Friends For Peace Day – Ottawa

Last year Nancy Maddams was invited to offer a presentation at the Friends for Peace Day on September 27th, 2014.  Nancy is a KLEO board member and a strong supporter of the Ladies of Nong Tao weaving initiative.  Nancy was unable to attend the event as her journey’s around the world continue and asked me to take over. The plan was for me to speak about the ancient technique of back-strap weaving used by the Karen people in Thailand and Burma. The inspiration of the intricate weaving patterns and designs,that have been handed from mother to daughter for centuries come from nature. Members of the Ottawa Karen Youth Club would also perform a fashion show of their colourful unique clothing.

Friends of Peace Day, “Is a day to celebrate the consciousness of peace, social justice and planetary care rather than bemoan their scarcity. Mayor Jim Watson had this to say: Friends for Peace is an outstanding organization that does very important work, promoting, strengthening and maintaining peace, planetary care and social justice within our communities and the environment. ” […]

By |September 21st, 2014||

Ban Rai – The Final Leg

As the last of this seasons work unfolds I plan to head to Mai Sariang to meet with Kolohtoo, the man we are working with to repair the Ban Rai dormitory.  Feeling slightly travel weary I procrastinate on when to go but finally put my things together on the 13th and head to the bus station in case I can catch a bus at the last minute. When traveling by bus from Chiang Mai one has to go to the bus station and purchase a ticket in advance or be prepared to wait until there is a free seat. It means two trips to the station and in this hot, dry, smokey season we are all moving at a snails pace and doing things twice is less than desirable. I make my wishes known at the ticket counter and suddenly a man motions me to follow him and runs out to stop the 1:30 large air-con bus just pulling out of the station.  I board an almost empty bus, relieved to see that this will be a more […]

By |March 15th, 2014||

Where Have All the Students Gone?

When I went to visit Mu Au Poo, Mu Aung in Thai, to visit Boowa and his family I had no intention of visiting the village school. I have been to the school many times and the only need they had expressed was for an English teacher. I have been unsuccessful in finding anyone and I’m never there long enough to reaIly be of much value. However, I ended up at the school begging for power to recharge my tablet which was doubling as my camera on the trip. There is no power in most of the homes despite the number of solar cells that are posted out front, another scheme by an ousted Prime Minister to get the votes of villagers who receive so little. Power for a vote seemed like a good idea at the time but the cells have long been outdated and are of no value.

Mu Au Poo has a government school, completely controlled by the Thai Education system. There is no Karen education, that fight long since given up. The teachers all speak […]

By |February 15th, 2014||

Travels with Boowa

Iam bouncing along mountain paths on the back of my friend Boowa’s motorbike when he stops to explain a major, “intersection”. He explains that one path leads to the Mae Wang and the other to the Chom Thong watershed districts. Robert Brownings, “Two Paths”, come to mind, the difference is that there are three diverging paths including the one we are on and they all say the same thing to me, “lost in the jungle, going around in circles for months”. It would certainly be true if you were not in the hands of a local Karen who understands the importance of the crossing. There are no signs distinguishing one from the other and again I feel privileged to experience the beauty of the jungle with my trusted friend.

We are heading from Boowa’s home village of Mu Au Pu where I have spend a couple days reconnecting with the villagers, to Mae Sapok where I will take a yellow songtao back to Chiang Mai. There are five colors of songtaos in Chiangmai, two that I use on a regular […]

By |January 30th, 2014||


A few photos to update you on the progress of the boys residence and the four new toilets. Doors went on today, shut tight make sure no one steps into the wet concrete floor. Walls and floor of the interior of the boys room.

We’re getting there.


By |January 21st, 2014||

Calling Back the K’la

This is the home of a Karen family who allowed me to call their house my home during my early years in the mountains in Thailand. The village priests and elders decide who is allowed to enter the village so perhaps it was decided that I stay at the priests house, just in case my k’la caused trouble in the village. Traditional Karen animists believe that the body has 16 pairs of k’la or spirits and an over soul that directs the others. The family and their ancestors have practised traditional animism for centuries.


The man in the photo was the father of this house and a village priest. He was my friend and each time I arrived in his village he would beckon me towards his house with a beautiful toothless smile and clear, kind eyes. Then came the year I heard his k’la wasn’t coming back and he wasn’t there to greet me anymore. The only name I ever knew him by was Pu, as is the custom of addressing a man of respect. I think he […]

By |December 13th, 2013||

Catch Up!

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 […]

By |July 26th, 2013||

K’nyaw Sie – A Photo Story – Farming in Ontario

This is a story of success, hope and a love of the land that allows the soul to breath. It is the story of one people’s emergence from hell, living under the rule of Burma’s military junta for decades, running from burning villages, seeking basic survival. A story about internally displaced people forced into hiding in Burma’s jungles, to up to 15 years or more in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border, to re-settlement in a third country.

It is a story of the Karen people’s endless courageous journey. I share my experiences in hopes that through these stories and pictures, we all may come to know the amazing farming Karen. It is said that soil runs through the veins of the Karen and from what I have seen it may be so.  The Karen people’s affinity to the land is unmistakeable.nally displaced people forced into hiding in Burma’s jungles, to up to 15 years or more in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border, to re-settlement in a third country.

When a Karen farmer picks up a handful of soil and lets […]

By |June 16th, 2013||

Heart – An evening at Quichua

Last week I had the pleasure of joining an amazing group of people in Ottawa at Quichua World Market on Richmond Road.  They came to hear about the most recent updates from my trip to northern Thailand and to learn about the work that KLEO is doing here in Ottawa and in Thailand.  Quichua has been supporting our work for a decade, first helping me with my efforts to provide education in Maw Wah Khee village, and since 2010 the KLEO Support Group’s work at Jen’s House.

The heart of Quichua is Jill and Jacinto Anguaya and their family.  Most people don’t know that Jill was a childhood friend of my daughter, Jen.  During their middle school years Jill and Jen were bound and determined that they were going to save something…whales, dolphins, the trees; actually the whole world was up for grabs!   I remember songs being written about saving the world and environmental issues being researched.

Jill and Jacinto’s children, Cora and Sami joined in and Sami, their son, sang some of his original compositions. I guess that the song writing is up to […]

By |May 7th, 2013||

Strength and Faith

The endurance and physical strength of the Karen women living in small mountain villages is truly amazing. I was in a small farming village a few weeks ago and snapped these photos as I watched the all women work crew, (see above) tend to the task of mending fences. I assumed it was to keep the roaming pigs, cows, and occasional water buffalo out of the fields. Karen animals live off the land and are unconcerned with foolish details such as eating a cash crop that the villagers have toiled over for weeks. Hence, the reason for the fence duty or so I thought. As they worked I wondered how they managed in the brutal heat of the day.

No diet or work-out decisions for them. They had it all sunshine, camaraderie, and, they didn’t even have to pay extra for the sauna facilities, it came with the package! By mid-day it must have been 40 degrees centigrade. I was relieved when I saw the women head in for a rest walking towards the home I was staying at which belonged to one […]

By |March 17th, 2013||