Skype reconnects refugee families over distance and time

Skype harnesses the power of communication and technology to connect people every day. But for some organizations, it’s a lifeline for reuniting families torn apart and displaced by war and other life-threatening conflicts.

The Social Good blog recently focused on one such organization, Refugees United, a small but scrappy tech non-profit of 20 employees whose mission is to reconnect separated families around the world. Through their website, family members can easily search for missing loved ones from a database of more than 185,000 profiles. If and when they’re found, Refugees United helps bring them together through email, phone calls and Skype.

A mobile network is also instrumental in allowing the organization to register people into their database, — even in refugee camps with no Internet access and places where computers are scarce. While they might use cellphones and tablets at first to touch base with their previously lost family, the refugees have been able to later gain access to Internet cafes or borrowed computers. That’s when Skype becomes their primary mode of communication. 

Refugees United co-founder David Mikkelsen has witnessed many special moments when families find each other again. “Everyone has the right to know where their family is. When we have families see each other for the first time on Skype, it’s heartbreaking in a very good way, in a very good sense. Somehow a picture really speaks a thousand words and it just becomes so real for them.”

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Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff