AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – An Augusta woman found out just how powerful a social media app can be when she called on neighbors to assist her in bringing a Ukrainian refugee to the Garden City. The local humanitarian is sharing what’s needed to ensure her guest stays here comfortably.
A call to action made on this Nextdoor post the other day and now, Sherra Bell is watching a bevy of international relations unfold.
“My whole business has been based on the power of a network, and it’s just fun to watch that just blossom into global citizenry,” Bell told NewsChannel 6.
While witnessing the Russia-Ukraine-U.S. conflict, this Augusta entrepreneur turned humanitarian couldn’t help but to think about a connection she made a decade ago.
“This all started because my brother’s neighbor hosted a 14-year-old girl who was an orphan from Ukraine,” Bell recalled. “They weren’t going to adopt her. My brother and his family had too many children to adopt her and I wasn’t allowed to adopt her because I was single. So, I went to Ukraine to find resources for her and while I was there I met Katya.”
Bell took in that 22 year old back then, helping her with medical assistance in the U.S. for her cerebral palsy. Five years after that, she brought her to Augusta. Now, she’s on her way back to Augusta after war broke out in her homeland.
“It was when the nuclear plant caught fire, about 7 hours away from Odesa, she sent me a 4 a.m. plea like can you get me out,” Bell said.
Katya Borodina, now 32, is coming because of a network of global friends all pitching in to help get her to the border, Bell said. From Moldova, she will fly into Atlanta Friday, quarantine and arrive in Augusta next week. Traveling with her will be an escort since she has trouble walking and her chihuahua dog, Jesse. In order to make her stay a pleasant one, Bell is calling on neighbors to help with goods.
“Tangibly, I need a bed. A full size bed for a very tiny bedroom. And she’s going to need clothes and regular life stuff,” explained Bell.
She could also use more translators who speak Ukrainian or Russian. And because Bell cares for her parents, she wants help keeping Katya engaged too with her interests such as seamstress work. In addition to helping one person from the Ukraine, Bell plans to send items back there through the escort to help others.
“It’s things like masks and gloves,” she said. “And she’s feeding, so things like paper plates, and those kinds of products. Probably over the counter medicines, Aspirins and those kinds of things.”
Bringing a refugee can be challenging. Bell said there were some struggles the first time she brought in Katya, which she hopes are over now that she is older and they have talked about expectations. She had a heart to do this work because Bell learned back then that 70 percent of girls in foster care in the Ukraine end up in the sex trafficking trade when they age out of the system. She said she learned that Odesa is a leading sex trafficking port too. Katya is an orphan.
Bell has this advice for anyone bitten with the humanitarian bug.
“Don’t be a do gooder without understanding the consequences of it and understanding how hard it is,” Bell shared.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps