Notes from the field: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst

The Afya Foundation and our partners deliver supplies to refugee welcoming center in New Jersey

October 28, 2021

Earlier this month, the Afya Foundation traveled with representatives from Upwardly Global, the Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration (WJCI), Shames JCC, JCC of Mid-Westchester and the UJA-Federation of NY to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The base is welcoming thousands of Afghans, arriving daily from various locations in Europe and the Middle East, and helping them with transition of entry to the United States. The Afya Foundation, is partnering with the groups mentioned above to collect and deliver much needed medical and humanitarian supplies for these newcomers.

Thus far, we have made three substantial deliveries to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Our first truck load consisted of durable medical equipment, like crutches and wheelchairs, and other medical and humanitarian supplies worth more than $54,000. Our second shipment was packed with hygiene and personal care kits that Bloomberg staff generously purchased and packaged on our behalf. Included in these kits were welcome letters, signed by Upwardly Global, Afya and Bloomberg as well as information about Upwardly Global’s career services resources. Our third shipment was packed full of additional hygiene and personal care kits as well as clothes, strollers, coats and shoes collected by the WJCI and the UJA-Federation of New York.

Our visit to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst was dedicated to service and learning. We helped unpack two Afya truckloads of donated supplies and met with key staff to better understand current needs and how our collective could be most helpful. Our team has expertise in multiple areas and as a result we can respond to the community’s variety of needs and provide holistic support. 

Our first stop was the warehouse for donations led by Team Rubicon. Hundreds of boxes of vitally needed items, ready for use, were quickly emptied from the truck, placed on pallets and positioned for transfer to village stores. Team Rubicon is inundated with donations and expressed gratitude that Afya’s boxes, unlike many donations, are organized and labeled with single content items, sizes and quantities (eg. 30 men’s coats, size large). As a result, the supplies can be moved immediately to the village stores where guests can access the items they need for free. 

It will come as no surprise, that many of the Afghan guests are professionals — doctors, lawyers, engineers — who left their homeland because staying could have become a death sentence.  They are viscerally aware of what is happening at home, and for men and women that have experienced such unimaginable hardship, the energy on the base is surprisingly optimistic.

We were able to observe an Upwardly Global job coaching and info session for health professionals. This group included pharmacists, a top female OBGYN, an internist, medical faculty from Kabul and more. The Upwardly Global team worked their magic on career opportunities and hope began to fill the room.

A motto heard frequently on the base is: “better every day.” It speaks to the resiliency we saw there.

The community that has blossomed here is truly inspiring. We have visited refugee camps and resettlement sites worldwide, but there was something different about the scene here. A former Judge and community advocate in Kabul has started a beauty parlor to bring women together in a safe space. A barber who was beloved by US military for cutting their hair in Afghanistan is donating his time and is cutting officers’ hair once again as well as his fellow Afghan expats. A NJ State Policeman and Detective that speaks multiple Arabic languages has become an invested advocate on the base and is helping to heighten awareness of cultural needs and sensitivities. This was the first time we had ever heard leadership refer to refugees as “Guests” and mean it.

This response is a gorgeous example of the good that can come from companies and nonprofits working together for a shared cause. After having escaped extreme violence and reaching the United States, many with nothing but the clothes on their backs, we are hopeful that the supplies we have delivered will help to make the transition to America a little easier.

We left the base motivated to find additional ways to support this community awaiting the start of their new lives in the U.S.

Stay tuned.

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