It was a simple greeting and question about the living conditions in the United States. But for Jacob Kabura, receiving a message from a former co-worker in a Tanzania refugee camp was a heartfelt experience.
Kabura, a 38-year-old father of seven, has been living in Beaverton, Oregon, with his family for the past nine months. While he loves Oregon, he has found the adjustment slow and communication difficult. There are few people that speak his native Burundi language.
"Receiving this message from home was wonderful and it has lifted my spirits," Kabura said. "It is a connection that I haven't had for some time. It's good to know that someone is thinking of me and has a way to find me a half a world away."
Polly Alexander is the emergency services caseworker who personally delivered the message to Kabura. She has been with the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross for 30 years.
Alexander recalls that finding Kabura wasn't an easy task. "All I had was a partial telephone number and a first name. But with the help of our community partners, I was able to contact a person who knew a gentleman with the Kabura last name." Alexander then met with Kabura to verify that the message was indeed meant for him and that he knew whom it came from.
"I'm gratified that we have the help of the community to reach out to refugees. We do a lot of work to find these folks. In some countries, normal mail delivery is not available and for many of these refugees the only way they can receive letters and photos from family and friends is through the Red Cross," she explained.
Red Cross Tracing Services and Red Cross Messages help families and friends locate each other, send communications and learn each other's fate. These services were mandated under of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which established the Red Cross as the provider of protections for the prisoners of war, detainees and civilians impacted by war. Often these services, which are conducted between people living in the United States and their relatives living in foreign countries, may be required for several years.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization – not a government agency – and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.