EDINBURGH, Ind. (WISH) — More than 500 Afghan refugees are already in Indiana a day after the first flight arrived, the disaster relief agency Team Rubicon said Friday.
Indiana was initially going to serve as an overflow state, but the need grew so fast that the timeline got bumped up by almost a week. Team Rubicon said Indiana could start seeing three to five more flights coming in every day.
Hundreds of Afghan refugees have experienced more than just a plane ride to a new life in America. Their luggage, they can’t physically carry it, but it can weigh a ton.
“Being evacuated in this military operation with literally a pair of clothes and leaving all their belongings and not have the opportunity to bring their families, it’s a lot of trauma also,” said Rupal Thanawala, Asian American Alliance president.
Hers is one of many organization working with the disaster relief agency Team Rubicon to help incoming refugees get settled at Camp Atterbury. Part of that work includes coordinating donation efforts for immediate needs such as prayer rugs and copies of the Quran.
“I myself have come to Indiana as an immigrant 25 years ago, so I absolutely understand that there is an anxiety when you come,” she said.
Mike Martel with Team Rubicon said, just as they were mapping out donating collection sites, more refugees started arriving days earlier than initially expected. So while many will rush to donate, there are specific needs they’d like to suggest for potential donors.
“Everybody wants to help whenever there’s a disaster or a crisis. There’s a lot of people that want to get involved. What that has done, what we’ve seen in the past, things like that people bringing their ‘Well, I only wore it once,’ and you get tens of thousands of items that we can’t reuse,” Martel said.
Instead, Team Rubicon encourage people to reach out to community organizations to donate new culturally and religiously appropriate clothing. Most importantly, consider donating money.
“With COVID and any other possible thing that could be there, taking that risk especially for people coming in, you have concerns. We don’t want to introduce them to the country that way.”
Team Rubicon said this is an ever-evolving process, and after days of flights and screenings, they are hoping to provide space for Indiana guests to finally get a chance to relax.