British Red Cross
It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog about my roots tracing journey. I guess that often is the nature of roots tracing, it can be slow and over a period of time. Plus for me I do get a bit complacent and can take me a few weeks or even years to move onto the next step.
To get you quickly up to speed… I’ve been looking for my birthmother (and birth family). My birth mother was a Vietnamese Refugee Boat person that fled Vietnam to Hong Kong (HK) and was staying at one of the HK refugee camps. I was conceived and born in HK out of wedlock. Due her circumstances she felt she could not look after me as she was given an offer to resettle in the USA. Before today I had exhausted every lead I could in Hong Kong including the Social Welfare Department, HK Immigration, UK UNHCR and even found my foster family who also didn’t have any leads (though love been in contact with them again ^.^). While the Social Welfare Department was able to give me as much information they had on my adoption it was still a bit limited. In general the other organisations didn’t have records from that far back… shame so many paper records are culled/destroyed o_O.
It was only a month or so ago it was confirmed really there was no more paths to take in HK. I thought, hummm, what now? When I was looking on the AVI (Adopted Vietnamese International) website, which I ironically redesigned not that long ago, i found a post about the Red Cross helping Vietnamese refugees in the USA after the war. It was just a tiny little section saying:
“Red Cross Location Service
Red Cross Location Service has been able to reunite lost relatives including orphans with their birth parents from the Vietnam War. There special connection to Vietnam after the war was with their work in Vietnamese refugee camps. The American Red Cross provides tracing and location services in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, our Congressional Charter of 1905, and our obligations as a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Tracing is an American Red Cross “Must” service; all American Red Cross chapters and stations on U.S. military installations overseas are required to provide this service to their communities.”
For over 10 years now I have been following the pure “adoption” roots tracing path, getting in touch with the organisations that dealt with my adoption and doing all the obvious things. And since that’s now a dead end, it was time to take the “war and refugee” route. Even though my birthmother was a refugee it’s a grey area to wether they were able to help me due to being adopted, rather than being orphaned. But since the reason for relinquishment was a direct result of her situation as a refugee, i thought I’d have a chance. So I got to thinking… If the Red Cross helped out in the USA, maybe if I contact the ones in the UK maybe they could help or know where to point me. So a couple of months ago I did just that. I was put through to a dedicated Red Cross family tracing department, which I didn’t realise they had. Their website says:
“We help to restore contact between families separated by armed conflict, disaster or migration by using the global Red Cross and Red Crescent network.”
So today I meet up with the Red Cross.
I woke up this morning rushing around getting all my documents ready and all the details I might need to find my birthmother. I photocopied the relevant documents and realised I only had 7 pages relating to her each with only a small clue… only 7 pages to show for 10 years of searching o_O.
I was really glad that my husband was able to join me for the meeting, his support is invaluable. I was greeted by two lovely ladies working at Abingdon Red Cross, but i was still really nervous. I’m not sure why. Maybe cos i didn’t know what to expect. Didn’t know if they would even be able to take my case on due to being adopted. I didn’t know if i had enough information. Just so many things racing in my head. Normally I don’t think much about, but this time i end up doing, it was pretty intense.
It was crazy how thorough the process was, understandably so. We meticulously looked at the documents and details we had, worked out what was hard fact and what was more speculation (as logical as it was). There was things they spotted even I hadn’t, and I looked at those documents loads. And the meeting ended with them helping me fill out a official Red Cross tracing request form.
So they have taken on the case, but now it’s all about little hurdles. My form and documents will be sent to the head office. They will then decided if there is enough to send it to the USA Red Cross. Then USA have to decide if they can help or sign post me in the right direction. It’s a lot of hoop jumping, but i completely understand. And each step is another potential brick wall. Tracing does not seem to be a fast process, but I’m hopeful but realistic. I just want to know that I’ve tried.
I’ve decided I’m not gonna be too complacent this time around… so i’m not just gonna twiddle my thumbs and wait for the Red Cross to get back to me. I’m starting to explore more research while I wait. I was told to try looking at the British National Archives and waiting for copies of some public record documents that might hold some answers and I’m also exploring books about the refugee exodus. So I’m trying to help myself =).
Try your own search of the archives here: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/
So while today might not seem a big step… it is moving forward, even if slowly, is very very positive for me. And if nothing comes of these avenues, then I’ll find another way, and another way after that. I need to know I tried. Something i really wanted to point out, even though I have been in touch with a lot of people in my search, even if people/organisations haven’t had any information I have been touched by how lovely & kind people have been about the whole thing and I think that makes a difference in keeping motivated and gives me some hope for humanity =P.