Northview’s Karen and Karenni Students Our Karen/Karenni Students

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Northview’s Karen and Karenni Students

Our Karen/Karenni Students

  • Our Karen and Karenni students are refugees that come to us from any of 9 refugee camps in Thailand

  • Some students were born in a refugee camp while others may have lived in Burma and fled to a camp for safety

  • Some students have attended elementary school in the U.S., while others have just arrived

  • The 1st Karen student in MSDWT arrived in the fall of 2006 and is now a sophomore at NC

  • In 2008-2009, MSDWT had ~40 Karen students; this year there are more than 80 enrolled, including the 1st group of Karenni speakers

History of Burma

  • Burma achieved independence from Britain in 1948

  • In 1962, the military took control and began a Burmese socialist program; under the new regime, civilians were subject to many human rights abuses such as land confiscation, forced labor, and forced relocation

  • By the mid-1980s, the Burmese military had seized a majority of the Karen territory and the human rights abuse continued; the first wave of Karen refugees fled to Thailand in January, 1984

  • Refugees continue to seek shelter in camps along the Thai border

  • Today, Burma is sometimes called Myanmar, but the U.S. and other countries that do not support the current military government have not adopted the name change

The Refugee Experience

  • Around 150,000 people (mostly Karen and Karenni) are living in designated camps in Thailand; some have been there for more than 2 decades

  • Refugees are legal immigrants who are eligible to apply for legal permanent residence (green card) after 1 year in the US

  • The United States has nearly 5,000 refugees from Burma, of which about 3,500 are Karen

  • The US government proposes to resettle an additional 17,000 refugees from Burma in the fiscal year 2009

  • Over the next 5-10 years, Burmese refugees will be resettled in the United States, Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland

Interesting Facts

  • Karen use nicknames-there are no first or last names

  • Karen people are mostly farmers; dyeing cloth, weaving, and basket-making are also important activities

  • The Karen have always placed a high value on education, but many schools lack funds since the military outlawed many private schools

  • In surveys done by the United Nations (2005-06), of those applying for resettlement :

    • - 2/3 reported receiving primary, middle, or secondary education
    • - 1/3 reported receiving no education
    • - Fewer than 100 peopled received vocational training or attended university
  • Many Karen resettled in the US have little or no knowledge of English

  • Among the Karenni population, literacy rates are low and most literate Karenni use the Burmese language and script

  • Our population of Karen/Karenni families work primarily in housekeeping, meat processing, warehouse jobs, and other low-skilled occupations

  • Some parents commute as far as Logansport and Washington, IN for work

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