INDIANAPOLIS — No place to call home and no school to go back to — that’s the reality for many living in war-torn Ukraine right now.
“They’re determined. They’re devoted. They’re resilient," Michelle Pratt said as she described the people of Ukraine.
She and her husband, Michael, are Hoosiers at heart, but have been living in Ukraine since 1995.
They can recall the horror of February 24, 2022.
“Michelle came upstairs and said the invasion has started. Then for me, the rest of the morning is just a blur," Michael said.
In the proceeding months, Michael turned his 3,000 square foot basement into a refugee shelter with space for 24 to 30 people.
Pratt estimates they’ve helped over 600 people and served 5,000 meals.
“Giving them hope. That’s the biggest thing. Hope and safety," he said.
Then in March, two 7-year-old sisters, Daria and Lisa, arrived at the shelter. They were offered teddy bears as a welcome gift.
“Our volunteer said to Daria you can take these teddy bears with you when you return home and Daria said I don’t have a home anymore because they bombed it," Pratt said.
When the volunteer suggested Daria could bring the teddy bear to her new home, she responded with confidence: ‘No, when it is safe to go back home, we will rebuild our house.’
“That was the inspiration for me to say ‘okay after the shelter, after the refugee crisis is over, we’re gonna make plans, we’re gonna start preparing to rebuild homes that have been damaged by the war," he said.
Pratt founded the non-profit New Horizons Ukraine.
His mission is to rebuild, renew and restore war-damaged homes at no cost to the affected families and to provide trauma care to those in need.
Pratt estimates it costs $15,000 to work on each home, which includes window repair, roofing and labor.
Last year, they completed 10 homes. Their goal for this year is to complete 35.
If you'd like to help their cause, here is a link to their website.