Five year search for sister ends with Red Cross help

After five years of searching on her own, Asha Sugule turned to the Red Cross in Minneapolis for help finding her sister somewhere, she believed, in east Africa. 

Story by Katie Kusnierek. Photos by Daniel Soderstrom. 

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Asha Sugule (above) was separated from her sister Layla for five years when the Red Cross reconnected them in a few months time. Photo credit: Daniel Soderstrom.

In 2006, Asha Sugule married and moved with her new husband from east Africa to the United States, leaving behind her 5-year-old sister Layla. Fortunately, Asha was able to leave Layla with family friends who had a telephone. The separation left a huge void in Asha’s life, but she was grateful to be able to speak with her sister and know that she was doing well.

Asha continued to have regular conversations with Layla for two to three years until the family caring for young Layla abruptly left Nairobi, Kenya, and could no longer be reached by phone.  The family could not afford to have a phone and Layla was too young to find the means to contact Asha. So, Asha and Layla lost all contact with each other.  Distraught at the thought of her sister being so far away from her and so alone, Asha feared for Layla’s safety who was now a young lady and in need of her older sister’s guidance and love.

Asha tried desperately to find out any information that she could on the whereabouts of her sister. Asha only had hearsay from friends and neighbors to go off of and continued searching for Layla for five years with no success.

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In Minneapolis, Yahye Mohamed (right) was the first Red Cross worker to meet with Asha and start the search for her sister Layla. Photo credit: Daniel Soderstrom.

Finally, Asha contacted friends in Yemen who told her to try contacting the Red Cross for help in the search for her sister.  Much to Asha’s surprise, Red Cross workers with the Restoring Family Links program were able to track down Layla in a matter of months and deliver a message to Asha with Layla’s contact information on September 23, 2013. After years of separation, Asha was able to reconnect with her sister, who had moved to Ethiopia, married, and was pregnant with her first child.

Today, Asha and Layla are able to speak on the phone and are once again a part of each other’s lives. Asha is hopeful that someday Layla may move to the United States so that they can be reunited, but for now she is happy to have her sister back in her life.

Asha encourages others in her community to contact the Red Cross for help and support.  “I am so happy because someone was able to find my family member,” says Asha. She wants others to feel the same sense of relief and joy that the Red Cross gave her.

Last year the Northern Minnesota Red Cross region worked with 53 families on searches for loved ones across international borders.  If you have lost contact with a family member following war, disaster, migration, or other humanitarian crisis, please contact us at 612-871-7676 so that we can start your reconnection query. 

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