Inside the struggles of Afghani refugees

Katherine Walsh (TheLorian)

Ever since the militant and fundamentalist Taliban took over the country, there have been a surge of people desperately fleeing Afghanistan. Roughly thirteen thousand of them, nearly half of whom are children, are currently at the Wisconsin U.S. Army base called Fort McCoy. At first glance, life at Fort McCoy is surprisingly good, considering that families with children are living on a foreign military base. There are two mayors, police, community meetings, mosques, classrooms, laundry buildings, and a cafeteria. According to Loras College’s Professor Fett, the LaCrosse Catholic Charities have set up six activity centers, which include two sewing centers for women, two “mommy and me”-type centers, and two English language learning centers. There is even a much lower crime rate than would be expected for a community of that size. However, upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent just how difficult civilian life on a military base truly is. Everyone down to the littlest child is living in barracks, sixty refugees to a house. The refugees initially had to wait in lines for hours for meager amounts of food, and many didn’t receive new clothes for more than ten days after arriving. There have been vicious and untrue rumors about the refugees that spread throughout the local town, Sparta, which actually has fewer residents than Fort McCoy.

This is not to say that everything is terrible, of course; many refugees are grateful to have been able to come to the US, and some are looking forward to the opportunities their new country will provide them. By immigrating to America, some are fulfilling a lifelong dream of moving to the States.

However, even if the conditions at Fort McCoy were luxurious, for many people the situation would still be devastating. Many never wanted to leave Afghanistan; they love their country, with all their hearts and souls, and only left because they felt forced to flee from the Taliban. Some people were forced to leave their families if they wanted to get to safety in America. Although we pride ourselves on being The Greatest Country in the World, for most people that title belongs to their home and the country where their families are, where their lives are. It is always a tragedy when people are forced to flee their homes.

Currently, the refugees at Fort McCoy are learning English; they will soon resettle into the community. This is later than was initially planned, because of a measles outbreak in mid-September. When resettling, many prefer to live by family, if they have any in the country, or otherwise in established Afghan communities. However, it’s unlikely that all of them will get their wishes granted. Loras students are ethical and responsible young adults, and many reading this will surely want to do what they can to help our new neighbors. The Catholic Charities are helping the refugees, and their website has a list of donations it is accepting at and they are also accepting monetary donations. Students who want to get more involved are encouraged to sign up for Professor Fett’s J-term class, Global Social Work with Refugees, which will include volunteering at Fort McCoy. The class will pair a weeklong seminar working with experts in the field of working with refugees, as well as Afghan culture and religion, with two weeks of work with the refugees in Fort McCoy.

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