Randa B. is just an ordinary citizen, living in Central Florida. She works behind the scenes at a local affiliate TV station. She supports the arts. She loves animals. And she’s just done something so cool that I can’t help but tell you about it.
Randa just sent a total stranger in Ukraine about $105. It’s not so much that she selflessly did that (although I think that’s pretty darn cool, too), but how she did it.
The stranger, a woman named Ирина (Irina), lives in Kiev. She has a short-term rental that she has on Airbnb for $35 per night. It’s advertised as a “wonderful apartment on the 20th floor of a high-rise building.” Irina says the apartment is located in an elite house, in the center of Kiev, next to the glacier, a botanical garden, boutiques and manasins [sic -perhaps mansions?], the center of the capital, all accessible on foot in 5-10 minutes. The photos of the place on Airbnb’s website show a nice sized, modern 1BR space with all amenities.
Randa, sweet person that she is, just rented the apartment for 3 nights in April via Airbnb.
Of course, she has no intentions of staying there at that time. But it was a very smart way to send a stranger in need, whose country is being invaded, some money that might help them along the way.
From their Airbnb exchange:
I feel for you and your country. I’m from Orlando, Florida. My name is Randa B. I have a short term rental business too. I will not be visiting at this time but wanted to send you money. I hope this little gesture finds you healthy and safe. Peace and love to you! You’re welcome to visit and stay with me for free. Please know that the world cares about you and the people of Ukraine.
A few hours later, Irina wrote back:
Dear Randa, today I got your letter, and was so exiting for read. Please and love for you from my heart, doors of my home are always open for you! You touched my heart with your message of love and help. May the God keep you for your kind pure open heart. I can not find words of gratitude and love for your indifferent attitude to this situation. I sincerely thank you and am glad for any help, bombings and explosions everywhere int he city. When everything is over, the doors of my house are open for you!
People complain about Airbnb’s pricing, but most of those high costs and add-ons are passed on to the renters, not those who are renting out their rooms/apartments/homes. In fact, Airbnb only charges the homeowners 3%. So of the $105 Randa sent, Irina will get to keep 97% of it, or a tad less than $102.
The cost of living in Kiev, compared to the U.S., is dirt cheap. Before Russia invaded, monthly salaries average about $647 after taxes. Fast food in a McDonald’s type atmosphere would cost about $4 and change. Movie tickets were another $4. A pint of beer in a pub might set you back about $1.59, and a half-liter of Pepsi could cost about 59 cents.
Over a million people in Ukraine have already fled to neighboring countries with only the clothes on their backs and whatever they can carry with them. Charities around the world will undoubtedly help them with food, shelter, clothing, toiletries, toys, etc., for a while, but eventually, these displaced people (or the ones who stay behind) are going to need cash.
So chances are the $105 Randa sent Irina can go a long way. What’s more, it appears that the money can get to her account quickly, regardless of whether banks are closed and/or cards frozen.
Says sunnyjoemakes, a U.S.-based Airbnb host on Reddit, “I’m an Airbnb host in the states and familiar with the payment process. I’ve communicated with two hosts in Ukraine who they say they are able to access their funds.”
Randa agrees: “Money takes time to funnel to people in need. This way, it goes directly into her account.”
“My heart has be so heavy lately with everything going on in the world,” Randa continued. “I’m a Humanist and I think actions are important, not just ‘thoughts and prayers,’ although I’m not discounting those sentiments. I show people I love them by showing up. Human to human, we can touch each other in a powerful way. This only cost me $105 but filled my heart with so much more. Worth the cost to send a love letter to another human being in a desperate situation. She now knows she’s not alone.”
Randa said she got the idea from an all-female travel group she’s on on Facebook. The Guardian reports that others around the world are doing the same thing, and then publicizing it on Twitter to help spread the word.
HOW TO HELP – just booked a Kiev AirBnb for 1 week, simply as a means of getting money directly into the hands of Kiev residents. It's really cheap and can make a small difference right now. Please share this idea #Ukraine #Russia #StopWarInUkraine #StopPutinNOW #UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/7yQDLYRkph
— DiMaggio.eth (@DimaggioEth) March 3, 2022
Of course, tons of travel-related corporations and organizations are stepping up to the plate to help both Ukraine and/or displaced Ukrainians. Others are doing their part by breaking ties with Russia.
- Several cruise lines have rerouted cruises that had stops in Russia.
- Multiple countries have instituted airspace bans against Russian aircraft.
- Rick Steves, he of travel guidebooks and tours, has canceled all trips that have stops in Russia.
- Many online travel agents are blocking all Russia-based bookings and content from their respective sites.
- Both Ryanair and Wizz are offering flights to move both people and aid.
- Greece’s Tourism Minister has announced plans to open 50,000 jobs in tourism to Ukrainian refugees or Greek expatriates.
- Polish hotel chain Arche Hotels says they have already put up 1,000 refugees and are preparing to accommodate 5,000.
- Poland’s PKP Intercity says its trains will carry Ukrainian citizens for free from the border. Other operators across Central and Western Europe have also offered free travel.
- Flixbus has given out free tickets and said it would send 40 buses free-of-charge to the Ukrainian-Polish border, near the main border crossing of Medyka.
- Car rental companies Panek, Panek CarSharing and 4Mobility say they are allocating parts of their fleet for transport to the border and invited volunteers to help, while
- Uber announced unlimited free rides from the border to Polish cities.
- Airbnb itself has pledged to offer housing of up to 14 days for up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine via Airbnb.org, a nonprofit affiliated with the home-sharing giant.
Of course, the non-profit organizations that typically help during times of tragedy, such as the American Red Cross and UNICEF, have pledged to give assistance as well. However, even the best non-profit organizations have some degree of corporate overhead (i.e. American Red Cross = 8.8%, UNICEF= 11.8%) and not all the money you send them actually goes to those in need. 97% of the money you would send to an Airbnb owner in Ukraine would go to the owner. It would also go directly into their account so they’d have near-instant access to it.
Randa does warn to be selective when searching for Airbnb owners in Ukraine. Just like here in the U.S., some Airbnbs are owned by corporations rather than individuals. Randa chose Irina’s apartment because it is a “shared space,” meaning that, had she stayed there, she would’ve been staying in Irina’s apartment with Irina also living there. It wasn’t a company specializing in Airbnb rentals that might own it.
Randa doesn’t feel that what she did was particularly special. It’s something she thinks many people with a few extra dollars could do.
“I wanted to touch someone’s heart and I felt I needed to do something, even if it was small.” she said. “I wanted it to be personal. From one human to another. We all are really ONE.”
***MANY thanks to my friend Randa for sharing her story!
Feature Photo: Public Domain
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