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One year after evacuation, Afghan refugees adapting to Arizona life

It's been a year since the Afghan government fell to the Taliban in a historic end to America's 20-year involvement in the nation.

PHOENIX — Roughly 2,000 Afghan refugees now call Arizona home since last year’s evacuation by the U.S. military from Afghanistan.

Supporting the refugees has been “the most urgent refugee crisis” in 20 years of work, said Joanne Morales who is the Director of Refugee Programs at Catholic Charities. It's one of eight organizations statewide supporting the refugees.

“It’s families, sometimes generations. We’ve seen grandparents. Lots of small children and babies,” Morales said. “These families just want to find work and move on with their lives.”

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Worrying about their families in Afghanistan

Social workers say because many of the families brought to the U.S. had at least one family member working for the U.S. military, it is common for the refugees to speak English. The hot job market has also allowed many to find work easily.

“Many of them are grateful to just have housing and simply to be in a safe place,” Morales said.

Most of the 2,000 Afghan refugees placed throughout the state decline to identify themselves to news media because they still have relatives back home whose lives might be in danger.

A few have spoken out during the past year, including “Fahima”, one of 60 Afghan women who enrolled at ASU after arriving here. In May Fahima told 12 News she wanted to return to Afghanistan eventually.

"I want to help women to know about their rights and live independently and to be treated equally. I know it’s hard but I hope that one day I can do a little bit of positive changes,” said Fahima. 

RELATED: Afghan refugee students finding success in Arizona

How to help Afghan children and families

Morales credits Arizona public school employees for adapting so quickly to the needs of school-aged Afghan children.

“I think the schools have done an amazing job,” Morales said. “A lot of credit is due to teachers and schools supporting the children that were rapidly placed.

How can Arizonans help?

Morales says Arizonans interested to help Afghan refugees should ask their local school district if they need support with tutoring or with school supplies.

They can also contact one of Arizona’s eight refugee charities to volunteer time or money.

“People can make a cash donations, they can make a donation of goods,” Morales said.

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