IEP students visit Karen village

With Term 3 coming to a finish, students and teachers in the IEP were fortunate once again to connect with the Sangob Foundation and spend our third community service day out in the lovely bucolic Karen village of Baan Mae Ka Pieng. 

As we like to say in the IEP, we are more than just a language programme: community service days out such as this perfectly demonstrate the dynamic learning that takes place outside of the classroom.

Rest sala in the distance behind the local noodle shop provides shade on a hot day

The Karen people are one of the many ethnic minority groups that migrated from Burma into Thailand in the last century. They are a kind, gentle people who live in harmony with their environment. It was an honour to spend the day with them learning about their ancient way of life. Students learned essential terms very relevant to our times, such as refugee, sustainable, migration, hill tribe, natural medicine, and many more.


Upon arrival at the village of Baan Mae Ka Pieng students demonstrated a collective attitude of calm. It quickly became obvious that our students were feeling more and more at home in nature. 


Students were divided into three groups where they had to work as a team, meandering through the village sketching homes, chatting to the locals, observing floral and fauna, and providing their thoughts on the juxtaposition of the Karen life compared to their own. 

A local shop, this is as close as it gets to a grocery store or 7/11 in the village: what a refreshing site to see!
Beetle nut sun-drying on the roof
IEP students feeling comfortable and welcomed by the kind hospitality of the Karen people

Local architecture blends in harmoniously with the hillside environment

Lunch was certainly a highlight of the visit as students relaxed in the cool shade of a roadside sala. In front of our rendezvous location was one of the cleanest, cosiest noodle shops I've ever laid my eyes on. No trip would have been complete without sampling a bowl from the master soup chef.

Local noodle shop and meeting point

Tools of the trade meticulously hung on the bamboo kitchen wall

After a relaxing lunch and short rest from the heat, the afternoon session was spent learning about weaving (the Karen handloom most of their clothing), daily life in the village, some essential phrases in the local dialect and a brief history of the Karen people.

Preparing cotton thread for the loom
Students listening attentively before testing their skills
Natural fibres ready for the loom
Looming lessons from an expert

Ajarn Laurent teaching students about how the Karen immigrated from Burma into Thailand

It was a fulfilling and soul-nourishing day for all. The students had a hands-on chance to experience life in a Karen village, learn essential terms for global citizens and let their imaginations run free in the expanse of the mountainous village of Baan Mae Ka Pieng. 

We can all take heart in knowing that all of the proceeds from our community service will go to building and sustaining permanent individual learning stations in the village. This will provide more work opportunities for Karen people. As there are fewer work possibilities in the villages these days, many Karen are forced to leave their homes to find work in the cities. It is our hope to not only encourage the Karen people to realise the value in their natural ways of living but to also help to provide them with a more permanent learning infrastructure in their village for future generations of students to come.  

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