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Orlando resident goes viral with "donation hack" to get money & support to Ukrainians

Randa Black posted her idea on social media (partial screenshot here), & her creative way of donating directly to individual Ukrainians went viral.
Randa Black posted her idea on social media (partial screenshot here), & her creative way of donating directly to individual Ukrainians went viral.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine accelerates, Central Floridians are finding creative ways to help as much as possible.

Randa Black of Orlando had the idea of getting money into the hands of individual Ukrainians through "booking" their short-term vacations rentals on websites like Airbnb or VRBO...of course, without planning an actual visit.

So she did it, and received a note of heartfelt thanks from a Ukrainian woman who has been an Airbnb host in Kyiv.

Now, Randa Black's idea has gone viral. More and more people from the US, UK, and elsewhere are donating funds and sending messages of support to Ukrainians through their vacation rental listings.

Black explained her idea and how it began to WMFE's Nicole Darden Creston.

Click the Play Audio button above to hear their conversation. The transcript of their conversation is below.

Randa Black: I really wanted to make a difference personally. And I show people I love them by showing up. So, how could I show up for these people? How could I connect with them?

So, I run a VRBO. And I'm a world traveler, I love to travel. And so I went, well, for my birthday - which is April 6th - I'm going to book a vacation in Kyiv, Ukraine, and connect with a person there and give them money. But I'm not going to stay there. I just want to give them some funds and tell them that we love them and are supporting them.

And she sent me back an incredible note, and it's just been amazing. I posted on Facebook, and it's gone viral. All my friends in Michigan and California, they've spread the word. Now a whole network of people are renting places in Poland on the border, you know, Airbnb or VRBO. And we're trying to pick people who are not a company-owned business. To do that, I look for someone who (has a listing for) a roommate or a shared space, so that I knew that the person would actually be getting the funds.

Nicole Darden Creston: Did you expect this to go as viral as it did? It's really gotten some legs. You've started a trend.

Randa Black: No, absolutely not. It's crazy. But I just think that people are watching the news, and we're listening and seeing what's happening in real time. And I think it's great that people are giving to Red Cross, or whatever organizations are helping, and these places are doing incredible things. I'm not negating that. But I just wanted a human connection. I wanted them to know that people - it's like "Horton Hears a Who," I wanted them to know that we see them, we hear them, we're with them on a personal level.

Can I share with you what I wrote to her and what she wrote back?

Nicole Darden Creston: Yes, please! I was going to ask you to.

Randa Black: Okay. When I did the reservation, I wrote this: 'I feel for you in your country. I'm from Orlando, Florida.' And I gave her my name.

And I said, 'I have a short term rental business, too. I will not be visiting at this time, but I 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.'

To which she responded, 'Dear Randa, today I got your letter, and was so excited for read, peace 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 cannot find words of gratitude and love for your indifferent (sic) attitude to the situation. I sincerely thank you. And I'm glad for any help. Bombings and explosions everywhere in the city. When everything is over, the doors of my house are open for you.'

It's this that's important: the person-to-person contact made an impact to her. And that's what I value. I imagined myself literally running for my life, with just what's on my back. And the desperation. I would hope that others would stand up. And that's how we show people we love them. We show up. I'm just grateful that everybody's trying to do this. If we all did a little bit like this, imagine what a difference it would be.


Nicole came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College and started working for Orlando’s ABC News Radio affiliate shortly after graduation. She joined WMFE in 2010. As a field reporter, news anchor and radio show host in the City Beautiful, she has covered everything from local arts to national elections, from extraordinary hurricanes to historic space flights, from the people and procedures of Florida’s justice system to the changing face of the state’s economy.
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