Thursday, August 26, 2021

How to help

About 1,500 Afghan families and individuals have arrived at Fort McCoy and thousands more are expected over the next several months. Some may stay in the area, but many will settle near family or where there is already an existing Afghan community. Until their next stop is finalized, they are in need of our understanding, love, care, and compassion.

Many left everything behind and suffered harrowing experiences to get to the airport and on a flight. Some have been separated from family members, including children. Often, extended family members are not allowed to accompany those who have the paperwork to qualify for exit. This is a trauma for families and for US troops who are trying to secure and oversee a very dangerous and chaotic situation.

How can we help?

Dozens of individuals and organizations are working together to build a local foundation and network to anticipate, find, and meet needs. If you can help in any way, please do. 

If you can donate to help with refugee resettlement or to help get people out of Afghanistan, here's a short list:

You may also donate goods - a list of current needs is here:

If you can help in-person, here are some needs. Contact the Red Crosse or Catholic Charities to volunteer.

  • Immigration/refugee/DOJ attorneys
  • Pashto speakers/translators
  • ESL teachers
  • Individuals who can commit to at least two weeks of daily help at Ft. McCoy staffing MWR (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) services, including playing soccer with children, serving tea, helping make people feel welcome, etc.
  • Individuals who can help transport people in Tomah and donations from La Crosse to Tomah
  • Individuals who can write letters to the editor and talk to co-workers, friends, organizations with a message of welcome, support, and responsibility to counter some of the ugly rumors being circulated on social media
This is a very preliminary list. We will have more ideas, links and lists as they are developed. The large community group that has been meeting since last week will split into teams now to more specifically focus on areas like material donations, spiritual needs, veteran care, resolutions and communications and more. 

If you represent a group or organization and would like to be involved, email Sister Laura ( who is moderating the group.

There are plans to pass resolutions welcoming and pledging support for refugees. If you can send a short email to the city council and county board in support of such a move, please do. If you are a council member in Onalaska, Holmen, West Salem, or other La Crosse area communities, check out this model from Pierce County, Washington and this example from the University of Kentucky.

Please do whatever you can and do not allow false narratives and misinformation to spread. To this last point, I beg you to read about and practice the "truth sandwich" developed by communication expert Dr. George Lakoff to help communicators avoid inadvertently amplifying lies.

These dear fellow humans have been traumatized enough without rumors, misinformation, and fear-mongering by certain officials and social media trolls adding to their misery.

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