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Host Families Feedback

 

"Eastern European orphans are institutionalized and are therefore raised to adulthood without the nurturing experience that most children find in a family. There are many ways to bring a sense of belonging to the life of an orphan and hosting is an easy one. Hosting can additionally plant seeds of trust and build self-confidence.

My wife and I met a young girl on a work trip to an orphanage in Ukraine. She appeared to be eleven. We were invited to host her for Christmas, and our lives have never been the same. Over the last five years, my wife and I have engaged in nine different hosting experiences with two different children. We have also engaged orphans on their soil (in Ukraine), and have come to an understanding engaging poorly is damaging to the children. We go to the movies, museums, boating, swimming, Walmart, bake in the kitchen, wrestle with the dogs, play card games, make dinner, go to dinner, and basically everything that a family does together.

We have had a great experience working with US-Russia Global Exchange. Ninel is professional and attentive. We found out through a negative experience with our initial hosting team that having a trustworthy Ukrainian partnership is vitally important. Ninel has successfully gathered a professional team that includes several government officials who are leading orphan advocates. They obey the laws that protect the children. They educate and require their American host families to behave in ways that will build up the children and protect them from harm. They conduct criminal background checks on host applicants. US-Russia Global Exchange's network of families has opportunities to connect and therefore the hosting experience can be enhanced. If you can imagine a scenario where your biological child was subject to harm, exploitation, trafficking, then you will appreciate working with folks of integrity.

Imagine a different kind of summer vacation, or a different kind of Christmas. Imagine no trip to the beach or diamond earrings. Imagine going to the airport and picking up a child. Imagine sharing your life at the community pool. Imagine learning a little Russian. Save the $2500 that you spend on yourselves and give a child a vacation of a lifetime. This season will be like none other. You will find out that orphans are just like us. They are big and small, smelly and sweet, laugh and cry, fight and laugh, and they want to belong."

Tom and Kathy Rudelich (Acworth, Georgia)
Recurrent host family since 2008

 

"In May 2011, our family was approached to host two girls from Ukraine as a part of the program through US-Russia Global Exchange. Being the parents of 7 and 8 year olds adopted from Russia, we were very receptive to the idea. Learning that the girls we would be hosting were teenagers gave us pause for thought. How would they interact with our young children? How would they react to our house rules? How would their lifestyle fit in with ours? We prayed and talked with our girls and made the decision that hosting these two girls was an experience we were happy to have. The day our girls were to arrive could not get here quickly enough for us. Finally, the moment arrived! Karina and Alina made it through customs and up the escalator to where we were waiting! With hugs, kisses and smiles for everyone, we left the airport to begin on of the greatest experiences of our lives. It was an amazing feeling to see our world through the eyes of two teenagers who had not had the opportunities of our own. We set out to allow them as many experiences as we could. We shopped at the mall, stayed overnight in a five star hotel, and toured the Aquarium in Chattanooga. The adventures didn't stop there. During their stay, we traveled to Virginia to meet extended family and to Ohio for an ice skating competition for our daughter, Sasha. Karina and Alina ice skated, roller bladed, bungee jumped, grocery shopped, mall shopped, cooked, swam, went to a U2 concert, had English classes and experienced a daily routine that often began at 6 am and ended after midnight for them (for they could not easily adjust to the time change). They experienced full time use of iPads and computers. We all became very adept at communicating through Google translate! Karina and Alina met each and every new experience with a glow to their face and a shine in their eyes. Their appreciation was constant and their willingness to help always evident. The sweetness, care and attentiveness they showed to our daughters will always be a cherished memory. They did their own laundry, cleaned their own room and cleaned the kitchen after dinner. Throughout their visit, they were always an active part of our family. Karina turned 16 years old during their stay with us. Alina, we found out, would be turning 16 in September. We had the pleasure of giving them a Sweet 16 American birthday. With new friends all around them, the happiness shining on their faces told the story. With the help of Google translate, the words told us - "It was the happiest day of our lives!" All too soon, this fabulous experience was about to end. For three weeks, we shared experiences that will last us a lifetime. From learning Russian and Ukrainian to teaching English to how to use the washing machine - each experience was a wonderful memory for us all. When departure day arrived, we said goodbye amongst a shower of tears and sweet smiles and a promise to carry this wonderfully amazing experience with us forever.

