Monday, April 27, 2015

Why Bother? Because This Will Make a Difference

     My husband and I had an incredible opportunity this past January. We were able to host a student from Ukraine in our home during his winter break from school. He attends a small boarding school for orphans near Poltava Region, Kobelyaky 39200, Ukraine.      We discussed foster parenting in the past. We could never agree if the timing was right. It seemed to me that we were waiting for the perfect time, to have what would seem to be enough money, or a secure enough job, or enough time. It felt like we would need to be perfect in order to even attempt to care for a child that may have experienced extreme amounts of brokenness in their lives. It appeared we would never be enough so the discussion got shelved.
     Then I saw a story about a little boy, well, he was thirteen, and still hoping for a forever family. So I brought up the subject again. This could work, this might be ideal, as my husband really wasn't keen on the idea of caring for little children. But the timing seemed off again, as my husband was scheduled for surgery toward the end of the year. Again, the end of the conversation.
     It was toward the end of December when I was scrolling through Facebook when I saw a brief notice posted by a friend of mine. She was looking for host families for some students that would be coming over from Ukraine for two weeks. Now, here was a possibility. This was as short term commitment. Two weeks wasn't too long. It would be a way to test ourselves, to see if we really have what it takes to "parent" or care for a child. They were the perfect age, 14-16. If it goes well, we will be encourages to try to do more, if not, well,, it is only two weeks, surely we all would survive the two weeks.
     We went through the interview, we made our commitment, and then the nesting began in earnest. We have had an extra room for years, just never outfitted it in any way. I rushed about, buying a bed, sheets, towels, anything else we might need. We were pretty sure a young man would be staying with us, but it still was such a guess as to what sheets to get, what patterns, what colors, what fabric. We wanted him to feel welcome at every moment. We researched foods, what to get to make him feel at home. The Nutella was by far the best choice!
     And then the weather. It had to be one of the worst storms of the winter when the children and their chaperons were trying to get here. There were delays and plenty of worry. And then suddenly he was here. I could only imagine how he must feel. I was so nervous, but he had traveled thousands of miles with the trust that someone would be here to happily greet him and safely welcome him in to their home. I had made a large poster with a greeting in Ukraine, for when we thought we would meet at the airport. Turns out our meeting place was a local McDonald's as the last part of the trip was by car instead of plane. I brought the sign anyway, to welcome him to town. And then we were on our own, in the car, heading home, me and this magnificent boy, neither of us able to speak the others language.
     All I can say is, I am glad to live right now. We had borrowed a phone from my husband's parents and it had a translate app on it that was incredible. You could speak your own language into it-and then pick the language to translate to and it would print and verbalize the translation. I would say with 85% accuracy and this allowed us to begin to connect.
     My husband was still working, so I showed our young man to his room, where the bathroom was, how to work the shower and faucets, where he could find his supply of snacks and water. I gave him the gifts we had bought and wrapped, our fake tree still being up as we thought its lights made the house more festive and inviting, and the huge stocking of candy and treats we had for him. 
     And then, what to do. We sat and smiles at each other. And then it occurred to me, one of my dreams had always been to have a child to read to, especially now that I am published, to read one of my own stories to. So I explained that I had written some books for younger children, bit would he like to hear one anyway? He was enthused. So we read through "Green Goo." And the humor did translate fairly well, in part due to Trey Chavez' fabulous pictures. 
     The two weeks went way too fast. It seemed like he had just arrived and it was already time to think about sending him home. We were able to do many fun things, go to museums, go to stores, and my husband took him to several local college basketball games. We had meet our families, go to family dinners and outings, and just spend time hanging out. That was one of the main objectives to provide the opportunity to interact with family and friends and give the child the feeling of what loving, healthy relationships look like.
     From him we learned about trust and courage, about following a dream. He shared with us that it had always been his dream to come visit America and he never imagined it would be possible or that strangers would treat him and the others so kindly. We were shown that we all have so much love we can share and that sharing will make a difference.
     We hope to be able to share that love with our student one last time, our Ukrainian child. He graduates from his school at the end of May. Technically, he is now considered an adult. Since he has aged out of their care system, being as he will be 17 in October, he is not eligible for adoption. He will be given a grant to attend trade school in the fall. He is eligible for one more trip to America, and that is what we are hoping to be able to do for him. We hope he is able to come stay with us for five weeks this summer. Five weeks to encourage him on his life journey, to show him that he is able to make choices to have the good life he wants to have, that it is within his abilities to some day own his own business if he wants to, to have his own family if he wants to, or to travel the world when he finishes trade school, that he does not have to live under a label chosen by others, and that he can create his own strong adult identity.
     Yes, we will want to take him to the beach, to cook-outs, to travel our beautiful state some more, but we also want him to experience more of every day home life within a large extended group of family and friends. Part of our dream is now to be able to do simple things like go to a picnic and fireworks with him on the 4th of July.
     Yes, there will be expenses involved. Yes, my husband and I are working extra hours and saving toward this. There will be fundraisers and there are fundraising pages for the group that we are involved with as a host family. Please consider following the link and the possibility in sharing this journey with us. It is because we have been so loved by family and friends that we are able to take that love and share it with others. I am so very grateful for that!
    The link will lead you to a funding page. It has been set up to help ALL the host families with the travel expense for the children. Please consider if you might be able to contribute. Every dollar is a huge help.
Summer Hosting Program

     Here are some pictures of the families and students so you can better see who all you will be assisting.