Wyoming’s Worthy: Family Creating Families Through ‘Host Ukraine’
Sarah Larsen was adopted herself, so for some, it may not seem surprising that out of her six children, three are adopted.
Each of her children has their own unique story, but Vitaliy’s adoption eventually led to more than 500 other Ukrainian children finding forever homes.
Sarah was born in Wyoming and met her husband in Laramie where they both attended the University of Wyoming. They lived briefly in Oregon but couldn’t wait to get back to Wyoming. They love everything that Wyoming offers to them and their family. The sense of community, the beauty of the mountains, and fun outdoor activities all year long.
In 2014 the Larsen family hosted Vitaliy through the organization Project 143. They hosted Vitaliy at their home for eight weeks that Summer. They knew he was available for adoption but didn’t have any firm plans. By the end of their eight weeks together there was no doubt in their mind that he belonged with them permanently.
Adopting overseas is a lengthy process and the Larsens had to take three trips to Ukraine before Vitaliy was finally theirs.
“When we traveled to Ukraine to adopt Vitaliy we saw first hand what the Orphanages look like. The images we saw were burned into my soul, and it lit a fire in me. I saw first hand how desperate those children are to be a part of a family, and I wanted to make that happen for them.”
The recent political turmoil and economic stress in Russia and Ukraine has led to over 100,000 new orphans. Larsen reached out to two other women that had already been helping host orphans for Project 143 and knew the process. “We created Host Ukraine over the phone, and didn’t actually meet in person for almost two years, it was very grassroots. Normally the paperwork to legally become a nonprofit takes years. And we were prepared for this. When it took us only five weeks to get approved, I knew that we were doing the right thing.” Larsen paused for a moment and smiled. “Four years later we are now the largest hosting organization in Ukraine and more than 500 children from Host Ukraine have been adopted.”
Host Ukraine offers approved families the opportunity to host children from Ukraine for four weeks in the Winter or 12 weeks in the Summer. All of the children are available for adoption but it’s not an expected result. That first Winter, Host Ukraine found spots for 20 children. This year 150 children will be hosted. Gillette has seven families that will be bringing 18 children to host. In Casper, eight families have hosted and six families have adopted.
Because of Sarah Larsens’ commitment to these orphans, families are being created. Host Ukraine is showing the world that being a family is not about blood, it’s about making the choice to be open to love. Sarah has seen first hand how siblings and other family members (grandparents aunts and uncles) can grow and change through this hosting experience.
“I often have Ukraine children text me and say “please my family.” I’ve had friends ask me if this is heartbreaking. To me, it’s not. It means we are spreading and reaching more children that know the importance of a family, that are dreaming about it. Love is worth fighting for. It’s worth reaching for. I have a chance to connect these kids with their dream and that’s a joy.”
Sarah’s hope for Host Ukraine is to keep connecting children and their families. To inspire others, to let them know they DO have the power to make a difference.
“There are vulnerable people everywhere, in our own communities, not just overseas. We need to let these people know that we see them and care about them, and that doesn’t take money.”
If you’d like to learn more about Host Ukraine you can follow this link. Please follow them on Facebook to learn how you can help support them and their mission to bring Ukrainian kids to the United States to enjoy the comfort and safety of a loving family.
You can contact Sarah Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org
'Wyoming's Worthy' are Wyomingites that make us proud to call this wild and wonderful state our home.