It was a great joy to drive to Albany with the brand new Ipad (plus accessories) that Nancy, a member of the Army Of Good, bought for Pan Young, an extraordinarily gifted senior at Bishop Maginn’s going to Sage University’s pre-med biology program on full scholarship.
Pan was described by her long-time teacher, Sue Silverstein, as one of the most remarkable students she has ever encountered.
She graduated with flying colors, but this is a sad and painful time for Pan, her family, and for many of her fellow students, many of whom survived the war, persecution and dangerous refugee camps.
Pam and her family are struggling – as are scores of Bishop Maginn refugee students, many of who are Asian – with the bloodshed and violence in Myanmar after a brutal military coup there.
Nancy Flakes, a blog reader and member of the Army Of Good, decided to send me an Ipad, keyboard, and stylus pen to bring to her as a going away to college gift. I also got Pan a new digital camera.
The horror stories from these refugee families, so many driven out of Burma (Myanmar) in several genocidal purges of dissidents and Karen Christians dating back to the late 1980’s.
The fighting is much broader now, Myanmar is descending into civil war, but these families are among the most vulnerable.
Many of these children at Bishop Maginn grew up in refugee camps; they hear stories of missing or shot grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors every day.
They thought the worst of it was over. It isn’t.
Pan wants to speak for the families under brutal siege. Her relatives told her that they had been forbidden from leaving their homes for any reason, including shopping for food. If they light a fire to try to cook, soldiers fire into the house.
If they use their cell phones to call her or for her, or go on the Internet, soldiers and police monitor Web traffic, and they come and arrest or shoot them in their homes.
Many are shot for going out at night to forage for food or simply for stepping outside in their own yards.
Many of their relatives have fled to the country to seek shelter and hide from the Army. But there is little food in the country either. Some say they are starving and losing hope that the outside world will interview. U.N. observers say hundreds of children have been shot and killed in protests.
Sue Silverstein, the school’s theology and art teacher says many of the Bishop Maginn students are hearing these stories and are angry and upset. I talked to several of them at the school today. Their stories are wrenching; they come pouring in every day, their hearts are breaking.
She works to help and comfort these children every day. Everyone one of them in the senior class is going to college.
“At Bishop Maginn,” Sue told me today, “our students have have a lot of things to adjust to. Routines have been disrupted, and milestones missed”.
She said watching the refugee students struggle to cope not only with COVID but with the danger and unrest in their homeland has been heartbreaking.
Pan’s mother is do devastated by the suffering in their family that she has broken down. Pan decided to go to college in Albany so she can care for her.
The families keep pleading with their families here for help, but there is little they can do.
“These refugee students are loving and always grateful,” said Sue, “they meet stress with prayer and positive attitudes. However, the news of relatives in peril has been almost impossible for them to cope with. The stories of destruction and death, of imprisonment and confinement, of loss of freedom, have left their families reeling. It is so important to them that the world hear their stories. They pray that the world will open their hearts and the at that help will come to their people soon.”
Jan hopes to spread this message as far and wide as she can. The Ipad will help. I thank Nancy Flakes for her generosity and thoughtfulness, Pan was thrilled to get her Ipad.
I am honored to know Pan and hear her call me friend, and to see her honesty, courage, and dedication to America, the country she loves so much.
Bishop Maginn will miss Pan, she has so many friends there.
She hopes to become a U.S. citizen in August. I think we will all be proud to have her. She is dynamic, hard-working, and has a great heart. She is also quite brave.