Strawberry Wine

The village of Mah Wah Glow is home to four students from Jen’s House. Tong Chai, who is currently studying law, Su Cha Da,(whose Mom is pictured above) and Jen Jera attending Sa Pa Tong High School, and sweet Rungtiwa who is in her first year at middle school. I spent a day with their families catching up and enjoying the rhythm of the village. There is a peace that comes over me whenever I amble through the small Karen villages. Alone with the children’s mothers a sense of belonging and acceptance fills me. In spite of my limited Karen language there is a communication beyond words, it is in the common desire that all mothers have for the happiness and success of their children. A kinship that I am privileged to share, as we work together towards providing the opportunities that will lead to their children’s happiness.

I traveled up, and I mean up from Nong Tao with the students, Jen’s House parents, Chai and Tamla and Amika. On our arrival we received a warm welcome at Jenjera’s home […]

By |March 8th, 2013||

Out and About

I have finally settled back in Chiang Mai after weeks on the road. I enjoyed a couple days rest after my trip to Mae Sariang and the camps, and then set out to visit some of our students’ parents in three Karen villages in the north. The journey included Maw Wah Khee, Ban Mai, Nong Tao, (to visit the “Ladies of Nong Tao”) and Maw Wah Glow. I arrived back in Chiang Mai with thoughts of staying put for a while, only to realize I had to head out to Mu Au Poo for two nights the following day. I’m happy to know that my head will rest on the same pillow for the next week…I hope. It will give me a chance to reflect, catch-up, and share some of my experiences with you.

I would be remiss if I did not begin by sharing the exceptional contributions that Amika Gupta has made during her two month internship with me in Thailand. I first met Amika during a craft/information opportunity set up by another volunteer, Carolyn at her work […]

By |March 2nd, 2013||

Mae Ra Moe Orphans

A couple of days into Mae Ra Moe with my senses full of the smells of the refugee camp; I remember how debilitating it can be for outsiders. The assault on our senses seeps slowly into our being, at first as a passing stench of something foul you can turn away from. However, as the days go by a deep rooted sourness spreads throughout your system, seeping into your pores and resting in your gut. I am reminded of this each time I am in the camps and even more so when I come out.

It is not eliminated simply by removing yourself from the camp. The only cure that works for me is the deep breathing that sleep brings under the scent of freshly washed cotton sheets.  It doesn’t happen overnight rather it leaves the same way it slithered in, with beads of sweat breaking through as the foulness seeps out with every breath. Even as I write this and take a deep breath I am aware of its lingering inside me. I’ve been home in Chiang Mai for […]

By |February 22nd, 2013||

Boowa

I first met Boowa in 2004 when he was the principal at Maw Wah Khee school, the starting point of my journey with the Karen people. The first time I saw Boowa he didn’t come out of the school to acknowledge my husband Bob and I; I think he’d seen enough farang (foreigners) to know not to get excited about another stanger who comes in, often with gifts that have no value and promises that will remain unfullfilled. I think we won him over with the quality of gifts we brought; medicine, workbooks, and warm clothes for the children and on a second visit blankets for the elders and specific items requested directly by the teachers.

Over the next ten years we worked on many projects to increase education possibilities for the Karen people. We have remained friends and I have had the priviledge of travelling with Boowa to places I would have never known existed.  I am honoured to be welcomed by his family, who live throughout the Doi Inthanon mountain area, and friends where ever and when […]

By |February 11th, 2013||

Juki’s Home!

On December 29th I invited Trish, a friend who volunteers for KLEO in Chiangmai, to join me on the trip to deliver the new sewing machine to Suneesa and friends in Nong Tao. The yellow songtao at Chiang Mai gate took us to Thung Siao to meet Chai. He was ready and waiting with Tamla and their children, who were going home for the four day New Year holidays when we arrived. It was nice to have an English speaking friend to share the event with, a rare but welcome occasion for me. Trish and I chatted along the way, the cool mountain air blowing through the open bed of the pick-up, rejuvenating us.

Driving up to Suneesa’s home it was obvious the greeting party had been assembled for some time. After welcomes were offered, Chai started to unload the machine. The ladies swiftly moved in on him and took over, they were in charge. Unloading the new sewing machine they moved it quickly inside to a place of honour in the front room.

It was as if a new […]

By |February 6th, 2013||

Suneesa Returns to Nong Tao

Nong Tao is a Karen village located in the upper section of the Mae Wang river basin in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. Nong Tao village has a population 564 people in a total of 114 households. The leaders of Nong Tao, who are well versed in the ways of the Karen people, use traditional knowledge, beliefs, fables and narratives as a means to instill a sense of interdependence between people and environment. Karen women from this area are master weavers with distinct individual family patterns, passed on from mothers to daughters for as long as there have been Karen mothers and daughters.

Nong Tao is also home to a young Karen woman, who lived at Jen’s House for three years. Suneesa graduated high school in March 2012. Last year she spent her time studying sewing and design. Suneesa’s dream, to return to her village and begin a small business that will provide income for women is about to come true.  KLEO Support Group will guide Suneesa through this process. An initial meeting was held on December 16th, 2012. I […]

By |February 6th, 2013||

Purchasing Juki…

In late December 2012 the Ladies of Nong Tao came to Chiang Mai to purchase their first piece of equipment. This group of master weavers know little about sewing other than the simple hand sewing used to stitch pieces of woven cloth to create free form garments. The ladies know virtually nothing about purchasing a sewing machine; it would be up to Sunessa, guided by Tamla and myself, to make the final decision.

Early Wednesday morning Suneesa and her mother made the trip from Nong Tao to Thung Siao to meet up with Tamla. None of the women are able to drive the truck at Jen’s House into the city so another friend was recruited to be the driver. They called to tell me they would be at my place at 11:30.

The choice of sewing machine had been narrowed down after research and comparative shopping the week before. Our collective decision was to purchase at a small dealer close to my place; the deciding factor was the full year warranty they were offering. Our small group made its way down Chiang […]

By |February 2nd, 2013||