All in all our experience was a fabulous one. From the beginning of our experience right through to the time Karina and Alina arrived home, we were apprised of what was going on. US-Russia Global Exchange was there for us whenever we needed them. We would recommend anyone interested in hosting a child, use them. Ninel and her co-workers were a pleasure to work with."

Michael and Kathy Smardak (Brentwood, Tennessee)
Host family for Summer 2011

 

"I first hosted with US-Russia Global Exchange almost five years ago and continue to host the same child twice a year. Ninel is the Director of US-Russia Global Exchange. She is very forthcoming and diligent in updating host families on any unexpected developments. She is committed to doing whatever is in her power to bring these kids over without jeopardizing the integrity of the program. US-Russia Global Exchange has assembled an amazing network of people working on the Ukraine side. I'm sure it doesn't hurt matters that Ninel is from Ukraine and returns regularly.

I chose to work with US-Russia Global Exchange because they're flexible. First, they permitted single adults to host. I'm not married, which is how I came to host, instead of adopt, from Ukraine. Second, they were willing to work with host families regardless of where they lived. It was difficult to find hosting programs offering hosting opportunities in Minnesota. Third, the program didn't direct what activities families participated in. I had the freedom to choose and plan what activities we participated in. Fourth, a formal home study was not required in order to host. For me, this would have been cost prohibitive considering the number of times I've hosted. Fifth, no adoption fees were rolled into the cost of hosting. Being single, adoption wasn't an option.

What I have come to learn through my years of hosting is that US-Russia Global Exchange is truly unique. In reviewing other programs' recruiting efforts, they seem to charge a flat, up-front fee. It's worth noting that there is no pre-set fee for hosting with US-Russia Global Exchange - there is an approximate cost. The final cost is based on the actual costs involved with bringing a group over, which fluctuates based on the number of kids and chaperones, the cost of travel/airfare, the cost of the insurance premiums, the cost of visas/passports, etc. Thus, I've never paid the same fee twice.

Finally, US-Russia Global Exchange is unique because they are upfront concerning the objective of this program. The hosting experience is intended to be for recreational purposes, in compliance with the Ukrainian government, rather than a pure host-to-adopt program."

Heather Boldon (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Recurrent host parent since 2006

 

"Thank you so much for introducing me to your wonderful program. Jimmy, Rory and I enjoyed having Valeri stay with us over the Christmas and we will never forget him, it opened up a whole new world to us and we learned a lot from him. This was our first hosting experience and I hope it won't be our last. I cannot imagine the work that goes into putting a program like this together and I just want to say how much I appreciate all the work that you did to bring the children to all of us, how quickly you responded to all my questions and just how easy you made it for my family. You have a wonderful way with people and you do such a GREAT JOB."
Bernadette and James Naughton (New York, New York)
Host family for Winter 2005, 2006 and 2010.

 

"After I had coordinated a similar hosting program for two years, we decided that our family was ready to invite a young man, Dima, into our home for Christmas 2008. I was not quite sure how my children who were older than him would react and how we would communicate with Dima but all concerns were gone when we met him and witnessed how easily he adapted to our family. We took him to my son's basketball games, family holiday get-togethers, the St. Louis arch and Science Center, and the Magic House where he interacted with other Ukrainian children who had previously been adopted. He was able to participate in the things he loved to do like indoor swimming and basketball and he enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights and visiting our church. We took many pictures of our times together and made a photo album so Dima could remember all of the things he did and people who he met while in the United States. He even learned some English phrases and we tried to communicate in his language also. The time went quicker than we imagined and it was hard to say goodbye but we felt as though we had positively impacted one young life and he had in turn forever changed ours. My children still talk fondly of our times together.

