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Many Afghan refugees in Indiana see snow for 1st time

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — This week’s winter storm brings another first for many former Afghanistan families now living in central Indiana: Seeing snow.

Advocacy groups held clothing drives to help prepare the Hoosier refugees for the cold weather. Although many coats were donated, finding the volunteers to get them to people was a challenge. One volunteer met with a family, and the six children didn’t have winter coats.

Winter clothing was likely left behind by the thousands forced to leave Afghanistan. Since Afghans first started arriving in Indiana, donation efforts collecting winter wear topped the list.

“Even in the camps that was the first thing, because when they came most people just came with a T-shirt. So, I know a lot of effort was made everywhere to get them coats,” said advocate Koubra Bandawal.

Bandawal moved to the United States with her family decades ago when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. She’s supporting the new arrivals. Her own garage is a makeshift site for sorting and distribution.

Afghanistan’s climate, depending on the region, differs from Indiana’s. Bandawal said those from the capital city, Kabul, would have experience with cold and snow. “But in the southern part or the area where I’m from, it’s more like Florida, warm winters. … For those people, it will be a huge shock.”

Winter is not the only challenge for some of the former Afghanistan residents. Many of the families still get around by walking or riding bikes. Again many rely on volunteers picking up groceries or using delivery apps.

“We all made sure that they had their groceries when the storm comes,” said Bibi Bahrami, founder of Awaken Inc., based in Muncie.

Bahrami’s journey to Muncie is similar. “People from where I’m from, Jalalabad, on the eastern part, the weather is pretty warm.”.

She, , left Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. Her agency, Awaken Inc., has served the community for 20 years.

“We are very blessed with the multiple volunteers, that they drive our new neighbors around,” Bahrami said. “The other things that we have that others throughout the United States do not have, we have a welcome family for each family.”