Born and raised in Ukraine, Natalie Moores still can’t believe the place that she loves the most is now an active war zone.
As a business lawyer, Moores had little knowledge about immigration law prior to the conflict, but she was quick to learn what she needed to do in order to help thousands of Ukrainian refugees who began arriving in the US in the early months of the war. That’s where her journey to help Ukrainian refugee families began.
“I can confidently say that I was one of the first volunteers bringing Ukrainian refugees into the US through Mexico, bringing in friends to help me manage when the trickle of people became a river, and then reaching out for major reinforcements from the local community and organizations when the river became a flood. We had thousands of Ukrainian refugees at the border, desperate, mainly mothers and children, traumatized by the war and uncertain for their safety, and hundreds of volunteers showed up to help.
Working side by side to help the victims of the war in Ukraine, many lasting friendships were formed during those difficult times, everybody was pitching in and helping. When your heart is raw from the pain of watching the peaceful civilian neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, and museums indiscriminately bombed and destroyed, the healing power of community support is incredible.”
What We’re Doing
We dream to create a bright future for Ukrainian refugee families
Images of Ukrainian mothers huddling with their children in moldy basements, tearful good-byes with the fathers leaving to defend their families in the sudden attack on their country, senseless brutality of Russians bombing residential neighborhoods and small bodies of Ukrainian children who perished as a result – we’ve all seen the daily footage from what has quickly become one of Europe’s largest refugee crises since World War II. For us at Project Welcome Ukraine, these stories are heard in person, first-hand, told by the brave mothers who took a desperate chance to seek protection from the war in the US.
San Diego County is now home to hundreds of Ukrainian refugee families that have found safety in our border region in the months since the beginning of the war. Unlike most refugee movements before, most of them are mothers and children and the elderly because in Ukraine, men aren’t allowed to leave the country if they are under 60 years old, with very few exceptions. This has created one of the most vulnerable groups in need of assistance, and unfortunately severely underserved in terms of available public benefits.
Currently, most of these families are temporarily housed by San Diegans who have opened their hearts and their homes to desperate people who have no other options. These host families are running out of resources and ability to continue to support these Ukrainian refugees. Many are finding themselves unable to secure an alternative host family or to qualify for housing due to the delays with work permits, lack of credit history and money for rent. This situation is desperate and urgent.