Orphan Grain Train helps welcome 22 Ukrainian refugees to new life


NORFOLK, Neb. (KTIV) – It has been six months since Russia first invaded Ukraine, and many Ukrainians are trying to flee the country every day, in search of new lives.

One local Siouxland nonprofit has jumped right in to help, since the war first started back in February.

A group of 22 refugees left their entire lives behind, as they traveled from Romania, to Amsterdam, to Detroit, and finally to Omaha. Wednesday morning, they arrived in Norfolk, Nebraska, thanks to one group who is helping them start their journey to new lives.

“It started with airlifting supplies into Romania, getting them across the border. At that point, we looked at well, can we do even more with getting refugees transferred into the United States,” said Grant Schmidt, Vice President of Orphan Grain Train.

Orphan Grain Train is a 501c3 Nonprofit volunteer network that provides personal and material resources to people in need, all around the world. After months of coordination, the group was able to welcome 22 refugees, who range in age from 2-years-old to 19-years-old.

“They’ve left their home town, they left their country, and may never go back. And their possessions were suitcases, you know, not moving vans,” said Schmidt.

The entire town of Norfolk has jumped right in to help make the relocation possible, with churches lending a helping hand, host families volunteering, and many others helping the refugees become established to succeed in life.

“We’ve got to get them in schools. We’ve got to get them paperwork done so that eventually they can get legal jobs and get established here and eventually start developing their own income so they can become independent,” said Schmidt.

The refugees arrived in Norfolk early Wednesday morning and were taken with host families to help them learn more about life in America, and in two weeks they will reconvene in a communal home as their journey continues together.

The refugees may have arrived with just a suitcase, but they came knowing this is the start of new life.

“Those faces of the children always touch your heart. But then to see the adults with tears in their eyes, mixed emotion of leaving their home, but also so grateful to have some people welcome them to a new home. It was just very satisfying,” said Schmidt.

Orphan Grain Train has also refurbished a community home with 14 bedrooms and a kitchen where the refugees will live in the next two weeks. They also plan to welcome an additional 40 refugees in the future.

More information about Orphan Grain Train can be found here.

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