The majority of the Karen people that we work with live in small villages dotted across the remote mountains west of Chiang Mai.

Whilst Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country, the Karen are Animist, Buddhist and 30% Christian. Religion is central to many aspects of identity and culture: moral and cultural values are passed down through stories and songs. Sex before marriage warrants a cleansing of the spirit and a fine from the villagers. Marriages must be approved by the parents. During the ceremony a knot is tied around the wrists to symbolise unity. In Animist villages the witch doctor plays an important role.

The Karen are the only hill tribe to have birth control. They do not intermarry with other hill tribes but do so occasionally with Thai people.

They make their own costumes and shoulder bags which are hand woven by the women sitting on the ground using a traditional strap loom. Patterns are handed down from generation to generation. Some natural dyes are used, produced from tree and plant extracts, and artificial dyes are also used to create the brighter colours. Weaving is a skill that remains important to the culture. They also commonly carry cotton shoulder bags, also woven in the villages.

The traditional Karen diet is made up largely of rice, eggs and spices. They also eat chicken, pork, fish and fruits such as, papaya, banana, mango and lychees.