Orphans from eastern Europe are visiting central Wisconsin.
They're part of a ministry that brings them to the United States for a few weeks to stay with host families. But organizers say Wisconsin involvement is low and that with more volunteers, more children could have a life-changing experience.
Eight-year-old Alina is from Latvia. She's spending five weeks in central Wisconsin with a family—something she doesn't have back home.
"Our understanding is she's in a foster home. We don't know how long. We don't know really any of the reasons why," said Kay Pickar. She and her family are hosting Alina at their Weston home. It's part of the orphan hosting ministry New Horizons for Children.
"I think the program is just a really great way to serve orphans," said Pickar.
Program leaders say more than 300 orphans are in the United States and Puerto Rico right now. But in Wisconsin, there are fewer than a dozen.
"Up until last year, there were different laws in Wisconsin where only foster families could host children, and that law has recently changed so anyone can host," said Heather Zentrich, assistant coordinator at New Horizons for Children.
Organizers say they need more volunteers willing to host a child from Latvia, Ukraine, or China.
It's not cheap. It costs about $3,000 to host a child, and of course it takes time and energy. But organizers say it's doable.
"A lot of people do fund raising, they go through their church, or they have garage sales," said Zentrich.
Pickar and her family found a way to help cover the costs.
"We been given some funds by some friends," she said.
As a result, the Pickar family is able to help Alina experience what it's like to have a family.
"Fun and play and laughter and time together," said Pickar.
Alina didn't say much, but judging from her smile it seems the family experience is leaving a lasting impression.
The orphans will head back to eastern Europe on August 1.