Refugees United: Bringing Families Together

Volunteer works with refugees
Refugees United

How often do you talk to your family? Liz Waid and Mike Procter look at an organization helping refugees find lost family members.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Mike Procter. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand - no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 3 

“It was morning. I was out collecting water. Then I heard the guns. I heard my family shout and cry for help. But the soldiers were everywhere. I saw everything. I ran for my life. I do not know where but I got away. I found a place to hide. I was safe but what about my family? Something told me they were still alive. So I went back for them. But they were gone. I had no home, no family, there was no one to help me.”

Voice 1 

This is the story of a woman named Estelle. After this experience, she was a refugee. She did not know where her family was. She did not know how to find them. However, in 2012 she heard about an NGO called Refugees United. She used their free online program. Soon, Estelle received an SMS text message from her sister. Her sister was living only five kilometres away! Together, they are now using the Refugees United program to look for other family members. How does this program work to bring families back together? Today’s Spotlight is on the NGO Refugees United.

Voice 2 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, says that there more than 43 million refugees around the world. These are people who have been forced from their homes. They have usually experienced many difficult things, like war and hunger.

Voice 1 

The problem of refugees is a very large one. And it affects people all over the world. Christopher and David Mikkelson are brothers from Denmark. In 2005, they met a young man named Monsour. He was a refugee from Afghanistan. He had not seen his family for five years. He did not know where they were. He did not even know if they were alive or dead.

Voice 2 

The Mikkelsen brothers started to help Monsour. They visited different refugee organizations. Some organizations, such as the Red Cross, try to reunite refugee families. But this process can be long and difficult. No one was able to help Monsour or the Mikkelsens. Finally, without help, they found Monsour’s brother in Pakistan. Later, David Mikkelsen said that the experience gave him very strong feelings. He thought about how he would feel if he lost his brother.

Voice 1 

David and Chris Mikkelsen then decided that they wanted to help more people. They wanted to use technology to help refugee families. So they created a space on the internet where refugees could find each other. They named their organization Refugees United.

Voice 2 

It is a very simple system. A person enters information about herself. This is called creating a profile. Then other people can easily find her. And she can also search for other people who have also made profiles.

Voice 1 

Refugees United works through the internet. People can use a computer to get to the program. But the Mikkelsens wanted everyone to be able to use this technology. So they also made it possible to use the site on a mobile phone. People can even enter their information or search through text messages. In this way, most people in the world can use the program. On the Refugees United website, David Mikkelsen explains how the program works:

Voice 4 

“Refugees United is an online global tool. People can go in and make a profile. They can search for lost loved ones. They can do it online. Or they can do it through their mobile phone. You only give out the information that you are comfortable with. You can put in the first letters of your name, your religious leader’s name or what tribe you are from. In most cases as a refugee you are just sitting around waiting for...nothing. And here refugees can actually take charge of their own situation.”

Voice 2 

Some refugees come from very dangerous situations. They must be careful to protect themselves. They cannot give too much personal information online. That is why Refugees United suggests people give information that only family members will know. These are things such as where a person was born, or what is a person’s favourite food or sport. Many people have had success after making a profile with Refugees United. One woman shares her story on a Refugees United video:

Voice 5 

“A priest from my country told me about Refugees United. I made my profile. I wrote my name. I wrote what I did in my country. And after three days my sister Denise was there. Somebody tells you: “Your sister is here! I can help!” You can communicate. And it is free. It means I am not alone anymore. Denise is not alone anymore. Now I can sleep. I can sleep knowing Denise is there.”

Voice 1 

Like this woman, many refugees are lonely. They may live in a foreign country. They may not know how to make their situation better. Chris Mikkelsen explains how Refugees United helps people work together:

Voice 6 

“The mission of Refugees United is to help refugees to be active players in the process of finding family. It is about one thing: You cannot find your family. Let us try and work on that. This is what we can do. And this is how we can help you help yourself.”

Voice 2 

Organizations that work with refugees can also use the search tool. The Mikkelsens have formed partnerships with businesses and organizations such as Google, FedEx and the Red Cross. They hope this will help them unite even more refugees with their families. If you would like to visit the Refugees United site, you can find a link on the script page of this program.

Voice 1 

The work of Refugees United gives hope to people who cannot find their families. Biyarhanga Kisembo from the Congo does not know where his father is. He is one of thousands of people waiting for news. But Refugees United has given people an active way to wait. Kisembo told Refugees United:

Voice 7 

“By myself alone I am hopeless to find my dad. But with Refugees United I have some hope.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called ‘Refugees United: Bringing Families Together.’

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website. Or you can email us at You can also find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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How often do you talk to your family?


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said on August 15, 2013

It is native land where we were born and grew up. It is native land where we have loved-persons. We get beautiful good things. We grow up in everyone’s love. Beautiful good things build for the life. Love builds for peace. Love connects everyone with each other. We believe in beautiful good things. Not good things destroy the life. We love beautiful good things. Native land and loved persons are parts of our lives.

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said on August 16, 2013

Refugees United is really a good organization for help.It gives hope to all refugees.Appreciated so much.And I hope more refugees can find their relatives or friends.Blessing.

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said on August 18, 2013

These organizations is very nice God bless them

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Mss Flamboyant
said on September 27, 2014

Our planet needs more and more Non government office the same Refugees United which brings family members together.

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said on December 31, 2014

I like the refugees united so much . Its so charity to help refugees to find their family . I love them when they were suffered many sorrow from lost their family . I hope they can find their family successly . Thanks for many organizations like that to help refugees . Thanks spotlight english !

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said on June 08, 2019

I talk to my family every single day and I think it’s hard to do not make a communication to whom we love. I think also some people must exist who do not want communication of any kind with his/her family.
Every story has, at least, three narratives: a) from one person; b) from his opposite; c) the true version.