and who feel that any and all means should be used to further their cause. Those nations that have "signed on" remain committed to the words and the ideals behind the agreements. It is time for us to remember.

August 22 commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions which were first developed on that date in 1864. A time when the United States was deeply involved with the Civil War. This treaty bound 11 European nations to provide aid to wounded soldiers in all future conflicts and to recognize the neutrality of aid workers and the wounded. Eleven of those original signers of the Geneva Convention also pledged to establish national Red Cross societies.

Pamphlet cover for "The Red Cross
and the Geneva Convention"
It took several years for the United States to ratify the treaty. Clara Barton, a proponent of the Conventions, lobbied heavily in the United States to solicit support for an American Red Cross Society. She published a pamphlet in 1878 called The American Red Cross and the Geneva Convention that emphasized the importance of supporting international humanitarianism along with a unique set of peacetime responsibilities. It wasn't until 1882 that the United States Senate voted to ratify the Geneva Conventions  and authorized the American Red Cross to act as its official relief agency in time of war.

As the American Red Cross expanded, under the leadership of Clara Barton, its role during peacetime transformed itself into one with a focus on civilian relief following disasters. Disaster response included distribution of material aid during major floods in 1883, earthquakes in 1886, tornadoes and yellow fever in 1888 and the Johnstown, PA flood in 1889.

Since those formative years the American Red Cross has remained a leader in humanitarian action around the world. Today we look back on a proud history of humanitarian service and action, thankful for those whose love for humanity gave them the strength and courage to bring nations together under the Geneva Conventions.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This 2-min video could save your life

by Patricia Billinger

In 2014, we're celebrating 100 years of the Red Cross saving lives in Colorado.
I've talked to more than a dozen regular people who are just like any one else, but with one important difference: they have used their ordinary hands to save someone's life. In general, they all say the same two things:
1. "I'm so glad I was trained."
2. "When I took the training, I never thought I'd use it/I hoped I'd never have to use it."

Well, they were trained, and they did use it, and they did save a life.

In most cases it was a loved one or co-worker, but in some cases it was a total stranger. The fact is, there is a good chance that you or someone you know will need emergency first aid, CPR or an AED. And there's a very good chance that YOU will be the person who can make the difference between life and death.

So, if you do nothing else, take two minutes to watch the video above - it gives the basic, essential overview of what you can do to save the life of someone who has stopped breathing.

Then, consider these reasons why it's worth finding a few hours to complete a training, either in person or via a blend of online and classroom training:
  1. Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in Americans.
  2. One in five Americans said they knew someone who had drowned, and 20 percent knew someone who nearly drowned. (See poll here)
  3. Permanent brain damage can occur in as little as 4 minutes without oxygen, and brain death is likely after 10 minutes.
  4.  Someone's chances of survival drop 10 percent for every minute they go without treatment.
Look, let me be straightforward: We want you to take the time to get fully trained in CPR and First Aid. Investing a few hours to get full, hands-on instruction in the correct techniques will make you more confident and better able to respond properly when an emergency does strike. Check out our full list of classes in your area at

But if you don't find time to take the full training, please take two minutes to watch this video.
And then ask your coworkers and loved ones to watch it too - because you never know; it could be you whose life ends up being saved by someone who took a couple minutes to learn basic CPR.

And if your life was saved by CPR, or if you used your CPR or First Aid training to help someone in need, we want to hear and celebrate your story! Submit your lifesaving story at

Friday, August 15, 2014

Restoring Communication After 13 Years

Local Red Cross workers connected a Colorado mother with her daughter in Uganda after they had been separated for over 10 years.

