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Who are the Karen?



Imagine your family as the targets of cultural oppression. Your children unable to receive an education because the nearest school is hours away and the threat of unmarked landmines is very real. Imagine the threat of armed conflict and the burden of worrying how you can protect your family always in the back of your mind. Imagine having to endure all this simply because you speak a different language and embrace a different culture. This has been the reality for Karen families living in the hilly jungles of Myanmar(Burma) for over seven decades.


There are an estimated five million Karen, who share a similar ancestry, but there are also large cultural differences among groups of Karen. About 75% of ethnic Karen are Buddhist, 20% are Christian, and roughly 5% practice traditional animism, a significant religion for this population prior to the influence of Christian missionaries. Additionally, there are twenty different dialects of the Karen language with S’gaw and Pwo being the most common. Although there have been isolated clashes in the past between the Karen Buddhist and Christian armed groups, Karen people remain largely united with common goals rooted in social justice for those within the Karen State.

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War has been a constant in the lives of people in the Karen State of Myanmar for over 70 years. This civil conflict between the Burmese military and the Karen holds the record of the longest running civil war in history. Understanding the lives of Karen people simply would not be complete without understanding the impact of this war. For generations villages have been burned, families have been separated, people have starved, millions have fled and the very existence of Karen people continues to be threatened.


As a result of generations of war, education throughout the Karen community has remained a top priority, although it isn't always easily attainable. Many Karen villages only have a primary school and teachers make less than $10 USD a month. School facilities are minimal and resources are virtually non-existent. Additionally, for students to receive secondary education, families must often make sacrifices, both financially and emotionally, as students will likely need to leave the village to study. Even with all the roadblocks in place, education remains central to the Karen culture.

Image by Z


Imagine, now, a world where all Karen children have access to quality education. A world where they can rise out of poverty and support their families and villages. A world where they are no longer oppressed solely based on their ethnicity. You can be the hero these kids so desperately need. With your donation of $15 a month, you can cover an entire year of tuition costs for a Karen child seeking a secondary education.

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