Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Afghans Begin New Life Host Family Helps Family of 6 Adjust

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Afghans Begin New Life Host Family Helps Family of 6 Adjust

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan D. Brandenburg, Times-Union correspondent

U.S. flags waved and red, white and blue balloons filled the air as an enthusiastic group from CrossRoad United Methodist Church on the Southside met their new family at Jacksonville International Airport on a recent night.

The new family is Sakina Ali Juma, a widow from Afghanistan, and her five children: Abdul Wali, 15, Adila, 12, Abdul Hakim, 10, Amina, 8, and Abdul Azim, 5. They came to the United States through World Relief, a Christian organization that rescues and resettles refugees from around the globe.

For the time being, the family will stay with their CrossRoad host family, Mary and David Gilbert, said Michelle Olson of World Relief.

"Then they'll move into an apartment in the Southside," she said.

World Relief provides apartment rent for three months, as well as basic furnishings, linens, cooking utensils and clothing.

"We are thrilled that CrossRoad Church is adopting this family," Olson said. "Not only will they help us to provide their basic needs, but they are extending the hand of friendship -- the most important gift of all."

"Our life has been pure chaos since they arrived," Mary Gilbert said at CrossRoad soon after the family's arrival in late April, chasing Azim and catching him up in her arms. "This one's a pistol. Everything is so new and exciting to him that he runs from one thing to another, and then he's gone!"

Shepherding their new Afghan family to the Crosswalk, a playroom used for children's church, the Gilbert family of six each walked protectively alongside a member of their new family.

"We came in two cars this morning, for some reason" grinned David Gilbert.

"This country must be like Disney World to them," said Mary Gilbert. "They've lived in a refugee camp in Pakistan for the past five years without running water or electricity. …

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