Sarah was separated from her family as a young girl when they fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo to escape a violent civil war. Sarah’s father, brother, and all but one sister were killed one night in the heated civil war plaguing the DRC. Unbeknownst to her, Sarah’s mother and sister made it to the U.S., eventually making Colorado their new home, while she found her way to Uganda. Dr. Naomi Leavitt met Sarah while volunteering with a small non-governmental organization in Uganda. Leavitt also serves as an American Red Cross volunteer in the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program in Massachusetts. Knowing that the Red Cross RFL program has successfully reconnected families like Sarah’s, Leavitt stayed in touch with the woman. Sarah had provided Leavitt with key information about her mother and sister that would prove helpful in initiating a Red Cross Family Tracing case: for example, she knew their birthdates and had been told the two had been sponsored to move to the U.S. from their refugee camp.

That trail led to Colorado, where Sarah’s mom had resettled. A Restoring Family Links Red Cross volunteer in Colorado located Sarah’s mother and sister and contacted the mother concerning her long- lost daughter.

“She thought she was dead. It had been 10-plus years since she had seen or talked to her daughter,” said Tim Bothe, International Services Manager for the American Red Cross of Colorado.

In this case, the mother didn’t hesitate to reach out to her daughter in Uganda. She filled out the Red Cross form necessary for establishing communication. The form, which is routinely screened for content, included information on the family members and asked to get in touch. The rest was in the hands of her separated daughter. The form traveled from the a local case worker in Denver to the American National Red Cross in Washington D.C. to the Ugandan Red Cross, to a local case worker and finally, was delivered to her daughter.

Thanks to Leavitt and the other Red Cross volunteers and staff working on this case, communication between a Colorado mother and the daughter she thought to be dead has been restored after 10 years of silence. For the first time, the mother learned she has five grandchildren.

The American Red Cross assists in reconnecting more than 5,000 families in the U.S. and around the world every year through the Restoring Family Links program. There is no charge for the program, its purpose being to locate family members and restore communication. To find out more, visit http:// .

Sarah in Uganda 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guest Speaker: How Do Responders Coordinate in the Midst of Disaster Chaos?

Diplomacy can break down. Borders can appear where none existed before. Divisions between cultures, languages and beliefs can push communities apart. But in times of disaster, coordination between nations and organizations is key in preventing unnecessary destruction and keeping people safe from harm. According to Steve Recca, this month’s Red Cross Lunch and Learn speaker and current Humanitarian Assistance Program Advisor with the Pacific Disaster Center, combined efforts between governments, non-governmental agencies and citizens helped prevent the Typhoon Haiyan disaster from wreaking far more damage than it could have.
Steve Recca,
Program Advisor,
Pacific Disaster Center

“The damage and loss of life the typhoon caused were horrible, of course,” said Recca. “But the Filipinos did a great job dealing with it, and international support was well-communicated and capable.”

The response, Recca said, was successful due to its work well in advance of the storm. The Pacific Disaster Center provided information and predictive data in the “off-season” to the Philippine government and international groups. Armed with the PDC’s estimates of a hypothetical typhoon’s path, intensity, rainfall and damage levels, international organizations and local governments coordinated training exercises to prepare for exactly the kind of storm the next typhoon promised to be.

The disaster plans that arose from this multinational effort were tested when Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines in 2013. The storm, one of the most powerful tropical cyclones on record, ripped through the area and left thousands of casualties and billions of dollars of damage in its enormous, 1200-mile-wide wake.

The Red Cross was one of many agencies that responded. (Read more about ongoing efforts her:

“When the storm hit, the groups involved had talked together and trained together in advance, so when they came together to respond to the storm, they knew each other and their organizational capabilities,” Recca said. “There is very much a success story there.”

While the PDC’s efforts are tailored for the needs of the Pacific region, Recca said that their coordinated efforts and the tools they’ve developed for disaster response can be useful for anyone wanting to contribute to disaster relief at home and abroad. He encouraged those who attend Wednesday’s talk to explore the PDC’s Web site ( for information useful for disaster response volunteers, whether they want to help with a storm in the Pacific or a wildfire in the Rocky Mountain foothills.

“The site is really there for anyone who’s wondering, how can the PDC help me be the best volunteer in a disaster event?” he said.

