From Afghanistan to Winona

The Winona Afghan Support Network (WASN) is a community coalition that started meeting in the late summer of 2021 to support Afghan refugees in their transition to creating a home in the United States.

Why Help?

The people of Afghanistan have risked their lives and the lives of their families to aid U.S. service members over the last two decades. We stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

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As part of this solidarity, the Winona Afghan Support Network (WASN) is raising funds to support Afghan families and individuals that have been resettled in Winona.


All proceeds will be used directly to help provide housing, job placement, food, mentorship, legal services, reunification, and other assistance for the families and individuals.



No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well… you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.”
Home by Warsan Shire
" 'Afghanistan' is gone. There is no more 'Afghanistan'. I have no place where I come from. I am without a homeland - a sense of place."
-Father of One of the Families

Who We Are

We are friends and neighbors in Winona, Minnesota, and the surrounding community: Nancy Bachler, Jim Ballard, MM Farhad Bari, Bryon Bothun, Gay Mortensen, Carol Bromeland, Julie Chiasson, Janel Dean, Ahmed El-Afandi, Kathy Florin, Mary Fox, Amy Greylak, Kim Hancock, Jackie Henderson, Carol Heyl, Catherine Kreisel, Mike and Jeanne Kronebusch, Karina Kujawa, Alan Leonhardt, Scott Makstenieks, Amy Nankivil, Terry Olson, Sue Priem, Dwayne Voegeli, Sarah Walker, Linda Wilfahrt, Jerry Windley-Daoust, Jim and Karin Worthley.

Over 100 people are now included on our interest list, with an average of 20 people attending our monthly meetings. The WASN support network includes people who have experience helping refugees and people who are brand new to this kind of work. There is no paid staff and no overhead costs. All donations go to the families.



Who is raising funds for the Afghan newcomers?

Funds are being raised by the Winona Afghan Support Network (WASN), a local community coalition resettling Afghan refugees in or near Winona. 

Tell me more about the new house for refugees.

The new house is on the same block as the first home purchased by the Winona Sheltering Network. Both homes will be used as transitional housing for refugees coming to Winona. The first refugees occupying these houses were WASN’s first two Afghan families. The new house is considerably larger than the first home, with three bedrooms (and the potential for a fourth).

Why not house refugees in apartments?

The rental market in Winona is extremely tight and expensive. In the long run, purchasing houses is the cheaper way to go. In addition, finding rental houses for newly arrived immigrants is complicated by their lack of employment history, Social Security numbers, and a need for flexible leases.

How long will refugees stay in these houses?

There’s no set time limit, but these are not intended to be their “forever” homes…just a place to land and catch their breath…and to be a launching pad for their new life here.

What kind of living expenses do the new families need help with?

WASN is helping our new neighbors with groceries, housing, transportation, Internet service, rent, and other housing expenses… pretty much everything that a typical household might need to pay for. As they get more settled with jobs and school over the next few months, the new arrivals will slowly take on more responsibility for their own expenses. All WASN members are volunteers and there are no overhead costs. Click here for specific examples of how your donation will be used.

What other help does WASN need?

WASN volunteers are ordinary Winonans, just like you. We help by providing transportation, assistance filling out paperwork, legal and reunification help, guidance negotiating things like getting Social Security cards and driver’s licenses… and most of all, we offer simple accompaniment and friendship. We could use more people who would like to help with these things. If you would like to volunteer with us, contact us using the following email. Email:

What other organizations are working with WASN?

WASN is working with the Sponsor Circles program, a certified and community-led resettlement initiative newly created by the Federal Government. The Winona Sheltering Network serves as WASN’s accredited 501(c)(3) Umbrella Partner to process donations on behalf of WASN. The Islamic Center of Winona served as WASN’s first accredited 501(c)(3), and continues to be an integral partner in the resettlement of Afghans in Winona.

Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes, all donations are tax deductible. After donating, you will receive a thank you letter that includes the Tax ID#.


Sajida's Story

Sajida is an international student from Afghanistan attending Cotter High School here in Winona. She came here to complete her high school education in 2019 after the Taliban closed her school in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Her brother, Ziaulhaq, has been living and working in Minnesota since 2018. After the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August, Sajida and Zia’s family unsuccessfully attempted to leave the country. Now the family is in hiding in Kabul as they wait for passports to leave the country. Sajida and her brother fear for their family because several members worked for the U.S. and Afghan military, making them targets of Taliban reprisals.Unfortunately, leaving Afghanistan and coming to the U.S. is not cheap. Zia is hoping to raise $50,000 for passports, legal fees, and travel expenses.

Donate directly to the family’s GoFundMe campaign here.

Inside Fort McCoy

Alan Leonhardt of Winona spent three weeks volunteering at Fort McCoy and shares a few special moments below.

“Almost everyone was so grateful to be safe. One man said it was like living in a dream. I said I hoped it was a good dream. He smiled and said, “Yes, the American dream!”Most were anxious to start life over in the United States. They wanted to work. One math teacher wanted very badly to teach math again. We had doctors and others with a great deal of formal learning. We hoped they would get to use their education and experience again in helping others.When asked by one of the IRC (International Rescue Committee) staff why I was here doing this work, I said, “My great-grandfather came here in 1880 from Germany and there were those who helped him when he arrived – just 20 miles west from this fort. I am here to help pay it forward by helping others.”

Alan was inspired by his time at Fort McCoy and continues to pay it forward by working with WASN to help sponsor a family in Winona.

Support a Family

Choose a Donation Option Below

$25 – School supplies for one child.
$50 – Phone service for one month.
$100 – Bicycle for one adult to ride to work and back.
$150 – Weekly supply of groceries.
$250 – New clothing for one family.
$500 – Monthly rent for a 1-br apartment.
$1000 – Monthly mortgage payment for a 2-br house.
$2500 – Legal fees for asylum paperwork.
$5000 – Legal fees for reunification efforts.
Your kindness and support – Warmth for years to come.

All donations are tax deductible. 

Donate on PayPal
Please note it is not necessary to have a PayPal account! Simply use the credit card option. You will also have an option to select your designation: General WSN account, WASN, GRASP, or the Harriet and Huff Street homes.

Want to become a sustaining sponsor? Check "Make this a monthly donation" on the online donation page.

Use this method to make one-time or recurring monthly donations.

  • All donations are tax-deductible. You will receive a tax receipt by e-mail automatically.
  • Zeffy (the payment processor) asks for a voluntary donation to support its no-fee service. You can change the suggested donation amount, or skip donating to Zeffy altogether, before completing the donation form.


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