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South Sudan and Fort McMurray: family ties

Guest post by Shelly Makrugin, Canadian Red Cross

Marial Mayom Riak and his uncle Anyuon Awan meet each other with smiles, hugs and a traditional greeting. It has been years since they last saw each other, but the two family members, from Marial Mayom Riak and his uncle Anyuon Awan meet each other with smiles and hugsopposite sides of the world, are brought back together through the Red Cross and the Fort McMurray fire.

Awan came to Canada in 2001 and has worked in Fort McMurray for eight years. His wife and two small children were evacuated along with Awan and thousands of others who fled the fires in May.

“It was bad. I left everything behind,” Awan remembers. “I almost got caught in the fire.”

The family is safe in Edmonton now and Awan is back at work.  He is also housing several co-workers, who lost their homes in the fire, in his Fort McMurray apartment.

Riak has been with the South Sudan Red Cross since its inception on July 9, 2011, where he works as the communication and resource mobilization manager.

As a child, Riak was separated from many members of his family due to conflict. He himself was a refugee, moving from South Sudan, to Ethiopia and Kenya. The Red Cross was instrumental in helping him re-connect with his father after 13 years of separation. He now feels like he is paying back the support he received when he needed it.

Riak is in Canada as part of a partnership between the Canadian Red Cross and the Government of Canada to engage Canadians on humanitarian assistance and to build capacity of other Red Cross national societies to respond to disasters and emergencies in their own countries.

Riak will stay with his uncle and family in Edmonton for several days, catching up and spending time together. “It is good to see him,” says Awan. As for his family, they are thankful they are safe and able to spend time with Riak.

Find more information for Fort McMurray evacuees here.
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