The Lunch & Learn lecture will be presented Wednesday, Aug. 20, from noon to 1 p.m. at the American Red Cross, 444 Sherman St. RSVPs are requested by 12 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18 to Tim Bothe at Webinar options are also available for remote audiences. For more information, contact Tim Bothe.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Breathing Hope into Dreams of A Family Reunited

By Christina Eyre, Red Cross Volunteer

As I walk up the steps of the church that shares its home with a small but committed Congolese congregation, I’m serenaded by Swahili hymns in three-part harmony. Immediately I feel under-dressed next to women resplendent in tailored kitenge of every color.

The pervasive sense of joy must be reconciled with the reason we’re here. All these people came to the U.S. because Congo’s recent history is one of terrifying civil war, political instability and corruption, and extreme privation. Three of us from the Red Cross Restoring Family Links (RFL) program are here because we can offer a small but very important solace: help reconnecting them with family with whom their ties were severed by the unrest.

After the service, our RFL Casework team (Tim Bothe, Sierra Hutchinson and me) is surrounded by people who tell us about fleeing war and the family they’ve lost. In a little over two hours, we each open five cases. We hear stories about children younger than 12 months old who have been missing for more than 15 years, or families on the verge of finally escaping, only to be shelled before they could board the boats that would’ve borne them away from the war.

Congolese refugees. Photo courtesy of Canadian Red Cross/Gina Holmes
We speak with “June,” a grandmother whose face shows hopeful desperation. Her eyes are filled with a story that no words can ever hope to sufficiently explain. She tells us that she was separated from her family in 1998 when the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo unleashed unspeakable violence and fear. Her daughter and granddaughter fled an attack on the village, but their path was one that would separate them from their other family members. June, June’s daughter, and June’s grandson fled to Tanzania following the loss of her husband in the fighting. Tanzania would be a place they would call home for over 10 years.

When June resettled to the United States in 2010, she believed that reconnecting with her daughter and granddaughter was almost impossible. However, unrelenting faith can provide glimmers of hope; in 2012, June received a phone call from a longtime friend. The friend was living in Malawi and claimed that she had seen June’s daughter and granddaughter in a UNHCR refugee camp located within the country. The friend informed June that she had three new granddaughters, a great son-in-law, and two great-grandsons. The news was joyful, and a phone number was provided to contact the family members. Unfortunately, the phone number was out of service, and once again, June was left with no means of communicating with her relocated family.

Through our recent involvement with the Congolese church, June learned of our services and eagerly sought to open a tracing case for all eight of her lost loved ones. RFL intends to offer renewed hope in the midst of unresolved grief and uncertainty. Restoring these broken connections takes time; it’s like detective work across continents, and locating individuals among a vast sea of refugees can be challenging. But this is a community that has learned resilience and how to rebuild lives. The same hope that informs their RFL requests gives breath and rhythm to the Swahili hymns in this church. After all, we’re here for the first time—they’re here every Sunday evening.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hope on Wheels in East Washington

Volunteer Sue Wiseman (left) loads a food
cambro on the ERV with the help of ERV
partner Lew Savik from Montana Red Cross.
Red Cross volunteers are working hard in east Washington as they support the relief efforts for the East Washington Wildfires. Sue Wiseman, from the Western Colorado Chapter, was deployed to be part of the Mass Care team and is a driver for the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV).

The ERV is used to deliver supplies, water, food and recovery items to people affected by the fires. "We call the ERV "Hope on Wheels"," said Wiseman. "Bringing help and hope is what the Red Cross is all about."

Sue has been a Red Cross disaster responder for many years and the Washington assignment is her ninth large scale disaster response. She knows she is making a difference in the lives of those affected by the wildfires. "You can see relief in their eyes when we pull up with a hot meal and a warm hug," she said.

