PEMBERTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — We’re getting first look inside Liberty Village on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, where 11,000 Afghan refugees are currently housed awaiting resettlement as part of “Operation Allies Welcome.”
CBS2’s Jessica Moore recently spoke with two refugees and has more what life is like as they assimilate into America.
There were smiling Afghan boys playing soccer in the yard between two barracks, each of which houses hundreds of guests. Officials say 40% of the refugees currently housed at the joint base are under 14 years old. Silen Hussainzada, a 25-year-old attorney, was the only member of her family to escape Afghanistan.
“How different is life over here? Was it a shock at first?” Moore asked.
“Yes, it was. There’s no boundaries, there’s no limits for your dreams. Everything can come true. Back in Afghanistan, it’s not like that,” Hussainzada said.
Inside Liberty Village, young children learn English, while families eat halal foods from one of three dining halls open 24/7. In addition, parents pick up donated winter coats, shoes, diapers and formula.
“Besides everything, besides the freedom, besides the job opportunities and everything we have in here, there is also another name for the United States: The Land of opportunities,” Sana Khairi said through a translator.
Khairi, an 18-year-old artist, spends her time painting and writing. She said she hopes to one day become a doctor in the U.S.
“We are very thankful for everything that they’ve done,” Khairi said.
There is no formal schooling on base. Instead, the focus is on teaching the guests how to live in America. Things like, how to shop in a store, go to the doctor’s office, and use American money.
“I think it is an opportunity to get familiar with the U.S. for me and many other afghans because they have no idea how U.S. is going to be. Afghanistan was the worst country in the world and U.S. is the first country,” Hussainzada said.
The medical center serves as doctor’s and dentist’s office, hospital, and mental health facility.
“The biggest emotion I can see is hope and joy, for a better life,” Cultural Assessment Team Staff Sgt. Javad Javid said.
Afghan guests stay on base anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, with ongoing efforts to permanently resettle them into communities across the country.
Federal officials have said the goal is to have all Afghan refugees resettled by February, but it may take longer. About half are already resettled. Another 3,000 are still overseas waiting to come to the U.S.