Politics Texas Couple Welcomed Refugee Family of 5 — and Bonded Immediately: 'We're in It for the Long Haul' "No matter what our differences — religious, political — at the end of the day, we're all just people that want to be safe and raise our families in a safe and peaceful place," says Brenna Puls, who opened her home to the Hotaks By Virginia Chamlee Virginia Chamlee Politics Writer - PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on November 11, 2021 08:14 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Mohammed Stoman Hotak and his children. Photo: Brenna Puls After escaping Afghanistan amid the county's takeover by the Taliban, a family of five refugees is now living in Texas where they've begun a new life with an American couple as they await the move-in date for their own apartment. Though the transition hasn't always been easy, the two families have formed a bond that they say will last a lifetime. Mohammed Stoman Hotak previously assisted the U.S. military and worked at the embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital — making him a prime target for extremist fighters looking for retaliation after taking control of the country's major cities this summer. When Hotak, 29, saw his name on a threat letter being circulated around his community by Taliban members, he knew it was time to leave the only home he had ever known. And so he and his pregnant wife, Feroza, made their escape from Kabul in August, leaving on a flight with their three young children and just two suitcases among them. The family was among the tens of thousands in Afghanistan who scrambled to flee in the wake of the end of the U.S. war and the collapse of the Afghan government and military. Meanwhile, more than 7,000 miles away in Grand Prairie, Texas, another young couple — Mark and Brenna Puls — was watching the situation unfold on TV. Speaking with PEOPLE in a recent interview, Brenna says her husband's work as a helicopter pilot had previously led them to live in Saudi Arabia for a short time. While there, she says, they "felt the welcome and the kindness of the Muslim people." "When we saw everything happening in Afghanistan and learned that many of the refugees would be coming to Texas, we worried that they wouldn't feel that same welcome," she says. So she and Mark set up a profile on Airbnb allowing for a refugee family to stay with them and their two kids, 1 and 3. Airbnb Offers Free Housing and 'a Safe Place to Rest' for Afghan Refugees Brenna (left) and Mark Puls with their children. Brenna Puls "I kept Googling, trying to determine how we could help, and the only thing I could find was through Airbnb. They have a system set up to accept refugees — you list whatever space you have and the refugee organizations can see whats available in the area," Brenna explains. "We moved our kids into our room, which opened up two bedrooms." "We hoped for a family with little kids," she says, "because we have cribs and toys." Though hopeful, Brenna and Mark didn't anticipate actually getting a request from a refugee family. Finally, on one Thursday night, they got notice that a family would begin staying with them in less than 48 hours. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday. Mohammed speaks English but his wife and children don't, which made the transition overwhelming for their family, who arrived in Texas in October. Still, they and the Puls meshed once the initial shyness wore off. "The day after they got here was pumpkin carving day with our neighbors for Halloween. So we bought extra pumpkins and they carved them and then we all went trick-or-treating," Brenna says, adding that it took a little bit of time to teach the family exactly what the holiday entailed. "We had to practice with the kids how to say 'trick or treat' and 'thank you.' " Mohammed Stoman Hotak and his children. Brenna Puls Brenna says her own children, meanwhile, couldn't be happier. "It took some time to explain why they would be sleeping in our room, but they've been great and my daughter loves having these three friends in the house." While the organization assisting Mohammed and Feroza — Refugee Services of Texas — had found them an apartment some 30 minutes away from the Puls' home, the families recently decided that was too far. "With Feroza having the baby soon and them having no car, it just makes sense for us to be close to one another," Brenna says. "So we worked with the agency and found them a closer place. They'll be moving in Friday." Even after the move, Brenna says the Puls will continue assisting their new friends. A GoFundMe page they set up has already raised more than $10,000. The funds will go toward helping the Hotaks "meet the many challenges ahead of them and thrive in this new life here in America." "We've been super blessed," Brenna tells PEOPLE. "The response has been incredible." Scenes from the Startling Fall of Afghanistan She notes, however, that there has been some resistance from others — like someone who asked if she was "scared" to have the family live in her home. Brenna's response to such apprehension? "No matter what our differences — religious, political — at the end of the day, we're all just people that want to be safe and raise our families in a safe and peaceful place," she says. "These are people who left behind everything. If that's not a reason to help, I don't know what is." Now in a safe but strange place, Mohammed, Feroza and their children are slowly but surely getting acclimated to their new life. Mohammed Stoman Hotak's children. Brenna Puls The Story Behind Moving Photo of Child Sleeping on Afghanistan Escape Plane Under Airman's Uniform "Yesterday they were putting Christmas lights on the house," Brenna says with a laugh. And while their move is imminent, their newfound friendship with the Puls won't change. "It's funny but from the second they got here we have all felt such a strong connection," Brenna says. "They feel like family now, so we are going to be very involved. We have appointments to get Mohammed's drivers license, Mark helped them get new cell phones, we're looking for doctors for Feroza and schools for the kids." She continues: "We're in it for the long haul."