Afghan refugees celebrate 1st Thanksgiving in U.S.

Thanksgiving came early on Tuesday during a celebration for 17 Afghan refugee families in Concord, who arrived in the United States only a few months ago. 

With the help of donations, THE Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center has been helping them make the transition into a new beginning.

Afghan refugees said the journey to the United States was difficult but well worth it and that they have much to be thankful for as they observe a new tradition: Thanksgiving.

 When asked how she felt celebrating Thanksgiving, Safoora Danishju-Sareer who came from Afghanistan with her husband and two children laughed and said, "Very happy, I see a lot of people from Afghanistan."

MORE: Afghan family seeks ordinary life in Bay Area after fleeing Taliban

Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center partnered with nonprofits, city and county officials to welcome these families in part by introducing them to Thanksgiving 

 "It gives them some hope that's it's going to be OK. I know for a lot of them, they're going to be homesick. They're really traumatized the way everything happened," said Mena Akbar with Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center.

 Sayed Hofioni who escaped with his wife and three young daughters, shared a video with KTVU showing the many people struggling to get into the the Kabul airport in August. 

He said it took eight days of trying before he and his family managed to leave Afghanistan, "When you're drowning, you just try to hold onto everything."

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After arriving in the United States, the family has been living in a hotel in the East Bay for months.

"It feels great to have all my family here. It's a blessing," said Hofioni.  

 Organizers say each of the families was gifted $200 in cash and given a care package which included jackets, blankets and other items. 

Retired Lt. Colonel Mike Hudson with the U.S. Marine Corps was among the volunteers who helped serve Thanksgiving meals to the families.

He said he served two tours in Afghanistan and that his mission isn't over.

Hudson considers the Afghan people family. 

"Any time you're with family, you're helping each other. You're working together," Hudson said. "That helps me personally, knowing that we're connecting, that shared sense of community."

 The families said they're grateful.

"We all have to focus, to cherish each other. Love each other. Help each other," said Hofioni. 

 After months of living in a hotel room, he and his family will be moving into a two bedroom apartment Wednesday, just in time for Thanksgiving.

They'll have a new home to start their new life.

To help Noor Islamic and Cultural Community Center provide assistance to refugees, click here.