NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — You saw them scrambling to get on planes to get out of their country, overtaken by the Taliban. Now, refugees from Afghanistan are arriving in Connecticut in search of a better life.
Thousands of people are here and News 8 is giving a closer look at how the state is welcoming them.
Afghans, Americans, and allies scrambled onto military planes, fleeing Afghanistan after an abrupt government collapse and Taliban takeover. Their immediate loss of freedom, jobs, money, and food, desperate and willing to do anything to get their families to safety.
The images hit close to home for Arzoo Rohbar.
“It just shows you, they fear their lives there,” Rohbar said.
Rohbar also escaped the Taliban as a child. She moved to Connecticut with her mom and four siblings, not knowing the language or what was ahead. Now, 20 years later, she works with Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (ISIR), welcoming those just like her.
“It’s traumatic, but at the same time, it’s exciting,” Rohbar said.
Exciting, as there’s hope for a better life, but now, busy for IRIS. Between September and December, Connecticut has or will become home to hundreds of refugee families. IRIS is only doing what it can to stay ahead of housing needs.
Typically when these refugee families come to Connecticut, volunteers like to start the preparation work about two weeks out and one week out to do the finishing touches. That includes making sure the fridge is fully stocked with familiar food items. But right now, that’s just not possible.
There are too many families coming so quickly with such short notice that people moving into homes are actually already in Connecticut, they are just waiting for the green like that their place is prepared.
A roof over their head is just the start. Many of them fled Afghanistan with only the clothes on their back.
“A lot of time when families come here, they don’t have time to pack and they need shoes, jackets, and this is where we bring them,” Rohbar said.
Donated clothing, a roof, some money, and a few toys for the little ones are what they’re given upon arrival which is just the start to life in America. Rohbar says it’s exciting for the families to reach safety, but culture shock is to be expected.
“As a kid in middle school, I would always be asked, ‘is Osama your dad’ or ‘why are you here, you should just go back to your country.’ It’s so traumatic, and they didn’t realize we didn’t leave because we wanted to,” Rohbar said.
As families move in, Rohbar encourages the community to open their hearts and remember why they left home, a home they’ll likely never see again.
“They came here to work to live a better life to give their kids better opportunities, so just be open-minded,” Rohbar said.
The influx in families has left IRIS needing donations. Landlords who may have homes or apartments available are being asked to help, and from the public, monetary donations are best. IRIS also needs donations of socks, shoes, winter clothing, food, toys for kids, bikes, and books.
For more information on how you can donate, click here.