Native Ukrainian mother and son create fundraiser in Houston for those in need in Ukraine

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- ABC13 viewers are donating their time and money helping the more than two million refugees who have fled Ukraine.

With uncertainty surrounding the Russian invasion not ending soon, many people have started to lend a helping hand to those in need.

Anna McCollum is from Kyiv in Ukraine. She says that while watching her native country in ruins, she wanted to provide help to those and rebuild.

"I was crying and crying," said McCollum. "It is a big pain for us in our heart."

"She wanted to fly back over there and help, "says McCollum's son Ivan Tarasenko. "I told her we have means over here. Let's do what we can do."

The mother and son have created a fundrasier called "Peace for Ukraine" and it has already raised $5,300. The money that is raised will be used to help women like Anna, who has recently arrived in Houston.

Anna is a single mother who had to leave Kyiv two days before the Russian invasion. She had to leave everything behind and arrived in Houston with no clothing or toys for her little boy.

She applied for a K-1 or fiancée visa a year before the war broke out, and had to leave her homeland sooner than expected.

"It was a long process to do," says Anna. "We were waiting for 12 months for this visa."

She says she is grateful for the donated clothes and toys she received from McCollum's fundraiser.

In addition to helping mothers like Anna, Tarasenko says that they were also able to ship a medical breathing device to help another Ukrainian mother who fled to Poland.

" We got an idea to help moms with kids, sick kids, and elderly people ,"says Tarasenko. " We want to try to bring them here and help them settle. We're reaching out to companies to sponsor this program.

With more than 2.5 million refugees who have fled to neighboring host countries, Daniel Stoecker said the visa process can be complicated depending on your status.

"One is the formal refugee program. That has not been established yet for the Ukraine, but the government has created a temporary protective status for individuals. If people come here on their own, or they're here already, that might be students or workers or people who are on tourist visas, whatever that might be. They're allowed to be protected for up to 18 months," said Stoecker.

"The Alliance is ready to receive anybody that might be here under those circumstances for help."

Stoecker said for refugee status, that's a different process. "That's a process that the government sets up through the UN system and with its partner countries, to designate people for resettlement that's like they already left to a host. The would be going for resettlement, and so that has not been established yet in the in the world." Stoecker also believes while Ukrainians are fleeing to host countries, he is hopeful they're going to be able to go back at some point. " We are working with federal partners and others who anticipate the implementation of a refugee program, so that we can receive people that may be wanting to come and eligible."
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