Local graduate survives brutal history lesson

PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – We all take history in high school. Providence resident Ni Don survived it and thrived afterwards.

Four years ago, she was living in Burma, where civil war has raged for decades.

“My family is Christian,” she tells us in the halls of Mount Pleasant High School.

Christians were and still are persecuted and as the pressure continued, her family was forced to flee to nearby Malaysia. Don remembers 30 to 40 refugees stuffed in small boats and sweltering vans as they were herded out of Burma. Don, her two brothers and her sister-in-law were separated from her parents.

“I thought I would die,” she says, tears welling in her eyes. “Because we cannot breathe and I thought I could not meet my parents again.”

She remembers going without food for about two weeks.

“And me and my sister-in-law and my brother, we almost died, starving of food.”

It was weeks before she saw her parents again.

“And I was so happy.”

But life in Malaysia brought new problems. She was arrested at one point for not having a passport and going to school was replaced by working almost non-stop. Four years later, the Don family was able to migrate to America.

“December 1st, 2010,” Don says, the date cemented in her mind.

But the first barrier in her new city was learning English.

“I was crying because I didn’t know anything,” she says. “It was hard.”

She was too old to play her favorite sport, volleyball, on the Mount Pleasant team, but she worked hard in class. She credits her teachers and counselors with helping her become a straight

A student and earning a full scholarship to Rhode Island College. Now, she hopes to become a nurse and someday return to Burma, even though the never ending civil war continues.

“I don’t hate them,” she says, referring to her countrymen who forced her family to leave Burma. “I forgive them even though they hate us for being Christian.”

Send story ideas to Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.


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