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October 5, 2023 - LIMITLESS Magazine

A higher calling: One family’s mission to help Ukrainian refugees

Katie Stadler founds Be Human Kindness to help relocate refugees from a country in crisis. “Our hearts were called to Ukraine.”


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Katie Stadler has always had a charitable spirit. The Fort Worth mother of four and her husband, Matt, CEO of Marsh McLennan Agency’s Southwest region, began opening their hearts and their home to the people of Ukraine in 2015, long before Russian soldiers invaded the country. The couple worked with an international program that helps place Ukrainian orphans with American families and had a Ukrainian boy temporarily in their care. They fell in love and began the international adoption process. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful.

“It tragically ended when he returned to Ukraine,” Katie says. “We remained the support system for him from afar and it’s during those years that we met church leaders and people involved in the community that he was living in.”

Though heartbreaking, the experience did not deter the Stadlers. The family hosted several more Ukrainian children over the years. Katie also visited Ukraine and grew to love the country and its culture.

“Our hearts were called to Ukraine,” she says. 

When the war broke out, the Stadlers were compelled to help. The charitable couple reached out to their contacts in Ukraine and sent money to a trusted church official to help people in occupied communities. They also bought two cars and paid for drivers to shuttle people to the border. However, with dwindling gas supplies, the situation became dire.

“The pastor messaged me and said, ‘Don't send any more money, there’s no gas. The men have been conscripted, so there are no drivers, and everyone just needs to leave,’” Katie recalls. “I looked over at Matt and said, ‘I think I’m going to go over there and see what’s happening,’ and he said, ‘I knew you were going to say that.’ I booked my travel a week later.”

Katie spent nearly two weeks in Warsaw, Poland, and at times actually crossed into Ukraine. The tenacious Texan camped out at the border, sleeping in a car, to be close at hand providing aid to fleeing families.

“I would just cross back and forth and help carry luggage, babies, anything—any way I could help right there on the border in Ukraine,” she says.

“I flew home and the entire plane ride, I just felt like we were still being called to do more. So, I came home and registered as a nonprofit.” 

Katie founded Be Human Kindness, which helps Ukrainian refugees find shelter and begin the complicated, emotional relocation process. She soon returned to Europe, hired four Ukrainian women, and rented a 170-bed private hostel. She later opened a longer-term housing facility, laying the groundwork for Be Human Kindness’ robust relocation program. The organization also partnered with train stations, UNICEF, the Ukrainian and American militaries, and large refugee centers. It became the go-to resource for the most vulnerable refugees. To date, Be Human Kindness has relocated roughly 20,000 Ukrainian families to 31 different countries. Staff also helps refugees navigate the immigration process and keeps a database of families the organization has helped to connect them to additional services.

“They’re all just incredibly hopeful,” Katie says. “When they were fleeing, they didn’t know what they could expect when they entered Poland or the surrounding countries. They’re all living independent, safe lives until they can go back to Ukraine.”

Though circumstances can change quickly, Katie and Be Human Kindness are pushing on. Recently, they’ve been fostering connections with international non-governmental organizations and organizations involved in the orphan crisis before the war began. Roughly 2,500 Ukrainian orphans have been evacuated into Poland. Be Human Kindness is working with orphanages and providing support above what the government can provide.

They’re also reimagining their relocation efforts to help more refugees since European countries are approaching critical mass. There are about 9 million Ukrainian refugees living throughout Europe and the organization’s relocation resources are nearly tapped out. Katie says she’s now looking at locations closer to home. 

“Europe’s completely full. There’s nowhere to relocate them to besides the United States and Canada,” she says. “We have begun fostering relationships with church communities, small groups, and individuals to step up and sponsor Ukrainian families to come to the United States. So far, I’ve sponsored 33 Ukrainians who have relocated to Fort Worth. And then through these church relationships, Be Human Kindness has about 65 Ukrainians who have relocated, and many more are on our waitlist.”

Among the first Ukrainian refugees the Stadlers assisted stateside were the Shevchenkos. Alex, Svetlana, and their two children had fled their home near the Crimean border after Russian troops began executing former members of the Ukrainian military. They faced a harrowing journey through Russian occupied territory and parts of Russia itself before arriving in the US, where the Stadlers were waiting with open arms.

“It’s impossible to prepare for being a refugee,” says Alex. But since landing in Fort Worth, they’ve built a friendship with the Stadlers and others in the community, though at first, they faced a bit of culture shock since everything they knew about the US—and more specifically, Texas—came from Hollywood movies. Nonetheless, the Shevchenkos have been made to feel “accepted” in their new home.

“It’s a blessing to come here,” Alex says. “We don’t feel like refugees, we feel like friends.” 

The Stadlers and Be Human Kindness helped the Shevchenkos submit entry paperwork, find housing, enroll their oldest in school, and find employment—they even loaned the Shevchenkos a car until they could get their own.

“It's a great blessing to start the American way with Be Human Kindness,” Svetlana says.

Though she’s aware of the good she’s doing for countless families like the Shevchenkos, Katie remains humble. Be Human Kindness is just one of many assistance organizations and it’s inspiring to see the world come together for the people of Ukraine, she says. She describes the experience as overwhelming and spiritual and credits her faith and strong support network for making Be Human Kindness’ mission possible.

“I’m incredibly encouraged that our community and Matt’s colleagues have really just gathered around something that’s so near and dear to our heart,” she says. “Not everyone can travel over there. Not everyone’s going to start a nonprofit, but everyone has stepped up and tried to help the Ukrainian people and these families. It’s just a whole network of wonderful people who have come together in whatever capacity they’re called to or they’re able to, and that has made this gigantic impact, here in Fort Worth, in the United States, and in Europe. I’m humbled to know so many people support us. I really am very, very grateful.” 

Hear more from Matt and Katie Stadler.

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