Father and son stage ‘disappearing act’

……..as the British Red Cross marks the International Day of the Disappeared – A father and his little boy, who were reunited with the help of the British Red Cross, have transformed themselves into a stunning piece of ‘living art’ to help commemorate International Day of the Disappeared (30 August).

Makoso Tshonde (38) spent four agonising years apart from his 11-year-old son Morena after political persecution meant he had to flee the Democratic Republic of Congo.

After he ended up in Glasgow, the Red Cross’ international tracing and message services (ITMS) helped the worried father reach contacts in his homeland who managed to find Morena. Now the pair are building a new life together in Scotland.

And to highlight the plight of thousands of people still separated from their families, they recently joined with Glasgow School of Art student Mikey Cook to create an imaginative and striking piece of artwork.

Using his painting skills, Mikey today blended Makoso into a detailed background, giving the impression of him disappearing – or reappearing – while Morena stood close by, reaching out.

Looking back on his long separation, Makoso said: “It was a very bad time – I had to leave my son behind and didn’t know if I would ever see him again.”

The proud father, who now volunteers for the Red Cross, said: “It is important never to give up hope. It is important that others facing the same situation I was in realise that there are people like the Red Cross who can help, no matter how bad things might seem.”

The International Day of the Disappeared presents a stark reminder that hundreds of thousands of families across the world are still unaware of the fate of family members, missing through conflict.

Meanwhile, the British Red Cross has announced the winners of its literary competition whose theme, ‘Missing’ was designed to mark Day.

Clavance Lim won the competition with his short story, Escape. He said: “I’m honoured to have my entry selected. The work of the Red Cross is truly inspiring – and in this age of social media and information, we can all do our part and work towards making the world a better place.”

All entries – including stories, poems or personal accounts – were required to be no more than 500 words. There were two categories: adult and young persons aged 16 or under.

Colleen McCleery (14), from Northern Ireland, won the junior category for her story Where Have They Gone?

Across the country, the Red Cross is today holding events handing out ‘forget-me-not’ flower-shaped bookmarks in memory of those who are still missing.

Nev Jefferies, head of international tracing and message services (ITMS), said: “We traced 283 people last year, and we’re currently trying to trace the relatives of 1,319 families from countries all across the world, including: Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Iraq.”

He added: ”For the Red Cross, this is a day when we can show solidarity with families who are, for one more year, waiting for news of a loved one. Across every continent, and here in the UK too, people have to live with the pain of separation and uncertainty – this is our chance to reach out to those who may need our help.”