Local charities help Afghan refugees rebuild their lives in New Jersey

Thousands of those refugees who fled the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan are now trying to rebuild their lives in New Jersey. 

The refugees are staying at joint base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, for further processing and resettlement. 

"The circumstances have been difficult, but I think what I see on the ground is just an incredible amount of support, organization, and sort of building up the needs and anticipating the needs that are going to be there," said Mario Russell, Director of Immigrant and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, New York.

Russell recently visited two military facilities housing Afghan evacuees and says the facilities he visited had anywhere between 5,800 to 9,000 Afghans. 

"I spent about three days in two bases and did a fair amount of work directly there myself, working to provide legal orientations and sort of help, support and do a little bit of the programming around some of the what they call the moral, wellness and recreation program that they have in at these locations as well," said Russell.

Russell says that organizations and volunteers are doing all they can to make the refugees feel welcomed and get accustomed to life in the U.S. 

"At one base, they created a soccer league with 18 teams and had a tournament just the other day. At another base I visited, English class spaces, one for women and one for men and then one for children where they are learning. Obviously, the children are learning the alphabet and the days of the week," he said.

So far, Catholic Charities has assisted three Afghan families.

Governor Kathy Hochul expects to welcome over 1,100 Afghans in New York. Catholic Charities will be assisting about 40 refugees.

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