Every so often something captures your imagination doesn’t it. At the Festival of Quilts this year I met a stallholder who many may have noticed, or even passed by without a glance. I stopped and bought a beautiful coat from them .. well more of a summer jacket if truth be known. But I stood and spoke to Beryl for a while and this is her story – if you see her at any of the shows when you are there at least stop and say hello.
South East Asian Textiles and Crafts
Supporting the Karenni people of Burma/Myanmar
The Karenni Student Development Programme (KSDP), also known as ‘AID for BURMA’ is a small UK registered charity which funds projects for the Karenni people of Burma/Myanmar. Their home country has suffered from over 70 years of civil war, having being ruled for the majority of that time by a brutal military junta, and many thousands of Karenni people still live in refugee camps on the Thai/Burma border, where they have no rights and a very impoverished existence. The KSDP charity supports orphanages and youth projects in the refugee camps on Thai soil, and within Karenni State, Burma, KSDP funds kindergartens, secondary education, the ‘Caring Stars Clinic’, in the remote village of TeeTha Kaloe, and other healthcare projects such as backpack medics and their training and medicines.
The country is slowly moving toward democracy but the Karenni people, along with many thousands of other ‘ethnic’ people of Burma, most of who are subsistence farmers, receive very little funding from the central government for basic necessities such as healthcare and education and have to rely on overseas aid.
KSDP was founded in 1999 by Stephanie Lee when she discovered the Karenni refugee camp deep in the Thai jungle during her gap year. She returned every university vacation to the camp to teach English, but tragically in 2001 at the age of 21 she was killed in a road accident close to the camp, and her family decided that she should be buried in the camp, since that was where her heart belonged.
Stephanie’s family now run KSDP in her memory and Beryl, her mother utilises her textile background (for many years she ran the Artisan Needlecraft shops in London) to raise funds for KSDP by exhibiting at many of the quilt and needlecraft shows around the country where they exhibit as “Aid for Burma” and sell beautiful hand-made textile crafts, gifts and clothes from S.E.Asia. They also sell ‘raw materials’ in the form of vintage tribal textiles and beautiful black and white Thai cotton fabric for you to create your own projects. They can next be found at The Great Northern Quilt Show at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate between August 30th and September 1st.
Beryl says that there are three benefits when you purchase their beautiful crafts:
• You become the owner of a unique hand crafted item, made by either
Burmese refugees or S.E. Asian Hill-Tribe people, often incorporating their traditional hand embroidered or woven designs.
• You provide much needed income for the maker of the item — in many cases this constitutes their only income.
• 100% of the profit from the sale of these items goes to the KSDP charity who operate with minimum administrative costs and whose policy is to “Help the Karenni to Help Themselves” by encouraging them to run all the KSDP projects themselves.