I am long overdue in offering a heartfelt THANK YOU to those of you who so generously supported us in welcoming our Ukrainian refugee family.
It has been two and a half months since I shared that our family was “adopting” a Ukrainian family. We gave up renting out our Airbnb apartment so that they would have a place to live. For the next two years or so we are financially responsible for taking care of a family of 4 (single mom, 15-year-old boy, 10-year-old girl, and 1-year old girl) in addition to our own family of 8. Interested in the plan or the why? Here are our thoughts.
With your help, we were able to convert our apartment from a 2-guest vacation stay to a 4-person permanent residence, with everything from mattresses and bed sheets to diapers and towels. We also received gift cards for the family to shop for themselves for specific personal items they need, along with cash donations that will help with purchasing things like phones or signing up the kids for summer swim team.
I’m happy to announce that our new friends arrived safely four weeks ago!
By the time they arrived they had been awake for well over 24 hours. Then the final immigration process took 4 more hours (all while we were waiting at the airport wondering what in the world was taking so long). It was 1:30 am when they arrived at our house.
We have seen miracles along the way as we prepared for their arrival. I’ll share a couple of them with you.
To add a personal touch, I wanted to make each of the family members their own custom quilt for their bed. I asked about favorite colors and hobbies to get ideas on how to personalize them. Creating four quilts (a baby, two twins, and a queen) in six weeks was no small task! I recruited wonderful friends to help me in cutting the fabric (my least favorite part of quilting) and some of the piecing.
Two weeks before our refugees’ scheduled arrival I had finished piecing together all the quilt tops. I got them done just in time to bring them to “show and tell” at my monthly quilt guild meeting. I told my guild that I wasn’t sure how I was going to quilt them in time, but I was going to try, so if anyone wanted to come over and quilt with me, they were invited.
Well, the sweetest lady came up to me afterward and said she would love to pay to have the quilts professionally quilted on a longarm machine. Knowing that this is very costly (probably $200-300 per quilt), I hesitated at first. She was so generous and determined to help me. We met at the local quilt shop that Friday and explained the urgency of the project. They were quilted by Monday! My mom and I worked on binding them by hand so they could be finished and on their beds when they arrived.
We weren’t sure how transportation was going to work for 12 of us! We have two minivans: one that seats 8 and one that seats 7, so with two drivers we would be able to get all of us around. That would work fine for going to church on Sundays or family outings on Saturdays, but not when I have to pick up and drop off more than 7 people at a time or when we all want to go on a longer trip together.
Still, we were going to try to make it work. We had looked at the price of buying a used, large capacity van. And it was scary! Since covid, the prices for used vehicles have skyrocketed.
At just the right moment, we heard from a good friend who knew all about our situation (it was through their daughter that we first learned of the opportunity to sponsor a refugee family). They have a 15-passenger van for their big family. Recently their van was having engine trouble and the wait for a new engine was too long. They looked online and found a surprisingly great price for the same model of van. They scooped up the deal just minutes before another offer came from across the world (the deal was so good that someone in Japan was willing to pay to have it shipped there). Then a mechanic suggested a much cheaper alternative to a new engine for the old van and it worked like a charm. For several months they had two working 15-passenger vans. They thought about selling the old one, but they knew that at some point (maybe two months, maybe two years) it would need a new engine. It just didn’t feel very ethical to sell something so iffy, but they decided they could just give it to us and we could get as much good out of it as we could. We offered to buy it or trade them for one of our vans, but they insisted that they wanted it to be a gift.
We are so, so grateful for such a generous gift. We just took our first family trip with our “dozen” and it drove perfectly, even at 7,500 feet as we crossed the mountains to introduce our friends to Lake Tahoe.
It has been delightful to get to know our new next-door friends. We are settling into a summer routine and getting better at communicating both with English and signs and with Google Translate. We love sharing our activities and food and space, and love that they likewise share (if you ever have a chance to get good homemade borscht, varenyky, cabbage rolls, or other Ukrainian cuisine, don’t let it pass you by.) We look forward to the next few years, and we’re so thankful for all your help making this possible for them and for us.
Later this month I’ll be covering our financial experience thus far with our new Ukrainian friends, including our rule of thumb when it comes to paying for their wants and needs, as well as differences I’ve noticed in our respective money mindsets. If you have specific questions regarding this topic, ask in the comments or send me an email and I will address it in my next post.
I’m also thinking about going back to posting monthly budget updates. Is that something you would be interested in seeing? Or maybe looking at a budget for 12 would be too weird and unrelatable. Let me know what you think!
Once again, THANK YOU so much for being part of our village to give this wonderful family a fresh start!