Ploe and his family were victims of the second Myanmar Genocide.
Ploe is now 16 years old; he spent nine years in a United Nations refugee camp in Thailand; his family was driven from their homes in Myanmar massacres.
Ploe’s parents brought him to Bishop Maggin because he struggled to deal with continuing and frightening bullying and harassment in the public schools. The family are Karen Christians, and they believe in non-violence.
Ploe said he couldn’t fight back because he didn’t want to hurt anyone. He was afraid to talk to the teachers about it because he knew what happened to the kids believed to be “snitches.”
His parents had heard that Bishop Maginn was a safe place, a refuge for refugees. The school admitted him even though the family had no money for tuition. The Army of Good paid his tuition in full.
Many refugee children talk about being bullied and harassed in other schools. One Bishop Maginn student was hospitalized after a beating; another had his hair set on fire.
Ploe was a target for several reasons: he is small, has not yet mastered English, and is a refugee.
And because he didn’t have words yet to fight back against all of the taunts.
When I came into his classroom, he had been at Bishop Maginn High School for two days, just entering the seventh grade. Sue Silverstein, the art and theology teacher, pointed him out to me.
He was sitting in the middle of a table full of new friends, all of whom had welcomed him to his new school and made him feel at home and safe for the first time in his life.
I keep repeating myself, but Bishop Maginn is very special, a beacon of hope and love in a time of chaos and anger. They save lives; they get these kids to college, keep them safe, teach them English, and watch over them. They show them the true heart and soul of America.
I love this photograph. The refugee students know what it’s like to be isolated and fearful; they “adopt” and embrace and watch out for each other.
I was meeting him to help raise support for his tuition.
Soon, refugee children from Afghanistan will feel this love and support.
Pole is secure and thriving at Bishop Maginn, but the teachers noticed he seemed to be suffering from severe back pain last week.
When the school asked him about it, he said his back hurt from sleeping on the living room floor with his brother every night. His parents are working hard, but the pandemic set them back; they don’t yet have enough money to pay for beds or mattresses for their sons.
They sleep on the floor in the living room, the one-room they can afford to all winter.
The school has located one large bed frame in excellent condition. I volunteered to buy one large orthopedic mattress and have it shipped to his family’s apartment. This family has suffered enough.
I’ll be meeting with him today. Sue Silverstein says he still has all the friends who rushed to welcome him last year. He is thriving there, speaking English, planning on college. I have enough funds in the refugee account to buy the mattress; I want to pay for half of it myself. I ask for donations; I want to make some as well.
I’ll write more about Pole and his life this afternoon or evening when I get home from Albany. I give thanks for being able to help Ploe sleep well and live without pain. Thanks for your donations, which have made this possible.