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Afghan evacuees arrive in Virginia with optimism, excited to 'rebuild lives here'

Posted at 5:06 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 21:05:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- President Joe Biden on Tuesday said he chose to end the war in Afghanistan in order to focus the nation’s defenses on other security problems, including China and Russia. While the military presence in Afghanistan comes to an end, much work remains to be done to support and resettle Afghan people who evacuated from the country.

Commonwealth Catholic Charities has been among the groups helping Afghan evacuees who arrive in Virginia.

"They're stressed, they're scared. Many people still have extended family members who are still in Afghanistan who are fearing for their safety and for their lives," Jay Brown, CEO of Commonwealth Catholic Charities, said.

The majority of Afghan evacuees have come through Dulles Airport outside of Washington, DC. From there, many are taken to military bases around the country for processing. Three, Fort Lee, Fort Pickett, and Marine Corps Base Quantico are in Virginia.

APTOPIX US Afghanistan
Families evacuated from Kabul, Afghanistan, sit onboard a bus after they arrived at Washington Dulles International Airport, in Chantilly, Va., on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Brown and his staff were based out of Fort Lee.

"[We] made sure the kids had activities and other kinds of support," Brown said. "We provided some cultural education, cultural orientation, for the newly arrived families."

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam visited with evacuees at Fort Pickett on Monday. He said he expected ten percent of the refugees to permanently settle in Virginia.

Brown said his staff was now back in their offices for that stage -- and have seen over 120 people so far.

"Right here in Richmond, 42 people have come," he said. "We work with people to establish all the connections that they need, really to thrive in their new homes here in Virginia."

Brown said that includes things like finding places to live, enrolling kids in school, and finding jobs. He added most were in good spirits despite the situation from which they fled.

"What we see is really an overwhelming sense of optimism, and excitement to rebuild lives here, you know, in the United States," Brown said.