Mae Lid Project

Preserving the Karen Culture through the Mae Lid Project

This blog is one of this year’s Alumni Project Fund proposals. Throughout the next few weeks, we will be rolling out the project proposals on our blog. If it’s an idea that strongly resonates with you and that you support, hit the ‘like’ button on the Facebook post we share about it or leave a comment at the bottom of each blog entry. Whichever project receives the most votes and comments will automatically advance to the final round of grant selection.



Build a cultural learning and job training centre for the Karen to preserve their culture and empower them by expanding their income opportunities.

The objective of the Mae Lid Project is to develop and foster a sustainable community development program in Mae Lid, Mae Hong Son, Thailand. We aim to provide occupational training and opportunities, academic scholarships for high school and university students, and a community fund to support the needs of the many subsistence farmers across the Mae Lid area through a sustainable, community-focused volunteer and homestay program. Empowering locally-driven, grassroots development to foster at the village level ensures the communities more closely experience the type of development that is in line with their cultural beliefs and community desires. This allows their rich culture to remain a strong component of their lives and not eroded by adverse development practices from external programs.


Mae Lid, like many communities in Mae Hong Son province, is comprised of the Karen ethnic group. Historically and today, the group has been marginalized with fewer educational and occupational opportunities outside of agricultural-based jobs. While the government has acted in recent years to improve these shortcomings, educational and occupational gaps still exist for many Karen.


The Mae Lid Project seeks to provide employment training and opportunities, scholarships for residents, as well as cross-cultural experiences for volunteers and homestay guests.

1st year goals ending December 2014:

  • Coffee shop and job training centre completed
  • 30 students trained in coffee making
  • 30 volunteers or home stay participants
  • 15 scholarships funded
  • $500 ending balance in the Community Fund
  • Possible Operation Groundswell group volunteering on site

2nd year goals end December 2015:

  • Tour guide, massage, and cooking programs running
  • 10 students placed in jobs
  • 50 volunteers or homestay guests
  • 30 total scholarships
  • $1500 disbursed from Community Fund
  • Operation Groundswell group volunteering at site



Operation Groundswell has not previously worked in the Mae Lid, Mae Hong Son, Thailand area. However, Ryan Drysdale and Sidney Jhingran, Southeast Asia Animal Conservation Program Leaders, have explored the idea of expanding a Southeast Asia program to northwest Thailand in the future. Mae Hong Son province offers more undisturbed cultural experiences, environmental exploration, and an opportunity to explore social justice issues including refugee situations along the Thai-Burmese border. The 50% population of ethnic minorities in the area could also offer rich and varied learning opportunities about many local and global issues facing the area.