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A temporary home for thousands: Taking a look inside Camp Atterbury

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Posted at 9:15 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 11:50:44-04

CAMP ATTERBURY — Hoosiers have stepped up in a big way to show hospitality toward thousands of Afghan refugees who are now in central Indiana.

WRTV has previously shared the effort to educate, clothe, house, and resettle these new neighbors. Now, we're getting a look inside Camp Atterbury, which has become a temporary home for families who had to leave everything behind.

About 6,700 refugees are staying there with another plane of 150 expected to arrive in central Indiana Thursday night.

Federal Coordinator Aaron Batt said it’s a lot but feels they have a system in place now to handle it.

"It isn’t overwhelming and the reason I say that is because the opportunity to interact with some of our guests and the impact we are having gives you energy," he said.

Transitioning from life in Afghanistan to the United States has been a challenge but one that many say has been worth it.

Life inside Camp Atterbury is full of smiles, laughter, and gratitude; 40% of its population is under the age of 14.

WRTV saw children running around playing with one another and there is respect between the soldiers and evacuees that they call, "guests." Many soldiers were seen playing sports with kids and adults.

"The base has been very good, very generous. I think we have everything in abundance from good food and supplies to a lot of open spaces for sports and children and it's been a good experience," Aziz Sahe said.

Aziz Sahe has been at Camp Atterbury for 46 days. He said the hardest part is waiting for resettlement.

A plan for their resettlement is in place from the time they arrive.

First, charter buses pick them up from the airport. Then they’re taken to a waiting area where they give their information and tell soldiers what they need. They’re briefed on what to expect and then they’re sent to their new community called a barrack.

"Those barracks can range from 500 to over 3,000," Batt said.

From there, they go to a medical and biometric screening.

So far, 6,600 evacuees have been vaccinated within a week for COVID 19, measles, and mumps.

They are seeing patients with anxiety and depression but are working through it.

While there's not much privacy inside their new homes, a lot of time is spent in a classroom.

"Some of the adults are taking it harder but the kids have been doing good and they are reachable so in class we try to teach them different things about culture and life here," Sara Jallal said.

For Jallal, helping teach English is personal. She fled Afghanistan with her family when she was 5. Now, she's able to help hundreds adjust to life in the United States.

"Their life was so different there," Jallal said.

Artwork displayed inside one of the intake centers shows. The children will never forget their homeland. Many paid tribute to it, while the words, "I love America," could also be seen.

In Arzo Akarzada's home language, she told WRTV she's so glad to be here and she's happy. Her husband, Sulman, was worried about their safety in Afghanistan since her family worked with the U.S. military.

He promised to marry her once they got here. It was a promise he was able to keep. They tied the knot in a chapel last week at Camp Atterbury. Now, they're waiting for a home in their dream state of California.

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Meals that are served at the base also reflect Afghan culture. The guests are served three meals a day and they have 24-hour access to snack stations. And, town halls are held three times a week giving the evacuees a chance to express concerns or share recommendations.

PREVIOUS | Close to 6,400 evacuees at Camp Atterbury; around 150 are pregnant, averaging one birth a day

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