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Ukrainian family finds new home in Cleveland with help of a West Chester man

Omar Khurshid's family poses with the Ukrainian family he sponsored. The faces of the children are covered by smile emojis to protect their privacy. A pug stands before everyone, straining to look up.
Omar Khurshid
Omar Khurshid's family poses with the Ukrainian family he sponsored.

An organization founded to help Afghan refugees find homes in the United States has expanded its mission. Welcome US is now working on relocating Ukrainians.

Kit Taintor is the vice president of policy and practice, and says they believe Americans see what's happening around the world and want to help.

"Our government system here in the United States allows refugees to come in from all over the world. But the system is somewhat constrained by government pipelines," she says. "But we knew from deep work in communities over time, that if you gave opportunities to everyday Americans in Cincinnati and beyond, people would stand up, people would want to welcome and that hypothesis has proven out."

More than 200,000 Afghan and Ukrainian citizens are now living in the United States thanks to Welcome US. The program started with the relocation of Afghan refugees after the fall of Kabul. Taintor says government policy allows Americans to volunteer as a refugee sponsor, and that's where the organization comes in.

"It is difficult to start a new life. But a lot of the ingredients you need to start a new life are the same, whether you're from Ukraine, or whether you're from Afghanistan, or whether you're from Florida, moving to Cleveland," Taintor says.

A West Chester man decided he needed to help. Omar Khurshid says he sponsored a family who relocated to Cleveland.

"I saw a photo of a father, probably no older than myself… and holding the dead body of his son, probably no older than my son," Khurshid says. "And that image just etched on my mind. I still think about it most days."

Khurshid says through Welcome US's website, he was able to look through families seeking asylum, and pick one he connected with. "I heard their story. They had written me a paragraph or two," he says. "And then I saw their actual children also, and I think that was part of the reason, was because they had kids who were around my son's age group."

Kit Taintor says they're looking for more people to act as sponsors. "On our website we’ve got a good amount of training to help people understand what they're signing up for if they sponsor. We'll help folks understand what they need to be prepared for, how they sponsor, what sorts of materials or paperwork they need to get together."

Khurshid says the family he sponsored had relatives in Cleveland so that's why they chose to move there. He says his part in the whole process was easy. "You're not going to be paying anything. You're not going to be financially involved in their support whatsoever," he says. "This is merely paperwork. You have to become their sponsor in the sense that you are responsible for bringing them over. But there's no application fee."

Taintor admits there is opposition to immigration, but they try to strip the politics away from the issue. "At the end of the day, most people want a safe place to lay their head and a safe place to raise their kids just like we do, and if we can offer that to somebody, isn't that an amazing thing to do?"

Khurshid is looking at sponsoring someone else soon, and plans to have a party where he can introduce the idea to his friends.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.