Family is … Joy

Angela Rupchock-Schafer | November 21, 2013

Photo: Kelly Cohen-Mazurowski/CWS

Photo: Kelly Cohen-Mazurowski/CWS

We all do it. We get so caught up in the day-to-day bits and pieces of our lives, sometimes we forget to sit back and marvel when joy finds us. For the past month, CWS has been working together with Google+, RYOT news, UNHCR and Refugees United to make something new and vibrant happen in the world of communications. And in the heat of the moment, I almost missed the magic we made possible together as a team.

Soni and his nephew, Edmond, have not seen each other for seven years. Torn apart by the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, these two young men are living continents apart – Soni in Durham, North Carolina, and Edmond in Nairobi, Kenya. The #FamilyIs… campaign wanted to help this family reunite and see each other for the first time since the violence forced them to flee their homes.Google+ Hangouts would be the way to make that happen. Along the way, we had to get both men to good internet connections, set up a time that worked across vast spaces and go through a seemingly endless round of questions and logistical problems that cropped up.

The #FamilyIs… campaign is working this Thanksgiving season to help make people more aware of the issues refugees face. Few people understand how many refugee families are torn apart by circumstances beyond their control. When people in the U.S. are traveling cross-country or across town next week to see loved ones, for too many refugees that precious family time is not possible.

The Hangout planning continued, the weeks passed and the tension mounted. At least for me it did. There were simply too many variables in play to allow me a moment’s peace until we’d seen the project to fruition. Hurtling towards the beginning of the Hangout, I think I started to lose track of what we were attempting to accomplish.

But then… the moment arrived.  I looked up at my computer screen and Soni’s smile was breathtaking. His joy is palpable. Watching the video, the magic moment starts around the 8 minute mark. Soni sees his brother’s son for the first time since they were separated and it is an emotional, powerful thing to witness. I’m not ashamed to say I started crying and was incredibly grateful that I was muted. Grateful I didn’t have to speak around the tears. Grateful that I had had a part to play to empower Soni and Edmond to reach out to each other in this exciting, innovative way.

I’m told by my colleagues in the CWS Durham office that the two men laughed, cried and enjoyed a private Hangout between themselves for hours. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve watched their reunion more than a few times.

“Since we are still alive… as long as we are still alive, we must not lose hope that one day we will see them again,” Soni said when asked what he wanted to tell other refugee families torn apart. Soni and Edmond have taught me a lot in the past few weeks. This Thanksgiving, I will be thankful for my family and the safety we enjoy.

#FamilyIs… joy.

Angela Rupchock-Schafer, Social Media Manager, CWS

You can watch a video of the first FamilyIs… Hangout here:

Make sure to become part of the FamilyIs… community here:

Mark your calendars for the next FamilyIs Hangouts!