I would highly recommend the US-Russia Global Exchange's hosting program and the director, Ninel, who strives to keep all families informed and ahead of potential issues while keeping costs low compared to other hosting programs. The entire team put the safety and needs of the children and host families first and foremost."
Mary Taylor (Labadie, Missouri)
Host parent for Winter 2008 and Summer 2009

 

"We adopted our daughter who was then six years old from Ukraine in 2001. Our experience in Ukraine with the children we left behind sparked our interest in hosting older children living in orphanages. We found US-Russia Global Exchange's program through recommendations from a friend and quickly were impressed with the openness and clarity of information provided by its director Ninel Kushchenko. Our hosting experiences - five altogether between 2006 and 2009 - for both summer and winter programs provided at least as much enrichment for us as for the children we hosted. An extra bonus we hadn't originally contemplated was hosting chaperones for part of each hosting span; each and every time we found the chaperone engaging and interesting. We learned so much through the common language of cooking and laughter. We can't speak highly enough about both the experience of hosting and specifically hosting through US-Russia Global Exchange."
The Stevens Family (Montgomery, Alabama)
Five-time host family, 2006-2009

 

"We participated in the URGEX Ukrainian Orphan Project hosting program in December 2005. My wife and I hosted an amazing nine-year-old girl. She was truly a beautiful child. We all had an outstanding experience and helped provide the adventure of a lifetime for this young girl. What we did not expect was that we would receive just as much as she did. This program not only allowed us to brighten the life of a child but also really touched our hearts and allowed us to experience love in a way we had never expected.

As for the URGEX program itself, we whole heartedly recommend it to anyone considering hosting a child. The director, Ninel, and her team covered all the bases. There was never a time when we felt an issue had not been addressed prior to it arising. The entire team is highly professional and put the safety, feelings, and needs of the children and families above all else.

Thank you Ninel and all the people connected with URGEX. We look forward to a continuing relationship with your programs in the future."

Michelle and Dan Hills (Charlotte, North Carolina)
Host family for Winter 2005, 2006 and 2007 Program.

 

"Thank you so very much for allowing us to participate in your wonderful hosting program. It was such an awesome experience. We were very impressed with how smoothly everything went, start to finish and with the how delightful all of the participants were; the Program leadership, the children, the chaperons, the interpreters, and the other families that hosted.

We look forward to having the opportunity to host again and would gladly recommend you and your program to anyone and everyone.

You and your volunteers have very large hearts filled with much kindness and love. Please know how much you and the services that you provide to orphaned children are appreciated."

Cary and Linda Prather (Long Beach, California)
Host family for Summer 2006 Program

 

"I went into this hosting program with the goal in mind of hoping to make a positive impact on someone else's life other than my own. Along the way, I believe I achieved this goal in addition to broadening my own perspective on life as I know it!

One of the unique aspects of this program is the continued contact with the child I hosted. Contact has come in many forms such as letters and care packages and always an open door for Vlad (the boy I hosted) to come visit America."

Mike Slyter (San Carlos, California)
Host for Summer & Winter 2004, Winter 2005 Program.

 

"My husband and I joined FRUA of Northern California and found that they had information on a Cultural Exchange for children from Ukraine during the summer of 2005. This program gave us time with children from orphanages that we never would have otherwise met. My parents had done cultural and student exchanges when I was younger so I was familiar with the idea. The children were wonderful and had so much energy that we had a great time with them. We met others from the program that we were able to arrange activities with. We took them to the zoo in Folsom and then took them camping from our church group where they had a fun time with the other children. They seemed to mix very easily with other children from here and we were able to have dinner with another family who had children that our kids knew.

As for resources, there were translators that were readily available when we needed them. We were in constant contact with Ninel and the people who brought them over from Ukraine. When we met the children at the airport, they were holding our pictures that we had sent them and were eager to meet with us. After the 3 weeks was over, it was very difficult to see them go back but our experience was a wonderful time and we highly recommend it."

Jennifer Putnam and Chris Mathany (Jackson, California)
Host family for Summer 2005 Program.

 

"We were all very impressed with how polite and well-behaved the children from Kharkiv are. As families, we have learned so much from these children. We have come to appreciate all of the things we take for granted as we've watched the children take pleasure in simple aspects of our daily lives such as talking on the telephone and going to the grocery store. The children have been quick to learn some English and have taught us some Russian too.

A surprising outcome of this program was the tremendous impact that the children have had on our local communities as our friends, neighbors and others in the community have come in contact with our host children. Several people who have learned about this program have expressed an interest in participating in hosting a child in the future as a cultural exchange. We hope that the success of this pilot program will lead to a long-term relationship between our communities in Kharkiv County and California."

Quotes from a Letter of Thanks
to a Governor of Kharkiv County,Ukraine
Signed by 20 host families for Summer 2004 program.


 

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