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Efforts in place to help Afghan evacuees as they transition into new communities

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Posted at 6:44 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-14 09:44:25-04

JOHNSON COUNTY — Many people and groups have stepped up to help the Afghan refugees who are staying at Camp Atterbury right now in Edinburgh.

The Department of Homeland Security says the number of Afghan refugees at Camp Atterbury continues to change, as more people are brought in. Local resettlement groups and community organizations are trying to make a seamless transition for these evacuees who have undergone so much.

Rupal Thanawala with the Asian American Alliance knows firsthand what it takes to assimilate to an entirely new culture.

“I, myself, have been an immigrant and I can tell you that first of all, this country is very different than where we come from,” Thanawala said. “So whether it’s food, dressing, the gadgets that we use, the basic rules and regulations. Everything is different.”

"The challenges ahead, aside from the language barrier, will be enrolling children in school and learning how to drive, as many foreign countries have strong public transportation. But before addressing any of that, the most urgent appeal at this time, this week we are— actually one of our sisters from the task force is going today to deliver to Camp Atterbury the clothes and the shoes.” Dr. Arman Siddiqui, the Al-Huda Foundation Board of Directors President said.

The Al-Huda Foundation, which serves the Muslim congregation in Indiana, has created a task force to not only deal with the refugees’ immediate needs while at Camp Atterbury, but beyond.

The priest of the Al-Huda Mosque in Fishers is also from Afghanistan and visits the camp twice a week, helping with translation and any other needs they might have. The task force has been collecting clothes, shoes, prayer rugs, and other cultural items to bring the refugees on a regular basis.

“How many boxes are delivered? What is the need right now? How are we are meeting our needs and if we need to do more, we will provide more,” Siddiqui asked.

“They are coming out of a traumatic experience,” Thanawala added. “So, their mental health is very critical and how do we keep them engaged?”

The Asian American Alliance said their focus right now is on the kids, collecting educational tools, and toys to keep them busy.

“They will need support not just the next eight to nine weeks of age right now while they are at Camp Atterbury, but for years to come,” Thanawala said.

The Al-Huda Foundation has a drop off location for the needed items at Al-Huda Mosque. Every week, at least a couple of times a week, they are trying to deliver items to Camp Atterbury.

Al-Huda Cemetery Coordinator Ali Abufares is in communication with the authorities there just in case there is a need for funeral and burial services, Al-Huda will also provide assistance with that.

Only new items with tags are allowed to be donated at the camp. (All ages, from newborn to adult, both male and female needs are accepted).

Below is a list of the following items that are currently in need for the evacuees:

  • Socks
  • Long pants
  • Long sleeved shirts
  • Shoes
  • Sweaters
  • Sweatshirts
  • Jackets
  • Toiletries: including toothpaste, soap, lotion, sanitary napkins
  • Underwear: including bras and panties
  • Baby formula -- sensitive
  • Baby bottles

People interested in donating can find more information here.


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