Restoring Family Links Amid a Pandemic

Posted on Friday, June 12th, 2020

By Sakshi Selvanathan – 12th June 2020 (Colombo)

The bittersweet joy of only a handful of life’s moments can compare to that of a mother finally reconnecting with her child, after more than half a decade of no contact. And owing to the intervention of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, Mary Saundya Thail is one woman who was rightfully bestowed with such an experience.

Mary Thail had migrated to Kuwait in 2012 for employment as a domestic worker and had managed to maintain telephone contact with her family for two years. But upon the sudden loss of contact with his wife in 2014, Mary’s husband, Wijepala, had searched unceasingly for years for news of Mary – who, unbeknownst to her family, was being callously prevented from maintaining contact with them (or anyone else from her hometown in Hambantota, Sri Lanka) by the Kuwaiti household she was employed under. Sri Lankan authorities made appeals in national newspapers requesting for information about Mary’s whereabouts on behalf of her family, but to no avail.

Fortunately, however, the publication of a Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRCS) social media post about restoring family links amidst the COVID-19 epidemic led Mary’s husband to contact the SLRCS Hambantota Branch in May 2020. A tracing request was immediately filed and the SLRCS enlisted the support of the Kuwait Red Crescent and the relevant governmental institutions and organizations (abroad and within the island) to re-establish contact with Mary.

A long-awaited day dawned on 3 June 2020 when Mary finally regained contact with her family. Owing to the tireless efforts by the dedicated teams of the Restoring Family Links (RFL) unit of both Kuwait Red Crescent and Sri Lanka Red Cross National Societies, Mary was able to make a video call to her son. The emotion-laden event was realized with the uninhibited support of the Kuwait Red Crescent RFL Coordinator and also, from the safety of a Kuwait-based safehouse – as years of neglect and abuse under her former employer had rendered Mary Thail blind and traumatized.

With the intention of physically reconnecting the separated family members, the SLRCS – along with the Kuwait Red Crescent and the national authorities therein – are currently making the necessary arrangements to make the aforesaid intention a reality. The Restoring Family Links Unit of the Red Cross Movement in both countries strives to realize its mandate – for after all, ‘home’ is truly, where your family is.