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Messages of hope

Hawa, Isha and Faduma, reunited at last

Saying goodbye to a loved one in any circumstances can be hard. In situations of conflict, where people don't know if they will ever see or hear from family and friends again, this can be devastating. This was the case when Isha Munya fled war torn Somalia in 1990 with her husband and five children and was forced to leave her eldest daughter, eight-year-old Faduma, in Somalia with her mother Akrabo.

"Saying goodbye to her felt like my stomach was torn out," remembers Isha of the heartbreaking moment when she realised she had to be separated from her child. The only thing that made it easier was that Faduma was staying with Akrabo, whom she was very close to.

For eight years Isha lived in neighbouring Kenya moving between four different refugee camps. In 1998 she, her husband and their children, set off for Australia to start a new life in Adelaide, safe from conflict.

"I felt relieved when I arrived here; it brought me inner happiness and peace. My children have an education and can get jobs," she says, still smiling.

However, Isha bore the burden of being separated from her daughter and mother.

When Isha said goodbye to Faduma, she had no idea when she would see her daughter and her own mother again. Leaving them in war torn Somalia meant that staying in touch with them was going to be difficult. As the years past, Isha lost contact with her mother and Faduma.

"It makes me cry when I think about it," says Isha.

In 2006, Isha contacted Red Cross in Adelaide and a case was opened to trace her daughter and mother.

Isha's search was successful. Through Red Cross' tracing service, she found Akrabo and Faduma, and they were able to send each other messages. Eventually, in 2009, Faduma came to Australia and was reunited with Isha.

"It was the happiest day," says Isha. "The whole Somali community went to the airport. We arrived an hour early we were so excited."

"It was so emotional, you could feel it in the air. I saw Faduma come off the plane. I couldn't hold my tears back."

Isha's Red Cross case worker, Luci Lovelock, has helped Isha search for and communicate with her family members. "Isha is an amazing and inspiring woman who has endured such tragedy in her life. Still, she manages to smile everyday and has hope for her future," said Luci.

Today, Faduma lives near her mother in Adelaide, and is married with two young children of her own. All of Isha's surviving children now live in Australia.

Reuniting her children through the Red Cross tracing service was one of the happiest days of Isha's life.

The sense of family and unity is very clear when being around Isha and her children. Hawa, who was a baby when they fled Somalia, is now a young woman and plays with her nieces while her older sister Faduma chats with Isha. But there is one woman in Isha's life missing from the scene.

"I love my mother," says Isha, with sadness in her smile.

Last year Isha's mother sent a photo through Red Cross' Tracing Service of herself and her husband, Isha's father, who died in 2009. It was the first time she had seen a photo of them since she fled Somalia.

Isha gets excited and animated when she speaks about seeing the photo, and she dreams of the day she will be able to see her mother in the flesh.

Isha continues to communicate with Akrabo through Red Cross and hangs on to the hope that one day she will be able to give her mum a big hug and tell her, face to face, that she loves her.



Photos: Australia Red Cross / Mourne de Klerk.


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