The Karen in Mayo came from one such camp (Ban Don Yang) to Ireland at the end of 2007. They are part of the Irish governments Programme Refugee resettlement programme which it undertakes in conjunction with the UNHCR. The programme is co-ordinated nationally by the Office of the Minister for Integration (OMI) who accept up to 200 programme Refugees annually for resettlement. All Programme Refugees spend eight weeks in the national refugee orientation in Ballyhaunis before being resettled around the country. Mayo was lucky to have been chosen as the location for the Karen resettlement and since late 2007 early 2008 we have had a Karen community in both Castlebar and Ballina.
Phaw Shee Hta walking near her home in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. West Ireland.
The Karen community grow their own vegetables near their new home in Castlebar. The caravan acts as a place to seek shelter from the cold winters in Co. Mayo, West Ireland.
Ara Moo, 21,from Burma, now living in Castlebar, Co. Mayo, West Ireland.” When I came to Ireland first too cold because it was winter. I got my new life in Ireland. When I came to Ireland first I can not go to school because I’m over eighteen. I can go to the V.E.C school. I find the English word very difficult for me ”
The Karen are deeply religious and devote Buddhists They show great tolerance for other religions and faiths. Above is a picture that still adorns the home of Paw Shee Hta in Castlebar, Co.Mayo. West Ireland.
Phaw Shee Hta from Burm now lives in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. ”I am here in Ireland nearly two years now. I am studying the English language and computers with my friends also. I am finding the English language difficult because English is not my own language, but I am improving at this and also with computers.I am so happy to be studying English and I am making new friends with the Irish people.They are helping us to integrate into the community ”
Christmas lights in the home of Paw Shee Hta in Castlebar, Co Mayo. The Karen are slowly integrating into Irish society and celebrate Western festivals such as Christmas and Easter with their family and friends.
Young Karen children playing in a community centre near Ballina, Co. Mayo.West Ireland.
The street where most of the Karen are now housed. Castlebar, Co. Mayo. West Ireland.
Karen elder Law Hok in the kitch of his new home in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. West Ireland.
Pictures of paw’s children and nephews on her window ledge in Castlebar, Co Mayo.
Paw’s daughter in her uniform at her school in Castlebar, Co. Mayo
Ara Moo uses his new phone before getting into his new car near his home in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. The Karen community have undergone tremendous changes to their daily lives and it has not been an easy journey to integrate into rural Ireland.
After Law Hak’s health deteriorated the family unable to care for him anymore decided he would need to go into full time respite care. Law found this extremely distressing as it was far removed from the rural life that he had lead along the Burmese / Thai border.
Paw waits outside her local health center in Castlebar. Co Mayo.