Susana* had not heard from her daughter, Daniela, for more than a year and a half. Just two weeks after Daniela left Venezuela in early 2020, she lost contact with her family and went for months without being able to speak to her mother or her siblings. To mark the World Day of Families, we spoke with Susana about her story. She told us about how she managed to get back in touch with her daughter thanks to the Restoring Family Links programme run by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
One very rainy afternoon last October, Susana and two of her children were at their home in the town of Camatagua in Aragua State, Venezuela. At about 1pm, they heard someone calling at the front door: "Hello, Susana, good afternoon!"
Susana's husband worked in the local cemetery, so they were used to neighbours coming to look for him when someone died. And that's what they thought was happening this time too. So, despite the rain, Susana went out to see who was there. When she got to the door, she saw a young woman she did not know – but she did recognize the red cross on her shirt –."How can I help you?" she inquired, before she had even asked who she was. This was the visit that reconnected Susana with her daughter and brought the smile back to her face.
Daniela is the second youngest of Susana's five children. When she left for Colombia, they agreed that she would call as soon as she arrived. But once she was there, Daniela was unable to contact her family, and months went by with no news. Susana never stopped worrying. "Only a mother can understand what it feels like to know absolutely nothing [about their daughter]", she said with a quiver in her voice. But the love she felt from her other children and her husband's support and understanding helped her through and meant that she never lost hope.
"We tried to get in touch with her so many times. We phoned our friends in Colombia, but nobody could tell me anything. None of them lived close to where Daniela was heading. But despite everything, I knew in my heart that my daughter and I would be reunited sooner or later."
Susana has a big family. Her husband, two of her children and two grandchildren live with her. They are a very supportive family, and they were all so happy when the ICRC knocked on their door with good news. That day, everyone gathered in the living room. Susana sat down and the others stood around her. They were surprised and happy to read the letter that the ICRC had brought from Daniela. They felt so much relief. "It's her, mum, that's her handwriting", said Susana's other daughter. "That's my sister", she said, her voice filled with emotion and her eyes brimming with tears.
"In that moment, I felt so many different things – I felt nostalgic, happy, emotional", said Susana. For the year and a half since she said goodbye to her daughter, Susana had tried to remain strong but was still filled with sadness. But each day got easier, as she knew there were people there to help her. "When you go through something like this, you realize that you can count on your friends, and even on people you don't even know."
In the last few months, their lives have changed. They've got used to Daniela's virtual hugs. And Susana is much calmer now. She is no longer filled with worry, and she can focus on her work. Daniela is fine, and she's working too. Every now and then they phone each other to wish someone a happy birthday or just to catch up.
"The love and the bond you have with your children are forever. Whatever happens, you always know that you'll see them again. My family is once again complete. We might not be in the same place, but we're together."
*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals in this story.
Through the Restoring Family Links programme, we work with the Venezuelan Red Cross to prevent families from being separated as a result of armed violence, natural disasters or migration. We also help to reunite families if they do become separated. In the first quarter of 2022, we provided support in the following ways:
- 2,692 connectivity-related services (phone calls, WiFi connections and battery charging) were provided, and 2,690 people on the move received advice at 13 points in different parts of Venezuela.
- 73 people received Red Cross Messages with news of their loved ones.
- 11 new tracing requests were accepted, and 8 people were successfully found.
If you've lost contact with a family member, we are here to help. Feel free to contact us at email@example.com or on + 58 412 266 5945.