Limbs for Liberty launches new ‘Adopt a Family’ program to support internally displaced Ukrainians
Families have given up their homes, income, and community support
Limbs for Liberty, a local charity organization dedicated to crisis relief in Ukraine, is offering a new opportunity for residents and businesses in Eagle County to support those affected by the conflict with Russia. The “Adopt a Family” program, which launched Monday, allows private sponsors to financially back an internally displaced family, funding their housing, food, and other costs of living.
Since its founding in May, Limbs for Liberty has worked to aid Ukrainian amputees in acquiring and adjusting to medical prosthetics — the organization’s first five recipients arrived in the U.S. last weekend to be fitted with assistive artificial limbs.
Now, with the amputee program officially in operation, the young organization is taking on a broader definition of what it means to be harmed by war: Limbs for Liberty is now developing a new “Adopt a Family” effort to support families living in Ukraine amid ongoing conflict.
“I think it’s easy for Americans to wonder ‘Why don’t the people in the East just leave?’” said Kelli Rohrig, an Eagle County resident and co-owner of Mountain Organic Landscaping and Irrigation. Rohrig helped to found Limbs for Liberty after returning from Poland, where she traveled earlier this year to aid in the relief effort.
“For some people, they don’t have the financial resources to get out,” she said.
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Yet, according to Rohrig, proper support for those who remain in Ukraine is not as simple as a fundraiser for flight tickets. What, on its face, appears to be a monetary issue is complicated by national pride and an unwillingness to abandon a country long called home.
“They don’t want handouts. They want their country back. A lot of these people, they don’t want to come to the United States,” Rohrig continued.
Rohrig brought up a recent Zoom forum, which connected activists in the U.S. (including organizers affiliated with Limbs for Liberty) with individuals currently living in Ukraine. Speaking on the topic of fleeing, those present on the call expressed sentiments of reluctance, even refusal.
“We made the decision not to leave the country. My daughters absolutely refused to leave,” said Iryna Prudkova, one of the speakers from Ukraine, in a statement translated by activist Ellen Bedenko. “They said, ‘If we are leaving then who is going to support Donbas?’ So we are here to support Donbas.”
Prudkova’s family, including her husband and two daughters, will be one of the first families supported through the “Adopt a Family” program.
According to Sviatlana Masenzhuk, an employee of the Vail Health Foundation and co-founder of Limbs for Liberty, situations like Prudkova’s — in which certain family members’ inability or unwillingness to leave prevents the entire unit from travel — are common. Differences in family structure and dynamics are often insurmountable barriers to seeking refuge across borders.
“From very little ones to the elderly, everyone lives together. Two people can’t just flee the country and leave everyone else behind,” she explained. “You have multiple generations in one household and not everyone is equally able to travel.”
Masenzhuk spoke from a personal perspective: While she first moved to Eagle County in 2003, she is ethnically Ukrainian and spent some time living in the country.
While many families have decided not to seek refuge across borders, for many, travel within the country has been unavoidable. Many living in “hot zones” in eastern Ukraine, where conflict and bombings are most concentrated, have been forced to migrate westward, abandoning their homes in favor of makeshift shelters in schools and theaters. Additionally, in moving away from home and employment, these families are often foregoing their source of income.
Limbs for Liberty’s new “Adopt a Family” program aims to harness community support to help, matching Eagle County sponsors with a Ukrainian family in need.
“Our goal is to get 50 businesses to sponsor a family, be that a one-time or a monthly (donation). A hundred dollars or $400, it helps more than you might think because a small apartment in Lviv can be around $200 a month,” Rohrig said.
Limbs for Liberty has already identified several families in need of financial support, to be listed on the organization’s website once the program is officially launched. The organization will also assist families in the process of securing housing that is affordable, but comfortable enough to restore basic amenities such as a private bathroom and kitchen, which are not accessible in shelters.
“We really hope to provide families with households where they can live a decent life, be safe, and overcome this traumatizing situation,” Masenzhuk said, “I hope ‘Adopt a Family’ will bring awareness to people that we can’t get used to this conflict, our community really can help.”