A deep carpet of mud unrolled, forcing its way through streets, houses and walls. It was violent and unrelenting. Braulio Villegas was at home with his wife, his two children, a brother, and other family members that night. They, like many others in the town, had to run from the flood. But Braulio decided to stay and watch over their house and belongings while the rest of the family fled to find a safe shelter.

They lost contact from that moment.

Braulio, his wife and their two children later found space in the Pedregal shelter. With no mobile phone or other means of communication, Braulio could only hope that the rest of the family was still alive. However, he could not sleep for several days. Eventually, he discovered that his relatives might be at the San Pablo shelter, 15km from Pedregal.

After eight days, Peruvian Red Cross staff visited the shelter offering support through the Restoring Family Links (RFL) programme for those searching for loved ones.

Braulio spoke to one of the volunteers and told him about the situation. The only information Braulio had about the whereabouts of his relatives came from some comments heard here and there. The Red Cross started the search, and Franco, a young and enthusiastic volunteer, took charge of the case. Every time Franco visited a shelter, he sought Braulio’s relatives among hundreds of families.

It is estimated that 6,800 homes were destroyed in this area, and thousands of people had to be housed in emergency shelters.

It was by word of mouth that Franco finally found one of Braulio’s relatives. When he arrived at the San Pablo shelter, Braulio’s brother, Carlos Villegas was there, sitting outside one of the tents provided by the government.

After confirming the relationships, Braulio’s sister-in-law says to Franco: “Please tell them we are fine and that we miss them.” Franco promises to deliver the message. It seems as a very simple thing to do, but given everything this family has gone through, Franco’s support means a lot.

Franco leaves the next day to Pedregal with good news, but when he arrives, he is informed that Braulio and his family left. Nobody knows where they have gone, so now he has another search to do.

With no transport, roads destroyed and a total lack of information on the whereabouts of people moving from one place to another, it is a true challenge to find Braulio again. He asks questions, follows suggestions and finally, he hears that the family is behind the Cura More Church. After an epic journey, Franco finds the family and is able to deliver his message of hope. Braulio, however, has returned to check on his home. Now, though, he has a cell phone, and the volunteer is able to give him the news.

Read more on the Red Cross response to the floods in Peru.