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Teaching in the Karen Hilltribe Village Khunmaela (Thailand)

Teaching English in primary and secondary schools in northern Thailand.

Kiran McCann (2008, Engineering)

On the morning of 6th August 2012, I was making my way to a small Karen hilltribe village, located in the remote mountainous regions of northern Thailand. Little did I know at this point that I was about to embark on what was to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

For centuries much of the population of northern Thailand has been composed of ethnic groups commonly known as 'hill tribes'. The largest of these is the Karen group, with a population of around 400,000 in Thailand and a further eight million living over the border in Myanmar (Burma). Their history in northern Thailand can be traced back to the twelfth century, when it is thought that Karen originally came from Tibet, through China, Myanmar and eventually across the border into Thailand. The Karen Hilltribes Trust was set up in 1999 by Penelope Worsley in memory of her son, Richard, and since then it has gone on to raise over £2.5m to help improve health and education in over 400 villages in northern Thailand. Each year the charity arranges for volunteers to go out and stay with families in the villages and teach English in the local schools. This year I got the opportunity to stay with a family, in the village of Khunmaela.

I had met Salahae, the Karen manager for the Trust, in the small town of Khun Yuam and from there we drove in his pickup truck through the mountains towards Khunmaela, a journey of just over two hours. As we meandered up through the old mountain roads, steadily distancing ourselves from civilisation, I remember being absolutely blown away by the scenery .... Read more

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