Sunday August 3, 2008
After a search lasting more than 12 years and involving Red Cross societies from Cambodia, the United States, Cuba and Australia, 27 year-old Rinka Perez has recently returned from visiting her father Juan in Cuba. It was an emotional occasion...Rinka's parents were separated during the conflict in Cambodia in 1980, just months before she was born and father and daughter had never met.
'The first time I met my dad was like a dream come true' said Rinka. 'I ran into his arms and hugged him...he couldn't stop crying!'
After a marathon search that her mother began in March 1993, Rinka was overjoyed to finally locate her father. Several unsuccessful efforts by Red Cross's International Tracing Service meant the possibility of finding Juan was slim, but with persistence from both Rinka and Australian Red Cross, the two were finally reunited.
The International Tracing Service is the only one of its kind worldwide, and uses the resources of Red Cross' unique global network to try and reconnect people separated by conflict or disaster. Often entire families have been torn apart, leaving tens of thousands of silent survivors in camps or homeless- including women and young children.
'Recent UN statistics put the number of internally displaced people and refugees at 32 million worldwide - a staggering figure' said Lis De Vries, Tracing Manager, Red Cross.
'By exchanging messages through national Red Cross societies, families are able to get news of loved ones lost or separated during times of conflict or disaster. This can mean recent conflicts in Africa, or even families separated as far back as World War 2,'she continued.
Australian Red Cross sends specialist aid workers around the globe to assist in the long and often harrowing task of reconnecting families and friends. Tracing Aid workers are specially trained and can work almost anywhere, with recent deployments to East Timor, Darfur, Liberia, Myanmar, Indonesia and Angola.
Ms De Vries said Red Cross used its global humanitarian network to locate missing relatives, re-establish contact, bring news and help to reunite families.
'Australian Red Cross works with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world to provide this unique service, free of charge' Ms De Vries said.
'We know there are more cases out there but not everybody who is seeking a missing person overseas is aware that Red Cross offers this vital service,' said Ms De Vries.
If contact with a family member or a relative has been lost due to war, conflict or disaster, contact the Australian Red Cross Tracing Service in your State or Territory.