Clean water for a Karen village in Burma is within our reach! I work in Geelong for Diversitat with a group of Karen people, migrants from Burma (the new name ‘Myanmar’ I notice is never used by the Karen). My role is to support them in maintaining their culture of weaving fabric and making baskets. Their weaving skill is phenomenal and is accomplished with minimal equipment, which they often put together themselves using all manner of objects. I have come to know them as warm-hearted, generous, unassuming and gentle, with a strong sense of community and a resourcefulness which we could all learn from.
Recently I travelled to the Thai-Burma border area as a companion to our young interpreter, Mumu. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Karen. They live mostly in the hills bordering the eastern mountainous region of Burma, an area known as Karen state and a small number in north-western Thailand, the Thai Karen. Those in Burma have been suffering persecution for the past 70 years, with thousands having to flee and seek refuge in temporary camps in Thailand. The people I work with have all spent many years living in refugee camps, just over the border from Burma. Mumu herself lived in Mae La camp from the age of five until she was 22, when she was able to be resettled in Australia. Although born in Burma, she identifies more with Thailand, having spent most of her life there.
We based our trip in Northern Thailand, visiting places which Mumu knew of but had never visited, owing to the restrictions of living in a refugee camp. We were mainly hosted by Thai Karen, people Mumu knew well from her time in Mae La camp, which she was keen to visit. One family in particular, Ku Thee, Dodo and their son Daepoe, made this all possible for us. Ku Thee had been an English teacher at Mae La. They made us very welcome and assisted us by driving us wherever we wanted to go. Daepoe accompanied us on the trips, during which time I learnt more of his ambitions. He had recently completed a period of conscription with the Thai army and was seeking to further his education. His elder sister already had work with a medical NGO which worked assisting all the refugee camps and this is the line of work Daepoe is also interested in. He asked me to help him with the English grammar for an article he was composing. It was an appeal for clean water for a remote village in Burma. Daepoe is donating his time for this project because as a Thai Karen he felt an affiliation with and wanted to help the persecuted Karen over the border.
The project he had in mind was direct, simple and achievable, for what would be to us in Australia only a small sum. Before long we had the project turned into a ‘Pozible’ fundraiser. He is so proud! For me it was the perfect opportunity to make a difference, not only to support an entire village with the basic need of clean water, but to empower this young man to establish himself and his future.
Our Pozible project can be found here: https://pozible.com/project/clean-water-for-wao-gaw-ki We only need $1,400 of which we have nearly half, please donate before it finishes on the weekend, March 13th.
Written by Caroline Hawkins
Photo: Mumu and I with one of her old friends who is now a member of the Karen National Defence Army.