Since the start of the Red Cross response, workers have provided more than 300 overnight shelter stays; 13,000 meals and snacks and 540 health and mental health services in the community. More than 225 Red Cross disaster responders from throughout Washington and across the country are in Washington to support the wildfire disaster operation.

When asked how long she intended to stay Wiseman said, "I am here to help, however long that takes."

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My Red Cross Story: You Never Know When a Cup of Coffee Could Turn into a Cry for Help

The first thing I noticed was a white purse lying in the sidewalk about a block away. I had stepped out for a coffee run and hadn’t seen anything strange happen, but the white purse caught my attention as unusual. The first thing they teach you in Red Cross first aid training is to pay attention to usual sights, sounds and smells, which can indicate something amiss.  Obvious, I know – but handy to remember.

My eyes followed the purse to its owner, an elderly woman who was seated on the sidewalk. I immediately sped up my pace to help her, assuming that she must have fallen. She managed to grasp a nearby wrought iron café fence and pull herself up before I could reach her. “Are you Ok?” I asked, as I bent over to collect her purse and its spilled belongings for her. She leaned over as well – and a drop of blood spattered the concrete by our feet.

“Oh, goodness, honey, I think you’re bleeding. I’m not a doctor, but I work for the Red Cross and have taken first aid. Do you mind if I help you?” I asked calmly. As she turned to me, telling me she had fallen and had no idea what she’d tripped on, I saw that a streak of blood had run down her cheek. She had about a half-inch laceration just below her eyebrow.

I re-certified in Red Cross first aid this spring – it’s a requirement and a benefit for all of us employees here in Colorado – and so my training kicked in. She had tissues in hand and I told her to put pressure directly on the wound. I asked her questions. She seemed lucid and didn’t exhibit signs of a stroke, but I knew that a head wound should always be taken seriously, especially for an elderly person. I recommended that she seek medical attention immediately.

Fortunately, she had been on her way to the café to meet a friend, who rushed out to us and offered to drive the elderly woman to the nearest emergency room. I maintained my calm, encouraged the elderly woman to maintain pressure on the wound, and helped retrieve the elderly woman’s car keys while her friend juggled her belongings.

The friend was extremely grateful for the help, though really it was so little.

And yet, it struck me afterwards, it’s the little gestures that count. Not every emergency is a catastrophic disaster, but it’s an emergency to those affected nonetheless. It may seem small, but it does matter for us to do anything we can do as bystanders – as neighbors – as fellow human beings—to help. We can bring calm in the midst of a frightening situation. We can help lessen the impact of an injury. We can show compassion. And we can potentially save a life.

I didn’t save anyone’s life today. But I’m glad I work for an organization that trains me to know what to do when someone needs help – and most importantly, to take action when someone is in need.

You never know when someone you love, someone you work with, or a total stranger may need your help. Training and knowledge are powerful tools to move from being a helpless bystander to being able to render aid. You can move from being helpless to being a helper, too – download the free Red Cross First Aid app and get familiar with different emergencies or, better yet, invest half a day in getting Red Cross trained.

--Patricia Billinger
Communications Director

Two Phone Calls Changed a Lyons Woman's Life

By Bob Lieber, Volunteer Writer
“What can we do to help?” That’s what the Red Cross volunteer asked Lana Hansen. Those words were so welcome -- such a lifeline at a time of need Lana couldn’t believe there was actually someone offering to help, just when she needed it most.

Lana had lived and worked on a ranch near Lyons. She lived in a trailer home where she managed the ranch for her uncle. The days were long and hard, but she loved the place and the area as well as the work. A month before the floods that devastated the area, Lana’s uncle was killed in a motorcycle accident, so Lana began the process of moving to a new home in Longmont. She had moved her dogs and a few summer clothes, but had scheduled a moving company to come on Sept. 19, 2013, to relocate the majority of her belongings to her new home.

Then came the phone call from the moving company: the roads in Lyons were underwater; Lyons was underwater; there was no way for the moving company to get to the property. When she was finally allowed to return weeks later, the trailer and all of her furniture, her clothes --everything -- was simply gone.

