The Building
The Donations
The Trip

Pattaya, 27-03-2024

Dear donors and friends of the KF,

With a smile on our faces and a painful neck and back from the off-road shaking in the pickup truck, we are happy to announce the Kharma 2024 trip was a great success!

First some figures: we managed to raise 357,875 Baht, we build 1 dormitory/activities building, we donated 50 desks & chairs, and a 150 brand new mattresses & pillows & blankets were gifted, we brought dry food, school materials like books, study material, pens, stationary, toys and sports equipment. There is just under 12,000 baht left over, which will be divided over the 2 schools in the form of more kitchen tools and small things that are needed like a referee whistle and extra footballs. An update about this will follow when it is done. We like to thank you all to make this possible!

After 3 years of Covid and 1 year of getting back on our feet, we did not dare to expect anything, but really wanted to continue a 13-year run of a good cause. Also, with the troubles that the world is faced with Ukraine, Gaza and the forever rising costs of living I am amazed and feel blessed we managed to raise almost ten thousand euros. Thanks again!

The schools Baan Mae La Na and Baan Mae Omya are well hidden between the mountains of the north west of Thailand. About 10km away from the troubled Myanmar, both schools (and villages with the same name) feel the pressure of the civil war. The villages both have about 75 houses, mostly made of jungle wood and bamboo and the villages are about 50 to 60 years old. All villagers, students and teachers are from the Karen Hill Tribe. This group is spread over a region that is both in Myanmar and Thailand. A lot are stateless and therefor do not receive support from the government. Due to the war many Karen have fled over the border and they were in hidden refugee camps nearby, which we did not get to see. The kids of the refugees are welcomed to both schools, creating extra pressure. At Baan Mae La Na there are about 40 kids extra, at Mae Omya about 30. We did not get to see them as there is an understandable paranoia about if we are there just for charity or maybe also spying for the government. The day that we left and left all the donations behind, you could see a relief and joy in their eyes; both in the teachers, villagers and the children. “Wow, these guys actually just came to do some good and there are no strings, religious or else, attached.”

The teacher that picked us up, Mister Amarion, was super friendly. Already in the 4/5 hour drive up to the school he was very chatty, both in broken English as in broken Thai. He said, and I agree, that Thai is a lot harder to learn than English. He wasn’t scared to make mistakes and was a way better driver in the mountains than in the town where he picked us up, Mae Sarian. Upon arrival the kids were very wary as were the villagers, but we are used to that. Just keep your distance, do not force contact, do not make physical contact and just smile and have some Mr. Bean kind of jokes to break the ice. We were allowed to be the first people to sleep in the new building, which was also handily close to the only ‘farang toilet’ they had (basically a normal toilet as we know it). Miss Noodle and Miss Gina jumped in the kitchen and made a lovely dinner for all of us. Some cold beers and some music closed off the evening as we were all tired of travelling.

We can be ‘proud’ that we were the first white faces that visited these villages, for at least as long the teacher was working there (10+ years). Normally the only white faces that travel this broader area are people of faith that try to catch souls by offering some support but only if you become Christian. We came without ulterior motives. When this became clearer and to celebrate this, we got invited to a real Karen wedding in the small village, which was an experience. Everybody was on warm beers and the infamous home brew Lao Tom (a stronger rice wine, more a rice vodka) and of course we had to share celebratory drinks; a lot! By about 12 in the afternoon, we did the great escape, as it was getting a bit rowdy and intoxicated.

In the afternoon, with a little hang over, we separated all the school & sport & food stuff in two equal piles for the two schools. The evening was again made better by great food cooked by the girls; for the kids, teachers and volunteers.

The next day the teacher and kids from the Mae Omya school came to Mae La Na (about 7 kilometers apart, but almost an hour drive) for a small sport and play day and to receive the donations. As the schools are officially closed last week, about half the kids that live far away travelled home already usually by foot and in the mountains; there for you see only about 80 or 90 kids on the pictures. We did not want to come during their final week as they have exams, and we couldn’t go sooner as all volunteers have jobs and it is not easy to all be available at the same time. To see the kids play the games and to see the kids and villagers rummaging through the second hand and new clothing finding ‘new’ outfits… to see the teachers happy with the support: IT WAS PERFECT.

Then we had to do the hard travel back to the known world, which went pretty smooth, besides that the neck and back muscles had a real work out. To have that first warm shower, a real bed and easy restaurant food: it was truly bliss.

Here you go! another year and another project under the belt. 14 years already… a big one coming up next year! 15 years of Kharma Foundation. We will work extra hard to find a great place that is worthy of your donations.

THANK YOU ALL for your kind donations, big or small, money or second-hand stuff… It was all appreciated and loved. Have a great 2024 in good health and in happiness, and I hope the videos and pictures warm your heart.
Chok dee krap phom (Thai for Good luck!)