Sorry to have been gone so long, the days and weeks since my last post have flown by; with August fast approaching I want to send out a quick update to ensure you that we have not dropped off the planet. In fact our work seems to be ever increasing. So here’s the catch-up, hopefully, I’ll be able to give individual events the proper attention they deserve now that KESS (Karen/English Summer School) has closed it’s doors for this year.

Kameleon Jewelry

We have received a very generous donation from this Dartmouth, Nova Scotia based organization for which we are extremely grateful. Kameleon Jewelry’s products are manufactured in Thailand. The owner Robert Smith was looking for a way to give back to the country his company has worked with for many years and, at the same time, support a grassroots organization that was also working in Canada. Our work with the Karen community in Ottawa and our projects in Thailand were a match. There is much more to this unexpected joining of giving spirits; I hope to write the full story of this karmic connection as soon as time allows. It is a story worth telling.

When I was in Bangkok this year my husband and I were treated to a tour of the factory where Kameleon’s jewelry is created. We were  hosted by a young Thai couple that Kameleon has worked with for many years.  Kameleon’s donation will certainly help us continue our work in Thailand and increase our ability to support education opportunities for Karen students in Ottawa. I plan to include a visit to their head office during my trip to the east coast in August.


DSCF36631-1024x768Every year KLEO coordinates a month long summer program for Karen students in July.  Four weeks of fun and learning! The Karen students in Ottawa spent the past month studying their language in the morning under the enthusiastic teachings of Tha Gay, a recent graduate from Carleton University, who leads the senior class. Mu Mu Aye worked with the younger students teaching the Karen alphabet and basic vocabulary.

English is the focus of the afternoon program. Kimberly Walsh donates her time to the SK – Grade 2 group. This is her second year with the program. Kim knows many of the Karen students from her experience as an OCDSB long term occasional teacher. Andrew was also back for a second year keeping the senior class, Grade 5-9 busy with creative, fun ways to learn English through music and games. Andrew taught ESL in Korea for many years.  We are fortunate to have him on board.

The volunteers worked on a video about KESS this year. We are working on the finishing touches and plan to share it on our site within the next few weeks. Special thanks to Adam Tibbitts for his contribution.

K’Nyaw Sie

The Karen farmers have been working hard and are now seeing the results of their labour.  Kloy Htoo, Shar La Lah and Lah Htoo shared their knowledge of Karen culture and traditional farming with the KESS students in July, certainly a benefit in helping them to understand where they came from and a renewed sense of respect for their elders.  The farm is now in peak season with a great variety of organic produce to offer.  If you are interested in purchasing their vegetables please drop by the Just Food location at Innis Road and Pepin Road. in Blackburn Hamlet on Sundays from 9:00 to 1:00 or contact us at for more information.

Kleo Volunteers

Our dedicated volunteers continue with their efforts to be supportive friends to their Karen families.  I’m happy to hear from you with your questions and concerns.  I know how much your friendships mean to the Karen people you are helping.  They talk to me about you with gratitude and respect.  Working with so many families I see an obvious difference between families who have had the support of a Canadian friend and those who have not.  You are making a difference. Thank you, “big like mountain, long like river”, as my Karen friends tell me in Thailand.  If you would like to share any of your experiences with others please let me know and we can add them to our volunteer blog.  Thank you Carolyn for your story.  We’ll get it on the site this month, it’s a great story of communities working together.

P1040776Voices of Culture

This exhibit, created and executed by Amika Gupta, was certainly a feast for the eyes.  There is a quiet, honest elegance in the photos that Amika chose for the presentation.  The photos, produced by Paul Duvernet, were displayed at Raw Sugar Café in Ottawa.  It was an intimate evening.  The location lends itself to a casual, friendly atmosphere.   There was a warmth and respect amongst the group that gathered.

The exhibit is certainly deserving of a space that would allow the viewer an opportunity to enjoy the stories which hang besides the photos.  The photos are deserving of a place that would provide the viewer the space required to enjoy this unique journey into an unknown cultural experience.  KLEO is actively looking for a location to present the exhibit in September.  The photos are unique in that they show the Karen culture through the eyes of the children who live in northern Thailand Karen villages.  If you are interested in hosting this exhibit please let us know.

That’s the best I can do for now folks.  Thanks for your patience.  I look forward to providing you with more details about our recent activities in a more personal way and hope my busy schedule will allow for updates in a more timely manner.

My apologies to the many people I have left out in my hast to reconnect with you all.

Happy Summer, Coleen