Sunday, October 30, 2011

Family History Month: The Family Reunion Institute

After a family has been reunited by genealogical research, many families decide to have a reunion. One of the best resources available for helping guide families through the reunion organizing process and focus on its social relevance is the Family Reunion Institute of Temple University.

From the Family Reunion Institute of Temple University's website:

The Family Reunion Institute of Temple University is the only organization of its kind in the United States. The mission of the Institute is to serve as a resource to families having reunions. In a program designed to strengthen and preserve the extended family, the Institute supports and enhances family reunions. We see the family reunion as a catalyst for carrying out critical extended family functions such as providing a sense of belonging and concern, transmitting a sense of identity and direction, and strengthening values.

The Family Reunion Institute emerged in 1990 because of the many requests for information after two previous African American Family Reunion Conferences. The conference planning committee recognized from the response and from requests for services and information, that it could begin to work with families outside of traditional family agency structures. However, it would need to have a more organized and permanent existence. Thus, the Institute was formally established.

The Family Reunion Institute Advisory Board are volunteers who help to guide the Institute in its vision of strengthening and preserving the extended Black family. The Board members are from the community and are knowledgeable about the many aspects of family reunions. Dr. Ione D. Vargus serves as the volunteer administrator.

The Institute facilitates the conference on family reunions, provides speakers to family reunions, churches, and other groups. As an example of the wide range of interest, Institute volunteers have given presentations about African American family reunions to the Black Family Summit in South Carolina, the Maternal and Child Care Conference in Philadelphia, the National Association of Social Worker's national conference, the Multicultural Tourism Summit and Trade Show in New Orleans and the Second and the Fourth National Black Philanthropy Conferences.

The Institute's major activity is to convene the African American Family Reunion Conference. This conference began in 1988. In addition, it has held conferences for children, entitled Family Reunions: The Next Generation for 350 public school children.
Using the research by Dr. Ione Vargus on the benefits and purposes of family reunions, the conference serves as a vehicle for empowering and strengthening families, using reunions as the conceptual framework. Workshops have gone beyond the focus of organizing a reunion to include such broad based subjects as tracing one's genealogy, family empowerment, family leadership, family secrets, family conflicts, healing family wounds, health and genetic counseling, family philanthropy, and reconnecting with "disenfranchised" family members. Keynote speakers have been well known and have contributed to the dialogue regarding responsibilities of families.
Phone calls and inquiries for information arrive nearly every day. The activities of the Institute have generated a great amount of media attention. Published articles also include the Family Reunion Institute as a resource for further information.