Lana had some friends who tried to help by providing a couch, a pad and sleeping bag, but she needed so much, she really did not know where to turn.

Then came the other phone call that changed her life: a Red Cross volunteer had gotten Lana’s name from the Lyons shelter and was just checking to see how she could help. When Lana heard the words “What can we do to help?” the tears just flowed.

The volunteer helped Lana to get some essentials: a mattress, a place to store donated furniture until a moving company could be secured, a link with other services in the area. The most important thing that the volunteer provided, though, was someone who cared, someone who listened and helped Lana start down the long road to rebuilding her life.

Lana’s house now is a picture of her new life. Her four dogs bound about with great energy welcoming every guest with wagging tails and maybe even a few licks. Recovery is always a journey and the tragic memories will take time to fade. Lana is so very grateful for the help that the Red Cross provided not only the measurable products and services, but the immeasurable value of another human being who cares. It is what the Red Cross does best.

Flood Survivors: 'It's Like Beginning Again.'

By Patricia Billinger
Alma and her family were awoken at 3 a.m. by a call warning them to evacuate immediately because flood waters were coming. Alma, husband Guillermo, daughter Perla, son-in-law Gerardo and grand-daughters Yamileth and Yaretzi escaped to Guillermo’s sister’s home, leaving everything behind in their Longmont mobile home.

They quickly realized they needed additional help: Alma has diabetes and sleep apnea but fled without her medications and the breathing machine she uses at night; her grand-daughters have asthma; and they were a family of six joining a household already packed with eight other family members.

“There were a lot of people in my sister-in-law’s house, it was a lot of people. So, we would go to the Red Cross shelter for meals and to spend the day, and then just stay at my sister-in-law’s house to sleep,” Alma recalled.

At the shelter, Red Cross volunteer nurses also helped Alma refill her family’s medications and provided a replacement breathing machine – essential to preventing seizures caused by her sleep apnea.

Perla (L), daughters Yamileth and Yaretzi, and Alma in Alma's new rental home.
When the family was allowed to return to their trailer a week later, they found water had passed through the mobile home “up to the top.”

“Everything that we had inside the trailer was thrown out – the only thing we saved were two beds, some photos and some children’s clothes. Everything was wet.” Alma said. “One of our neighbors found a big fish on his stairs because the water passed that high. Things you wouldn’t believe – you wouldn’t believe the things that happened.”

While the Nuñez family was cleaning out the remains of their home, a Red Cross volunteer checking on the neighborhood stopped by, gave them clean-up supplies, inquired about their needs and took down their names for casework follow-up.

Later, a long-term recovery caseworker reached out to the Nuñez family and reconnected them with the Red Cross again – just in time. Guillermo had injured his hand and was unable to work in his janitorial field; while Perla had found an apartment for her family with help from FEMA, Alma had struggled to find an apartment she and Guillermo could afford.

 “All the apartments were full and there were wait lists because so many people were affected by the floods,” Alma explained. “The Red Cross gave us one month of rent, which helped me a lot because my husband couldn’t work.”

The rental assistance helped them secure a small, tidy manufactured home rental in Longmont, where they have been living since.

 Nearly one year later, Alma and Perla say they’re still fighting to get back to normal.

“Estamos batallando,no crees que no,” Alma said – “We’re battling, don’t believe we’re not.”  Work is less stable and the children don’t completely understand what happened to their “home.”

“It has affected every one of us, each one,” Alma said. “Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe it.”

“It’s like starting from the beginning again,” Perla explained. But, despite their losses and having to start again, they’re grateful for the help they’ve received and are paying it forward: they learned of an 82-year-old woman who was displaced by the floods and was moving into their mobile home park, and had planned a full day to help her move into her new home and clean it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Red Cross of Colorado Sending Additional Disaster Workers to Eastern Washington Wildfire Response

The American Red Cross continues to respond to the devastating wildfires in eastern Washington that have destroyed hundreds of homes and continue to force evacuations. Two additional Red Cross disaster workers from Colorado have been sent to Wenatchee, Wash. to support the Red Cross relief and recovery effort.

