ST. LOUIS – For more than 200 years, immigrants have made their way to the United States and St. Louis in search of the American dream.

Some are escaping extreme hardships, poverty, and war. But now there’s a new home for the newest residents of St. Louis.

“Officially opening the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and also the Afghan Community Center,” said Gul Godakhil with the Afghan Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber of Commerce will help the Afghans who try to open a business in St. Louis City. We’ll help them with business planning, business administration, and finance through the bank. A lot of people have that experience in here, so this is a major step for us.”

A joyous occasion to celebrate the Afghan support program, which began in January 2021. In that time, the program has helped refugees resettle in St. Louis, learn computer coding, receive housing assistance, and use iPads to bridge the language barrier. The program also received entrepreneurial grants of $15,000 for select recipients trying to start a business.

“We at the International Institute actually have resettled about 725 in the last year,” said Arrey Obenson, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis. “But since then, we’ve seen about 150 Afghans come, so we’re approaching one thousand Afghans that have come to St. Louis.”

The ribbon cutting celebrated the new individuals and families establishing roots and thriving in St. Louis thanks to a group of civic leaders and faith-based leaders working together.

As well as the first Afghan Chamber of Commerce in the United States and the new Afghan newspaper called Akhbar St. Louis.

“When I came here, I needed mentors who sounded like me and wore clothes like me,” said Moji Sidiqi, program manager for Afghan Community Development. “But they didn’t exist. So, I held onto my identity in the best way that I could. But now it’s literally like decoration being Afghan. I mean, look at how St. Louis is celebrating being Afghan. I mean, who would have thought, not me. I’m still dreaming.”