Local man volunteers to help Afghan refugees

Team Rubicon volunteer Dewayne Knott, left, stands with a new Afghani friend, at Ft. McCoy military base in Wisconsin. Knott has been helping refugees from Afghanistan find clothing, including winter clothing.

Smithville’s Dewayne Knott has been at Ft. McCoy military base in Wisconsin since Nov. 8. While he describes the days as reminiscent of the film “Groundhog Day” with repetitious work for many hours seven days a week, he is happy to be there, helping 12,000 refugees from Afghanistan.

Knott, a leader with the Smithville American Legion post and an Air Force veteran, is a volunteer with Team Rubicon, an international nongovernment organization specializing in disaster response.

“During my career, I have been in Kuwait during the oil well fires, monitoring air quality in 1991,” he explained. “Then I worked with the embassy a year later. I have been to Iraq in 2003 to 2004 in a military uniform and then 2006, in Afghanistan, helping to establish a dairy pasteurization plant. I have some personal investment in that part of the world, I would say, specifically in Afghanistan as my translator saved my life and I was able to assist in getting him and his family out and secure in England.”

Knott said being on the military base aids his effort to put a period to all his experiences in Afghanistan.

“Truly on a personal level, I want to help people who have the same goals in life that we all have,” he said. “There were 13,000 refugees at one point housed here. Eventually, I expect 200 people per day will be helped come Dec. 1.”

As the news depicted refugees fleeing during America’s pullout from the war-ravaged country, many left with basically the clothes on their backs. Knott said.

“They have absolutely nothing,” he said. “We are giving out clothing, winter clothing and traditional clothing, as some are not ready to transition to western clothing. This complex and the help organizations are trying to establish a comfort level for them including places to worship and language schools for adults and children.”

Knott’s role has been to help sort and aid in clothing searches.

“I have been a strike team leader, receiving bagged items to fill the needs for clothing, toddler’s clothing, winter clothing and shoes,” he said. “I know where the items are located in our ‘store.’ There are also places for hygiene items, too.:

Team Rubicon, Knott said, has processed 957,000 individual items.

“It’s nonstop. Team Rubicon is a smaller group, but many are former military and understand how to be responsive to situations like this,” he said.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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