From Canada to Russia to Rwanda, the Canadian Red Cross brings families back together

Topics: Finding Family
January 30, 2014

From Canada to Russia to Rwanda, the Canadian Red Cross brings families back together

The Canadian Red Cross has a long tradition of reuniting families, even against the odds. For over 100 years, the Canadian Red Cross has helped loved ones reconnect after having been divided by conflict or disaster - from the Halifax explosion of 1917 to the exchange of POWs during the Korean conflict or the delivery of family messages to and from detained Japanese Canadians during World War II. Some of the most important work the charity organization has done has been through finding family initiatives. Just consider a few of these recent examples.

Shamilia's story
At the age of 12, Shamilia fled the Democratic Republic of Congo for Uganda, where she was eventually chosen to resettle in Canada. Before leaving, she became pregnant. Shamilia was advised to leave her newborn son Brian in the care of a Ugandan neighbour before declaring him as a child upon entry to Canada - but when she arrived in the new country, she was told that her son could not follow her. One year later, the Red Cross in Saskatoon was able to help Shamilia. The Restoring Family Links program led her to the Canadian Council for Refugees - and though it still took two years to piece together, the Canadian Red Cross was able to locate Brian and eventually ensure his safe travel into Canada. Brian arrived in his new home shortly afterward.

The Lauder family's story
The Lauders moved from Russia to China in 1925, and Eugenia Lauder last saw her brother, Leonid, in 1947 before he left and returned to Russia. In 1971, Eugenia attempted to locate her brother with the help of the Russian Red Cross, but was unsuccessful. However, more than two decades later, the Russian Red Cross reached out to the Canadian Red Cross - it turned out that Eugenia's brother had also attempted to reach her through the Red Cross. By chance, a Red Cross worker not only remembered the 1971 search, but also Eugenia's first name. A short time later, Eugenia and her brother were writing and speaking on the phone. Then - 50 years after their separation - brother and sister met once again at Mirabel Airport in Montreal.

Reuniting families in Rwanda
Thousands of children in Rwanda have been separated from their families amid the genocide and conflict in the country. Starting in 1994, the International Committee of the Red Cross works to bring families back together. To date, more than 47,000 Rwandan children have been brought back together with their families.

Sue Pfisterer was a Canadian Red Cross delegate working from Gikongoro, Rwanda, in 1997. She was a member of an eight-person team that helped trace family members and organize reunifications in the area. According to Sue, as many as four children might be brought back together with their families over the course of a day's work.

You can read more true stories and watch videos from the Finding Family Links program online. Want to help the Canadian Red Cross bring families together - in Canada and across the world? Donate today!