Take action to help Afghan evacuees
“When the Afghan refugees started arriving at Fort McCoy, we were immediately alerted to the problems, mainly that the bases were not prepared – there was no change of clothes, they were always trying to find cultural foods. “said Najeeb. “The state coordinator contacted me and told me what can you do?
“We immediately took action. We put all of our staff on this and started working with a few dozen interfaith organizations and businesses, as well as the Hanan Refugee Relief group, which has been very helpful with their volunteers.
“We raised money and we also collected new items to fill six trucks to send to Fort McCoy. The MMW was the only Muslim community organization in the state to be invited by elected officials for briefings and tours there. Through briefings with the top general and senior officials, we had a very good understanding of what was going on. The first trip was with Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Ilhan Omar and the second trip was with Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes. Their recognition of our ability to get involved and make a difference is very important.
The MMWC continued to serve Afghans resettled in Wisconsin as needed. For example, Afghan families have been waiting for weeks in motels to be relocated and their children have nothing to do.
“What we did was say, ‘Send them our way,’” Najeeb said. “We didn’t blink. We put all our staff there and, with volunteers, created programs for these children. Our staff includes teachers and librarians, as well as an art therapist. They would sing songs with them and do dances and arts and crafts and just help them have a good time.
“They had lunch and a snack, then were taken back to these motels located a few miles from our home.
“It gave parents and refugee resettlement agencies time to process. We believed, as responsible citizens, that this was something we could do. Having the cultural knowledge and understanding of their situation, we were in a good position to do this.
Now many families have settled down. The MMWC is ready to help new families when they arrive.
“We ordered backpacks for the kids,” Najeeb added. “We filled each backpack with hats, gloves, crayons and pencils and a notebook and also put in hygiene supplies – toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, shampoo and combs. .
“We are going to distribute these backpacks to all the children. And a prayer rug. It was amazing when they came, they all wanted prayer rugs. We have ordered 500 prayer rugs from Turkey. We distribute it here and the rest goes to Fort. McCoy.
“I’m going to brag here and say that we are incredible stewards of people’s contributions. We are very careful about how we spend the funds. Since the day we started, we’ve never been in the red. We have always managed to cover all of our costs.
“Of course, the more money we raise, the more opportunities we have to hire additional people who can branch out into other aspects of the work we want to do. We think the sky is the limit. We have so many creative ideas, ideas that could have a huge impact.
“But everything needs money.”