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Afghans, supporters reflect one year after refugees arrive in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — One year ago, the first of what would become 7,200 Afghan refugees arrived at Camp Atterbury. Since then, all have resettled with 700 right here in Indiana.

From military personnel to federal and state officials, staff and volunteers, it roughly took 4,000 people to operate Camp Atterbury, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security. Doing something of this magnitude with such a fast turn around created challenges, but officials say working together made all the difference.

Images have a way of searing themselves into your memory, Often along with how you felt watching it all. Najia Sherzad Hoshmand, Afghan refugee, not only saw the images, she lived it.

“For us it has been a big trauma. Trauma you know it’s naturally something which could not be forgotten so easily,” Hoshmand said. “It doesn’t go away from your mind, from your heart.”

More than a dozen members of her family now call Indianapolis home. It’s a far cry from the home that she knew, but a place far too dangerous to stay.

“The violation of human rights, especially women’s rights. We women cannot go to school and as I have a daughter, I don’t think if I would be in Afghanistan my daughter would be able to go to school,” Hoshmand said.

Like the 94,000 refugees brought to American under Operation Allies Welcome, Hoshmand spent her first days at a military camp.

“We are lucky to be out of the country. At this moment,” she said.

Camp Atterbury housed roughly 7,200 people, referred to as Afghan guests. Nearly 50 percent were children — the largest at any of the military bases.

“As we were preparing to receive our guess I don’t think we probably thought about just that number,” said Aaron Batt, the Department of Homeland Security Operation Allies Welcome coordinator.

So not only were staff and volunteer working through anticipated challenges, others popped up Like the growing need for diapers and baby formula.

“The first two words. Thank you. I didn’t realize what resources and what capabilities existed within our community,” said Batt.

For now, Hoshmand says they are getting closer to truly making Indiana home.

“There is a hope in the city. There is a hope in the state and in this part of the World.”