The roots of KHT can be traced back all the way to the 1980s.

In 1986 a very young Salahae (our current Karen Manager) alongside other members of the Karen community came together with Irish Expat Jim Soutar to address the lack of clean water in Karen villages. With little support from the government, villages were forced to rely on contaminated river water for drinking, cooking and washing.

To tackle this challenge, this group combined their knowledge to design our very first clean water system in the village of Mae Phon where the life changing benefits quickly became clear. With so much more need in the region, the idea was born to form a charity which would work with Karen communities to help build a better future for themselves. In 1989 this was made a reality with the registering of the Mae Phon Karen Hilltribes Trust.

Searching for a clean water source

A Volunteer Journey

It was then decided that central to the KHT ethos would be the welcoming of volunteers from the UK to assist with projects.

One of these young volunteers was Richard Worsley who in 1990 spent six months with the Karen, living in forests helping to build clean water systems and teaching English to Karen children. The memory of the Karen stayed with Richard who brought many stories home to his family.

Life was sadly short for Richard. In 1996, at the age of just 24, he was killed in a car accident.

A young Salahae and Richard

Remembering Richard

In memory of Richard, the Karen people dedicated a water system in the village of Huay Kong Po but his death was to leave a far greater legacy.

Richard’s mother, Penelope, touched by the stories Richard shared visited Huay Kong Po in 1999 and discovered the warmth and gratitude of the Karen people.

It was from here that a link with North Yorkshire was made. In 1999 Penelope joined the charity opening the first UK office in York, officially reregistering the charity in 2002 as the Karen Hilltribes Trust in memory of Richard. Jim then stepped away to work in another part of Northern Thailand.

KHT Today

Since its humble beginnings KHT has seen over 500 volunteers follow in the footsteps of Richard, who remain at the heart of the organisation. Many are still involved as donors, trustees, staff members, event participants, volunteer recruiters; the list is endless.

After 30 years Salahae continues to lead the work in Thailand and has formed a Karen team of six to help deliver projects across the region. In response to the expressed needs of the Karen, this work has now also expanded into the areas of food security and education with the aim to support the Karen in building a more sustainable future.

In the UK KHT is now headed up by former Volunteer, William Harnden for whom the memory of volunteering in the village of Mae Tho Tai stays vivid. William works closely with Salahae, and has seen the charity continue to grow, reaching out to increasingly isolated communities providing hope for the future.

William and our Karen staff