Living as a Global Citizen: The Global Language Bank of West Michigan

The Red Cross Mission is to provide relief to victims of armed conflicts or disaster and assist people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Through our International Services programs we further the global efforts of the Red Cross by educating the community about these efforts and by facilitating communication among new arrivals such as refugees and immigrants, the organizations that serve them, and families facing communication barriers caused by language, armed conflicts and emergencies. The ability to serve those with limited English ability, especially newly arrived residents to our counties, enables the Chapter not only to help these families meet their basic needs, but also to fulfill the organization’s broader mission by preparing new immigrants and refugees to respond appropriately in the case of a crisis, disaster or other emergency.

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Daniel Kim, the Global Language Bank coordinator in West Michigan

The Global Language Bank Internship Program was founded with the idea of providing a high quality internship opportunity to international college students and translators/interpreters to English as Second Language (ESL) clients in emergency and disaster situations. The Global Language Bank Internship program was developed to meet changing community needs. Services to these individuals are provided free of charge. Furthermore, we have created the cultural competency book to provide assistance both within the Chapter (to other Red Cross departments such as Services to the Armed Forces, Disaster and Volunteer Services) and to other non-profit humanitarian service providers.

New Image2Currently, we have 13 linguistic interns and volunteers who collectively speak more than 15 different languages and dialects and are available seven days a week. The Language Bank provides in-person and over-the-phone interpretation as well as written translations. The Language Bank will promote the Red Cross international services to migrants, refugees, new arrivals and their community groups and service providers with their language abilities in translating official documents, interpretation in interviews, outreach presentation, creating the cultural competency book and more. The Global Language Bank work of multilingual interns and volunteers promises to be a very valuable contribution to the humanitarian work of the American Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Hometown Heroes 2015 Profiles: Judge Sara Smolenski

smolenskiWe are continuing a series of posts highlighting the award recipients  for the 2015 Hometown Heroes Celebration put on by the American Red Cross of West Michigan. Each year the American Red Cross celebrates the community heroes who inspire us through their commitment to service and their recognition of the humanity of their neighbors down the street, across the country, and around the world. The event will be held on Thursday, April 30 from 6:00PM-10:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.

The American Red Cross of West Michigan is proud to honor Judge Sara Smolenski with the Mabel Boardman Spirit of Volunteerism Award. Judge Smolenski has proven her commitment to her community through the many services she provides including her active volunteer efforts.

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Hometown Heroes 2015 Profiles: Frederick Bw’Ombongi

View More: http://emilyraephotography.pass.us/wmrecc-5-28We are continuing a series of posts highlighting the awards recipients for the 2015 Hometown Heroes Celebration put on by the American Red Cross of West Michigan. Each year the American Red Cross celebrates the community heroes who inspire us through their commitment to service and their recognition of the humanity of their neighbors down the street, across the country, and around the world. The event will be held on Thursday, April 30 from 6:00PM-10:00PM at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids. For ticket information please visit our Hometown Heroes event page.

This year for our Hometown Heroes Celebration, we’re incredibly honored to recognize Frederick Bw’Ombongi for his contributions to not only the West Michigan community but also his efforts internationally. When I first met Frederick in his office at Spectrum Health, he was very humbled to be nominated for the Henry Dunant Global Impact Award, which recognizes an individual who has looked beyond their backyard to serve and improve the lives of people from around the globe. Frederick embodies this spirit and truly enjoys his work locally and internationally.

The Angel of the Battlefield: Clara Barton

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March is Women’s History Month!

Clarissa Harlowe Barton, Clara, as she wished to be called, is one of the most honored women in American history. She began teaching school at a time when most teachers were men and she was among the first women to gain employment in the federal government. Barton risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. At age 60, she founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and led it for the next 23 years. Her understanding of the needs of people in distress and the ways in which she could provide help to them guided her throughout her life. By the force of her personal example, she opened paths to the new field of volunteer service. Her intense devotion to serving others resulted in enough achievements to fill several ordinary lifetimes.

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Restoring Family Links: Makiwa and Motema

MakiwaWritten by Alexys Lemans

International disasters, migration, war, and conflict leave millions of people all over the world in need of assistance each year. As a worldwide system,  the International Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are able to help families everywhere bridge the gap caused by these issues.

Makiwa Rashidi fled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2002 due to the armed conflict around her. Fleeing can be a complicated matter and she was separated from her family—across countries and oceans; from DRC to South Africa to right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan—until the Red Cross helped reunite Makiwa with her loved one, Motema Dedieu.

Motema Dedieu had plans to follow Makiwa to South Africa but he never showed up. He wasn’t able to leave Uvira, the city where they lived together in DRC. For a short period of time, Makiwa and Motema were able to connect through telephone. They spoke daily to ensure one another’s safety until one day, Motema stopped answering. A group was sent to find Motema in Uvira but there was no trace of him or his family.

In 2012, Makiwa was relocated to the United States. She contacted the American Red Cross of West Michigan to start a case in October 2014—she wanted to find Motema and reunite with him.

Restoring Family Links (RFL) offers hope to families that are victims of conflict and separation. When separation happens, the Red Cross is there to help, whether it is to deliver a message to a loved one overseas, to locate missing family members, or even to reconnect Holocaust survivors to long-lost relatives. With the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations all around the world, the Red Cross case workers have helped more than 5,000 families connect with their loved ones. This includes searching for family members, restoring contact, facilitating reunions, and working to determine the fate of loved ones who remain missing.

“Restoring Family Links is a remarkable program,” said Daniel Kim, the International Services associate and the RFL caseworker at the American Red Cross of West Michigan. “It truly demonstrates the extent to which the Red Cross spans. It really is worldwide and it allows us to reach families who need help everywhere.”

Thanks to the Restoring Family Links program and the help of hard working Red Crossers, Makiwa reconnected with Motema early in March 2015. After he was separated from Makiwa, he fled to Uganda and is currently a refugee there. The Red Cross is working with Makiwa to take the next steps in uniting the two loved ones.

To learn more about the reconnection process, please visit here.

Please contact Daniel Kim at (616) 456-8661 ext. 5203 or Daniel.Kim@redcross.org for more information about International Services in the West Michigan chapter.