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Hall County couples take in foreign orphans
Lydia White picks up toys with Bogdan, 4, of Russia, Jan. 7 in Gainesville. White hosted Bogdan in her home through New Horizons for Children, an international housing program for orphaned children. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

New Horizons for Children



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Katya and Bogdan, orphans from Ukraine and Russia, don't know a lot of English, but have quickly understood that they are loved by their American host families here in Hall County.

The children had the chance to stay with families in Hall for five weeks during the holidays through the New Horizons for Children, a faith-based nonprofit organization based in Acworth.

"Ultimately the mission is to be able to take these orphan children who have not had a functional family environment," said Michelle Vernon, of New Horizons for Children. "So they can experience, obviously not a perfect family ... but a functional family environment where there is mom and dad and typically siblings."

The organization has been bringing children to the United States twice a year for seven years to give the children, and the American families, a chance to understand life with a more global view.

Nearly 65 percent of the children that visit American families are eventually adopted.

During this current host program, New Horizons brought nearly 200 children to stay with host families.

Vernon said though, the children really get a lot out of their month or so visit to the States.

"It really boosts their self esteem to find out that they are valued, treasured and loved," she said. "Until you see how a family can function, you don't know that really exists."

Each host family goes on the New Horizons website and can choose the child they want to host by reading descriptions of the children and looking at photos.

The White family chose Bogdan, 4, to visit from Russia, because Lydia White just felt like it was something God really had called her family to do. They had hosted a chaperone with New Horizons over the summer, the obvious next step was to host a child.

"When I saw his (Bogdan's) face, I immediately began to be moved that this was something we should pray about," she said.

During Bogdan's visit, the White's went out of town for Christmas to visit extended family, they have taken the family to Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and in that time Bogdan, categorized as a special needs child in Russia, has learned to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star." Bogdan interacts and plays with other children the way any 4-year-old plays.

The Romano family is having quite a different experience with Katya, 16, from Ukraine. They aren't singing children's songs everyday, but are letting Katya experience what it's like to be a teenager in the U.S.

Katya had the chance to get her nails done at a salon, go to high school for the day with one of the Romano children and experienced a fun, family activity filled Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations.

The family also went to see the Nutcracker and other Christmas performances.

"Of course with it being Christmas, we have the opportunity to show them that Christ's birth is a big deal," Pam Romano said. "We have gained far more than we have given, it's been a huge blessing. I think we hope to give our kids more of a global view of the world."

Katya even was given a shiny gold cross necklace for Christmas, which she said was very special to her.

Romano added that she is excited about what this experience with Katya will do for the Romano family and Katya, as well.

"I just don't know how God is going to use it in their lives," she said. "I'm really proud of my kids because they have really embraced her."

Bogdan and Katya will head back to their orphanages today, with a backpack full of new clothes and Christmas gifts, and of course White and Romano will shed a few tears.

Romano said she didn't even look at the return flight information for a long time because she didn't want to know the time Katya would leave.

"We went out on a limb for Christ, and we are just waiting on him to reveal the plan," she said.



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