All three La Crosse colleges have joined with the Great Rivers United way to get school supplies donations to help Afghanistan refugees at Fort McCoy.
The drive called Operation Allies Welcome, as UW-La Crosse, Viterbo and Western Technical College are looking to help.
“These are the supplies that normally parents would be asked to provide for their children,” Professor Heather Linville from UW-La Crosse said. “But, of course, the children at Fort McCoy, the parents don’t have access to get those supplies.”
About 2,000 Afghans of various ages are studying at schools, which have been set up at the base between Tomah and Sparta. Around 7,500 refugees are stationed there — the second-largest population at a base in the U.S.
Sister Laura Nettles from Viterbo University volunteers to help some of the students. She told reporters Wednesday about one student she recently saw there.
“He proudly showed his notebook and he showed a pencil — like just a little pencil, he’d been using it so much,” Nettles said. “And he said, ‘I’m a real American student.'”
It’s not just notebooks and pencils in short supply, however. Rebecca Hopkins with Western Technical College said the Afghan teachers leading classes at McCoy are being relocated.
“Many of these Afghan teachers who stepped up to serve their community are going to be relocating,” she said. “It’s exciting for them, but it leaves a big need in the classrooms.” Hopkins hopes to see some area teachers volunteer time to the Afghan schooling.
If you want to buy supplies, you can check the website ugetconnected.org.