MINNEAPOLIS — The Afghan community in Minnesota is getting a strong new ally in their effort to welcome evacuees from Afghanistan in the coming months.
The Minnesota-based Alight – formerly the American Refugee Committee – is coordinating with members of the Afghan diaspora in Minnesota to prepare housing secured by resettlement agencies in the state. The organization says they’ll be setting up homes for up to 250 families, who will be moving from military bases throughout the country starting in January.
“We’ve had over 400 Afghans arrive already in Minnesota, and we’re expecting hundreds more to arrive. And so it’s urgent that we get as much help as we can,” said Sonia Anunciacion of Shakopee, who herself led several donation drives in the weeks and months following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August.
Anunciacion has been coordinating her efforts with other members of the local Afghan community, which she estimates to be about 500 people in Minnesota. And her family also continues communicating with their loved ones in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“It’s not safe for anyone to leave their homes really. There could be any reason for them to get brutalized. They live in fear daily,” she said.
Annie Nolte-Henning, who is coordinating Alight’s response, said the organization had been searching for a way to address this humanitarian challenge.
“Since August, we’ve been just as concerned as most Minnesotans with what’s happening in Afghanistan and ways to find ways to help,” she said, noting that setting up a home was a daunting task that needed to be done in a short timeframe.
“Think about everything that makes a house a home. And what’s in your own home. So setting up homes with couches, chairs, dishes, towels but also cultural items like prayer rugs and tea sets,” she said, adding that the organization is also consulting the local Afghan community to ensure they select culturally-appropriate items.
“We will be given around 48 hours-notice, so there’s no denying that this is a big job and will need a lot of support,” she said.
If you’re interested in supporting the Alight effort, just go to the Alight’s “Welcome Home” website. You can also text a donation by texting "Alight" to 24365. The organization, at this point, is encouraging financial donations to ensure the most efficient use of resources.
Meantime, both the local humanitarians – and those with direct ties to the refugees and the land they fled – believe the effort may give hope at a critical time.
“We’re trying to stay strong for them, so we’re trying to give them as much hope as we can that things will get better,” Anunciacion said about her family still in Afghanistan and the families arriving soon in Minnesota.
“Many of these families have been in transition for months. Many have been through traumatic experiences over the past few months,” Nolte-Henning said, adding: “Our hope and our goal is to really make sure that this feeling of home can be returned to them, because we know that that can make all the difference.”
You can visit Alight on their website, here.
Watch more Breaking The News:
Watch all of the latest stories from Breaking The News in our YouTube playlist: