With family trapped in Afghanistan, Virginia man offers free mental health services to Afghan community

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)– Two Virginia military bases will welcome their first round of Afghan refugees this weekend and residents here in Central Virginia are planning to help.

After Fort Lee, both Fort Pickett and Quantico are the next bases that will be providing temporary housing to refugees. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said a number of families have reached out to find out how they can help.

The crisis in Afghanistan is taking its toll on the Afghan community.

Mohammad Baig is a licensed counselor in Stafford and has worked in mental health since 2009. Baig is from Pakistan and his wife, Sajiah Baig, is from Afghanistan. According to Baig, several of their family members are trapped.

He told 8News, many in the community feel ‘hopelessness, fear, and uncertainty.’

“My in-laws still have family that live in Afghanistan and they report the atrocities that are happening there,” Baig said.

As of this morning, Governor Ralph Northam said 14,000 refugees have arrived through Dulles International Airport.

“This is where Virginia’s responsibility begins,” Northam said.

Dulles Airport was the first and only point of entry until Philadelphia International Airport was recently added. Dulles will continue to be the primary airport.

“It’s one of the largest airlifts in the history of the United States,” Northam said.

The first group of evacuees is set to arrive at Fort Pickett in Blackstone tomorrow and at Quantico on Sunday. Fort Pickett has a current capacity of 3,800 people. Northam said it can be scaled up to house 5,000 and even 10,000 if needed. Quantico’s current capacity is 1,000 people, but it can be scaled up to house 5,000 people.

Northam told 8News, there’s just a handful of people housed at Fort Lee. Refugees are staying at the military base for an average of three to five days.

“Our mission is to obviously bring Americans home safely and certainly help our Afghan allies build a new life here,” Northam said.

Virginia is catering to two groups of people — U.S. citizens, and non-U.S. citizens.

The Commonwealth activated the Virginia Emergency Repatriation Plan on Aug. 15, the day Kabul fell to the Taliban. This is Virginia’s plan to provide temporary assistance to U.S. citizens. When U.S. citizens arrive, they go through immigration and customs, receive a COVID test, and then go on their way.

Non-U.S. citizens go to a transfer point at the Dulles Expo Center which is ten minutes away from the airport. There, people go through a similar immigration and vetting process. Military flights and buses take evacuees to military installations for further processing.

Northam said everyone must be tested or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. According to Northam, less than 20 people coming into the state have tested positive for the virus. Those who are positive are being quarantined in Loudon County.

Virginia residents are also gearing up to help the expected refugees. Baig is offering free tele-counseling services to the Afghan community until the end of November.

“Providing the emotional support for them in their dire need is critical,” Baig said.

To inquire about free counseling services, visit Baig’s website and send him an email.

In the meantime, all Chesterfield County Public Library locations are accepting drop-off donations for refugees. This is a partnership with the libraries, Chesterfield’s Citizen Information & Resources, and the Islamic Center of Virginia.

Here are the regular and travel-sized items that are needed:

Regular-sized items needed:

  • wet wipe packs
  • diapers of all sizes
  • children’s coloring books
  • crayons
  • toothbrushes

Travel-sized items needed:

  • hand sanitizer
  • toothpaste
  • shampoo and conditioner
  • body wash
  • mouthwash
  • lotion

You can make a monetary donation directly to the Islamic Center of Virginia towards Afghan refugees here. Select “Refugee” from the category list.

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