25 March

The Search For The Laptop Refugee Kids

by Jon Katz

Tomorrow morning at 9 a.m., I’m packing up these laptops, which have taken over half of our dining room and driving to a convenience store halfway between here and Albany.

There, I will meet Dr.Borden, the English teacher at Bishop Maginn who is setting up the school’s Mobile Classroom.

The teachers at Bishop Maginn High School have spent the last couple of days tracking the students they haven’t heard from since the school closed last Monday.

The take note of the kids who have never responded online, or called to explain their silence. Some of these families have no phones or just limited minutes on cell phones.

John Borden and the other teachers are contacting them the silent ones one by one or writing them and making lists of the students that need a computer.

Local cable companies are installing free WI-FI- for several months.

So far, the list is at 20 who are in urgent need of laptops, and 20 is the number of laptops I’ve been able to get with the help of the Army Of Good.

I feel the need to tell you, good people, that without these laptops, these children would be totally cut off from their friends, their school, and their new lives in America.

These computers are tools they could never have purchased on their own and that the school has no funds to purchase for them. Thanks to you, they can step out of their loneliness and isolation and regain some of their interrupted lives. They can see and talk to their friends and teachers and start learning again.

I’ve seen the refugee students away from school, they didn’t grow up on Facebook or social media, they are creative and independent -they make and play their own games, mend and alter clothes, sing songs from the home countries.

But many have little or no technology.

The food (grocery gift cards) we have been providing has made a profound difference as well. One family we are helping is raising nine children from different families, some of their parents were killed in the violence, genocide, and civil war they fled.

America used to welcome these families and now tries to frighten them, demonize them and eliminate any assistance.

Sue Silverstein send me this message tonight:

“In a time when families have stress over their work, school, places of worship and health, it is an unbelievable blessing to be able to let them know they are loved by total strangers. These people have become the one light during a dark time for many.

Blessings to all who have helped us! The needs are growing each day as more and more people are sick and out of work due to layoffs. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Sue told me she honestly didn’t know how some of these families – shy and reluctant to ask for help – could have managed without this help.

The grocery store gift cards are the difference right now between hunger and health and peace of mind. Note, if you are buying gift cards, they must be shipped to me, Jon Katz, 2502 State Route 22, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

As Sue said, the laptops bring light into darkness and hope instead of despair. I’m afraid the worst is yet to come for some of these children.

I’ll stick it out with them, as long as it takes.

Thanks for our help and support.

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