JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- They traveled halfway around the world to stay with families in Jacksonville and to receive medical treatment - 16 children from Afghanistan arrived Wednesday morning and are now settling into their new homes for the summer. It's part of a program called Solace for Children.
The host families told First Coast News they were anxious as they waited for the children. "We're really excited, but a little nervous about the unexpected; the unknown," said Bryan Coker.
Coker's family of five will host a girl who is around 11-years-old. "She lives in an orphanage in Kabul and she suffers from chronic headaches."
The parents, and their kids, made posters to welcome the children. Each family knows little information about the child coming to live with them for the summer.
Marley Barton, 8, is excited to have another girl living at her house. "Her name is Sahib and she's going to be sleeping in my room."
Barton's mother, Susanna, knows the girl has one of the more serious medical conditions. "She has a cleft palate that needs correcting and we're excited to have her in our home."
"You learn so quickly a child is a child no matter what they look like or how they act or what language they speak. Love is a universal language," said Angie Cosper, who hosted a child last year and is one of the local organizers for Solace for Children.
Two interpreters travelled with the Afghan children to help everyone communicate. They will also attend each doctor's appointment.
"They're kids from all over Afghanistan from every Province thrown together coming to this place they've never heard of before to sleep with people in a home, they've never met," said Susanna. She said she's nervous so she can only image how they're feeling.
With tears in their eyes and joy and love in their hearts, the families welcomed the children to Jacksonville and into their homes. As they headed for baggage claim, the Coker's 9-year-old daughter Caroline walked hand in hand with the girl from Afghanistan who will be living in their home for the next six weeks.
Here are some ways local families, businesses, organizations and churches can help:
- By providing financial assistance to offset the cost of travel, humanitarian needs, visas and insurance.
- Donating clothing (in excellent condition), new underwear and used suitcases.
- Supply welcome bags of toiletries, gifts, etc..
First Coast News