Students can help about 7,000 Afghan refugees at Camp Atterbury located near Edinburgh through volunteering for Students Supporting Afghan Evacuees and dropping off donations at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church.
Students Supporting Afghan Evacuees is an initiative created to lead the student effort to help Afghan refugees. Members of Seeking Refuge, a student organization that works with refugees in Bloomington and increases awareness about the refugee crisis, organized the initiative.
Over 70 students attended a meeting Nov. 5 and signed up to volunteer at Camp Atterbury, the training base for the Indiana National Guard, Senior Rachel Najdowski, Afghan Refugee Volunteer Coordinator Intern and Vice President of Refugees Relations for Seeking Refuge, said. People who want to volunteer fill out a form with information about their volunteering interests, abilities and availability. All volunteers also must undergo a background check.
Once volunteers are given security clearance to get onto the base, Najdowski said she will process the volunteers’ information and organize people into groups to volunteer and travel together. She said she hopes people can volunteer starting next week.
She said there is no cut-off date to sign up because there will continue to be volunteer opportunities in the spring semester.
IU senior Sophie Langfitt, co-president of Seeking Refuge, said there are about 7,000 people at the base, half of whom are children. The base is looking for volunteers who can lead any kind of activities like sports, language learning and culture-immersion classes.
“There's no such thing as too many volunteers or too many activities that could be done,” Langfitt said.
There are four types of volunteer opportunities, she said. People can commit to volunteering every week or during a few weekends. They can also participate in movement or dance activities Sundays or help with legal assistance and work with lawyers at the base.
Langfitt said this volunteering effort is a great opportunity to help the refugees who did not choose to come here but had to leave their country out of fear.
“I jumped at the chance to help because seeing everything that was happening in Afghanistan as a result of American actions was extremely upsetting,” Langfitt said. “If you're able, it should feel like an obligation to offer support in any way that you can to welcome people into the community.”
Students Supporting Afghan Evacuees also encourages students to donate materials and funds to support the refugees. Sherwood Oaks Christian Church’s three campuses in Bloomington and Bedford are local donation sites collecting items to help the Afghan refugees at Camp Atterbury.
The church has been collecting donations since August, Jim Clark, Director of Communications and Marketing, said. The refugees mainly need winter clothing, like coats, hats, scarves, gloves, long sleeve shirts and long pants. They also need personal hygiene items and baby and infant care products.
Students can drop off donations Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2700 E. Rogers Road in Bloomington.
Brad Pontius, the local and global engagement pastor, said collecting donations is the best and most accessible way to help the refugees.
“As part of our local and global engagement effort, we feel it's important to bless the community in any way that we can,” Pontius said. “When this came up, we decided that we couldn’t just sit back and watch. We need to be engaged and involved in some way.”