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How Americans are using Airbnb as a way to get money to Ukrainians

"It was the simplest way to feel connected to a person like boots on the ground."
/ Source: TODAY

As the Russian military invasion of Ukraine continues to unfold, Americans are searching for ways to help. One creative option: booking Airbnb rentals in the war-torn country.

Sarah Brown, an Airbnb host in Park City, Utah, reserved a four-night stay in Kiev for $200, but she said you can find listings for as low as $9 a night.

“For me it was the simplest way to feel connected to a person like boots on the ground,” Brown told TODAY. "It just seemed like the natural thing to do."

After making her reservation, Brown sent a message to the host explaining that she lives in the United States and “wanted to send some love.”

“Thank you soooo much for your support and everything you’re doing for us,” the host replied. “It does matter and it does help us to survive these hardest days. It gives us strength and motivation. We’re staying in Kiev, hoping and believing in our Victory soon.”

Brown noted that the listing owner receives their payout immediately. A spokesperson for Airbnb confirmed to TODAY that all service fees in the Ukraine are being waived.

“It's a way to give money and give it directly to the person right now,” Brown explained. "I can't wait to do it again."

Emilee Ayers, of Bayside, Texas, saw the idea on Facebook and booked two nights in Kiev for $80.

“I specifically looked for an Airbnb that wasn’t a corporate rental,” Ayers told TODAY. "I wanted to make sure my money was going to a real person."

Ayers, like Brown, received a touching response from her host. 

It read in part: “You’re so kind, you have no idea how it makes us feel in these hard times…. Hope to welcome you someday in Kyiv, free and peaceful, when it’s all over. We [are] fighting and praying.”

"When we're so far away, it's easy to feel helpless," Ayers said. "This is such a wonderful way to help and feel connected."

On Monday, Airbnb announced they are offering free short-term housing for up to $100,000 to Ukrainians who have been displaced by the war with Russia. NBC News reported that as of Thursday, 1 million people have fled Ukraine within a week of Russia's invasion on the country.

“I have worked in refugee emergencies for almost 40 years," Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement Thursday. "Rarely have I seen an exodus as rapid as this one."