Susan Wiseman from the Western Colorado Chapter departed on July 31, 2014 to serve as a driver for the Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). The ERV is an important part of the Red Cross response and recovery effort and is used to deliver supplies and equipment throughout the recovery area. Wiseman has been a Red Cross volunteer since 2005 and this will be her ninth disaster deployment that includes the 2013 Colorado Floods. “Sue is one of those volunteers that really wants to help,” said Eric Myers, Executive Director for the Western Colorado Chapter. “She loves to be out there helping people.”

Julie Demaree will depart August 6, 2014 to support the disaster response headquarters in Wenatchee, Wash. as a member of the Disaster Services Technology Team (DST). Members of DST provide computer resources that support the Red Cross disaster response. She has been a volunteer for the Red Cross since June of 2012. Demaree worked the 2013 Wildfires and Floods in Colorado but this will be her first “out-of-state” deployment. “I feel this is my chance to pay back those volunteers that came to Colorado and helped us last year,” she said.

This brings the total deployment of disaster responders from Colorado to the Eastern Washington Wildfires to five. Typical disaster deployment is 14 to 21 days depending on the needs of the disaster and the availability of the volunteer.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Lessons Learned from a Congolese Pastor

By Katie Lynn-Vecqueray
Sometimes, the greatest and most powerful gift is hope. Hope may come in many forms, but it is especially prevalent in the lives of individuals who have been separated from loved ones abroad. These individuals feel compelled to determine the fate, safety, and well-being of their families and friends, and the Red Cross Restoring Family Links Service intends to offer this peace of mind.

Within the United States, refugees and migrants are often unaware that tracing services exist to assist them in reestablishing communication with those sought overseas. It is therefore essential that Restoring Family Links conduct outreach campaigns to inform these populations that familial reconnection may be potentially and successfully facilitated.

 In working as an RFL intern in the Colorado/Wyoming region, I have learned to appreciate the depth and solidarity that refugee and migrant communities exhibit. Their relationships are built upon their religious and cultural identities, identities that serve as foundations in the midst of assimilation’s uncertainties. I have learned that without an understanding of both the community members’ personal and collective narratives, it is difficult to appreciate and connect with the heart of the community’s shared strength.

Within church communities and congregations, individuals find strength through a sense of belonging and through faith. Congregation members rely on the support of fellow individuals to face the hardships of past experiences and future fears. As I conducted outreach to Denver populations, I recognized the centrality of these religious institutions. I realized that if I could reach one individual with the message and hope of our services, I could potentially reach many more within a congregational setting. With this insight, I sought connections to different church organizations.

Through RFL’s partnership with Ecumenical Refugee and Immigration Services, I was offered a contact for a Congolese church, Come to Jesus Ministries. Although hesitant to initially communicate with the community, I contacted the Ministry’s pastor. His gracious acceptance of my emails and phone calls sparked a shared interest that was grounded in mutual service and sincere respect. I coordinated with the pastor for weeks, inquiring into the needs of his church members and offering him resources to share with individuals he believed might be receptive to RFL offerings.

 An imperative of conducting outreach requires the ability to take the lead of the communities and leaders who serve as liaisons between community members and Red Cross services. In working with the Congolese church, I learned to respect the pace of the pastor’s outreach efforts as he conducted them on my behalf and with my guidance. He explained the importance of introducing RFL casework and services to his members through initial announcements from church members who were trusted within the community.

Over a month’s span, the pastor and I coordinated our efforts to cultivate interest in potential new cases. When the time came for our RFL caseworkers to attend the church’s Sunday service, trust had been established, and individuals within the congregation were eager to open a case. The members had found hope, and it had come through a process of friendship, understanding, and the heart of service.