Lois Caldrello: A Colossal Project
Old Saybrook resident Lois Caldrello has started a nonprofit called The Colossus Project to help support Ukrainian refugees living in the area, including a family of four living with her own family for the past six months.
When the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine started in early 2022, many Americans were motivated to help in any way they could. For Lois and her family, that help has taken the form of hosting in her home a Ukrainian family fleeing the war.
“We’ve had a family of four — wife, husband, and two kids – living in our house with my family for the past six months,” Lois explains.
Hosting the family isn’t the only way Lois has stepped up to help. As she prepared to host the family, she realized just how much help the refugees need.
“I identified the need for more help to be given, and so we started a nonprofit called Colossus Project,” says Lois.
According to its website, the nonprofit “aims to provide essential support to those individuals who have found refuge in the United States, helping them to rebuild their lives and create a brighter future.” The organization also helps spread the word about sponsorship opportunities for other people interested and able to host a Ukrainian refugee family.
Lois explains that the Ukrainians need help with tasks like enrolling the family in English classes, helping the parents find jobs and transportation, filling out financial papers, enrolling the children in school, and eventually helping the family find housing and gain independence. And right now, Lois is doing the majority of that work on her own.
However, even with the Ukrainian family preparing to move out of her home, Lois says there is still help that is needed.
“The kids are settled in school now and the parents are working and will soon move out of our house, but we’ll continue to work with them. We’re not just going to say goodbye and good luck,” she explains.
Lois founded The Colossus Project in February and is currently looking to expand the project’s reach and find new volunteers. “It’s been a large undertaking. I’m looking for professionals to join a board for the organization,” says Lois. Thus far, Lois says she has no concrete plans for any fundraisers, though she says she’d love to do one in the future.
The organization is accepting donations, and those who wish to donate or get involved with The Colossus Project can do so by visiting www.thecolossusproject.org.
“It’s a great experience. Even if you don’t host a family but want to help, we can point you in the right direction,” says Lois.
Lois first decided to host a refugee family after watching a special on Syrian refugees being resettled in Canada. The generosity inspired her, and after doing some research, Lois found there were actually several resettled Ukrainian families in the area.
“We saw we could help,” Lois says.
Asked about the decision to host a family, she acknowledges it was a leap of faith. The organization she used to find a refugee family gave some tips on how to tell if the match would work, and the families first connected via Zoom.
“At the end of the day, though, my husband and I bought tickets for four strangers and drove down to New York in the middle of the night to pick them up and bring them to our home,” Lois says with a chuckle.
In the beginning, Lois and her family had to use translation apps to speak with the Ukrainian family since nobody spoke the same language. “Sometimes the results were good, sometimes it was a bad translation, and it was hilarious,” Lois says.
In the end, though, Lois says it has all been worth it.
“Seeing their reaction to things like walking into Walmart in town and seeing what we have has really deepened our gratitude to what we have,” says Lois. Additionally, she says that a true friendship has formed between her family and the Ukrainian family.
“It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m really glad we can do this,” Lois says.
Lois grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Old Saybrook for the last three years.
“We found our dream home, and it was nice to have our kids live in a place where they can ride their bikes and be safe. We really enjoy living here,” she says.
In her spare time, Lois can be found with her husband and kids, riding bikes, paddle boarding, and staying active.
“I really think Old Saybrook is one of the most beautiful towns around,” says Lois.
“Living in town is amazing; we can walk places, we know our neighbors, we feel safe here, and it’s one of the last towns I feel like where kids can ride their bikes to school. It’s just really a great place to raise our kids,” she says.