From Fall 2021 through early 2022, Liberty Village was the temporary home to 16,000 Afghan evacuees, 40% of whom were children under the age of 14. Located at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, Liberty Village was part of Operation Allies Welcome and had many programs to aid its residents with adjusting to their new lives. Each week families were relocated to new places of residence and it was important for them to understand how to get around safely in their new environment.

Safe Routes to School Coordinators from several of New Jersey’s Transportation Management Associations (TMAs), Keep Middlesex Moving, Cross County Connection, and Greater Mercer TMA, visited the Joint Base to teach 120 children in Liberty Village in February. The children eagerly listened to presentations and participated in interactive demonstrations about walking and bicycling safety and traffic awareness. Getting around safely and independently is an important part of a child’s development and boosts confidence. Walking and bicycling are especially important for kids to learn about their surroundings and become a part of their community.

Working with partners from the US Coast Guard, the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the TMA Safe Routes Coordinators welcomed this opportunity to share their knowledge and teach these important life skills to the children of Liberty Village.  Wherever these students wind up, we are confident that their experiences learning from the knowledgeable TMA Safe Routes to School Coordinators as part of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program have helped to instill within them the knowledge and confidence they need to walk and bike safely to school and wherever else they may travel within their new communities.

Special thanks to Keep Middlesex Moving for contributions to this article!

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