The fastest-growing refugee community in Minnesota over the past few years is a population from Southeast Asia most Minnesotans have never heard of – the Karen. The nearly 7,000 Karen living here (pronounced Kuh-RENN) have kept a low profile since they first started arriving in 2000. Karen men, women and children from this ethnic minority group from Burma (the country also known as Myanmar) have become displaced by violence and civil war for more than 60 years. Many of the Karen living in Minnesota spent years living in refugee camps in Thailand.

When I started working on this project, I knew nothing about the Karen, so it was a humbling experience to meet members of this refugee community who had been through so much in their lives. The cultural and language barriers during my reporting were sometimes substantial. But, I was lucky to meet several leaders in this community who helped me gain access to key people. I am honored that the community entrusted me with telling a few of their stories.

Truly, the story of the Karen refugee community is about resilience and the survival of a culture and an ethnic group. Like many refugees who come to Minnesota, the Karen are here because they want to be safe and free from persecution. Most importantly, they want to give their children a better life and a good education.

Third home from Burma: Minnesota’s Karen community was produced with funding from KFAI and the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

Third home from Burma won a first place award for documentary from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013.




Eh Taw Dwe addressing a group of new arrivals  |       
Photo © Marisa Helms
Eh Taw Dwe addressing a group of new arrivals | Photo © Marisa Helms