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  • Writer's pictureHelping Irish Hosts

Sheila & Tony share their hosting journey and how they helped their guests move on

Updated: Apr 26

From Left to Right: Sheila, Tony, Kateryna and Alisa

Sheila and Tony hosted Kateryna and her daughter Alisa for a year and a half in their home in Carlow. They had previously been matched with Ohla and her son, Misha, who left Ireland after 2 months. They told us about their hosting journey and the experience of helping their guests to move on once the time came.

“We got quite close, they are like a part of our family and we hope to remain friends, to keep the good relationship.” - Sheila

Sheila and Tony on their hosting experience

At the beginning of the war, Tony and I genuinely wanted to help. We were happy to host Kate (Kateryna) and her 6-year old daughter, we have grandchildren that are at the same age as Alisa. They lived with us for a year and half and we loved having them here. We became like family. Alisa calls us her Irish grandparents.

It’s a huge amount of time to be sharing your home and supporting somebody. They really got a huge amount of support - it’s just in our nature to help. So to have that support when you arrive into a country that you don’t know, that you were never planning on coming to and to think they have been here long enough that they can now do stuff on their own, it’s brilliant.

Integration into the community

Kate got on well with the other mothers in the school. We would joke to say she knew more neighbours than we did! She would go to parents’ meetings and be very involved, they would invite her daughter to lots of stuff, even the Principal came over to the house one evening. They were very comfortable in the area and very lucky to stay with us because they never had the hotel experience here in Ireland. Kate says that had she been in a hotel, she wouldn’t have found it easy to learn the language. They adapted quicker being here. She was meeting with people that come here, like our family and friends and she just had to learn the language. 

There were opportunities that opened up to Kate through us. For example a friend of mine works in the College and she helped get Kate into a course there which is great for her confidence as well. We helped her get a car and sort out the insurance and tax. They’ve spent all the holidays with us and learned a lot about how things work in Ireland, opportunities they wouldn’t have had if they were in a hotel. Her little one adapted very quickly at the school. She’s the only Ukrainian in the school now and she’s getting on great. She’s part of the GAA and goes to dance classes and all her various activities.

Moving on 

When Kate’s husband Illya arrived from Ukraine, there was no longer space for all three of them in the house so they had to start thinking about moving out and finding a place on their own. They were determined to stay in the local community where they had settled in so well.

“It was a lot harder than we envisaged it would be. It took around 3 months but eventually we helped them find somewhere which meant they could stay nearby.” - Tony

When Kate told us her husband was coming, we knew we wouldn’t have enough room for all three of them. So we had to sit down and talk about them moving on and finding their own place together. The transition took longer than planned because it is just impossible to get anywhere to rent. 

Initially we went to but by the time we got to look at a house, it was already gone. We got real estate agents involved, we talked to everyone we know but there just wasn’t anything available. We were looking locally because the little one is in school which is next to our house so it was very convenient. They’re just very settled here now and they were devastated at the thought of maybe having to move somewhere else.

When we couldn’t find a house anywhere, we decided to put up a notice in the supermarket and other public places with a heartfelt note from Kate about how much they want to stay in this community and what it means to them. We included things like Alisa’s participation in the GAA, which goes a long way in Ireland. This was after we had exhausted all options. We found a property within a week, a self-contained apartment in a neighbour’s garden. Some of the people who responded didn’t know about the ARP scheme, even their new host was not aware of ARP and he wasn’t planning to rent out this property. We supported him with getting registered on and helping them to move in. 

Lessons Learned

We’re all delighted they were able to stay here and not have to start again somewhere new. It’ll be great for them to have their independence. In hindsight I think we probably sheltered them a bit too much and did a lot of hand holding, especially in the beginning. They were vulnerable and we just wanted to help. We sorted out a lot for them like getting sorted with doctors, schools, social welfare and all that. We didn’t charge any utility bills because we wanted her to be able to save as much as possible. It worked for us but now she has to pay for things like oil and I think it was a bit of a shock! Now she often talks about how expensive things are in Ireland.

You have two options in your role as host. You can just provide accommodation and let them make their own way or you can offer a lot of support. We put a lot into it. It’s very different for this new host, they’re very well established now. I’m trying to keep my hands off from fixing all of their issues for them. I want to help but I know they need to stand on their own now. It’s up to Kate to help her husband settle into life in Ireland. We’re giving them their space now but we plan to keep in touch. When we went on holiday recently, they offered to look after our animals which was a great help. It’s brilliant they were able to give back that way.

Kate has significantly grown as a person, she was lacking confidence and was very scared. She struggled with making decisions. They've come such a long way. They can use their new home as a stepping stone. It’s not perfect but it's their own private space and it’s in the area and near the school. The new host is very kind to them.

It was a great experience overall. They are like part of our family and we hope to stay connected. We would definitely recommend hosting and we hope our story is helpful to others who are considering it and want to learn more.

If you have reached the end of your hosting journey and need more guidance on how to support your guests, you can use our Conversation Guide to Moving On.

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