It has been very exciting having the Ukrainian group with us over the past two weeks! They have visited a number of organizations, met representatives in office at the State Capitol, and even attended the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in downtown Des Moines. One of their most recent activities included participating in Habitat for Humanity in Des Moines.


The Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity is a part of a global, nonprofit housing organization operated on Christian principles to build homes, communities and hope. Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing locally and worldwide through constructing, rehabilitating and preserving homes; by advocating for fair and just housing policies; and by providing training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions. Habitat for Humanity was founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a simple, durable place to live in dignity and safety, and that decent shelter in decent communities should be a matter of conscience and action for all (Habitat for Humanity, 2014).

The entire group with IRIS Staff

The group and two IRIS staff spent the day renovating a home. They worked on tearing out insulation from the ceiling, pulling nails and old dry wall out, cleaning the inside, and removing siding from the outside. They arrived to the site at 8:15am, and went for lunch at El Salvador Del Mundo, where the group got to try El Salvadorian food for the first time. Then it was back to work for the rest of the day.

Kimberly Hope, IRIS Operations Manager, said, “The Ukrainians were extremely positive and interested in Habitat for Humanity. Nataliia Kozyr, who works with Roma people in Ukraine, is interested in bringing Habitat to her area of the country to help immigrants and displaced populations. Although it was a cold day and not everyone had energy to work, people spent the day laughing and helping each other get the job done.”

Over the years, IRIS has had many World Learning groups like this one volunteer with Habitat, and it has always been a positive experience. We were glad to see the Ukrainians enjoying themselves while working for a great cause, and we hope to continue these activities for years to come.

Working on renovation project for the day
Working on renovation project for the day

The USAID/World Learning grant provided funding for this group and requires one day of volunteer work, while they are in the country. Habitat is a great organization that is well known in America, and we also thought that it was a good group project that didn’t necessarily require a lot of instructions or need to know English.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, you can visit their site

Without the hospitality and support of IRIS’s short term host families around central Iowa, IRIS would be unable to bring USAID/World Learning programs such as this one to Iowa. Six different families in the greater Des Moines area welcomed the Ukrainian participants into their homes for the 3-week stay. Their guests have shown their thanks by giving gifts, making traditional Ukrainian meals, and sharing fascinating conversations with their Iowa host families. If you live in Des Moines, Ames, or central Iowa, consider contacting IRIS and volunteering as a short term host family for a future program like this!” 

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