A remote hilltop village in northern Thailand is now equipped with a library, thanks to the efforts of 20 Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMUQ) students, reported The Foundation, the monthly magazine of Qatar Foundation.
The students helped the residents of the village, occupied by people of the Karen tribe, to construct the library and by paying for materials and 150 books with QR7,000 they had raised the previous semester.
Business administration students Mohamed al-Hadrami and Narcis Sadat Jafarian joined information systems students Sara Mustafa and Haya Thowfeek to give a presentation of the trip.
They also explained how the students, many of whom did not know each other, took part in teambuilding exercises and activities such as kayaking and rock climbing.
Jill Duffy, a student development co-ordinator who travelled with the team said: “It was amazing to see them becoming a group, they really started to care for each other and build a support system.”
The trip was the second by a CMUQ team to the village, following a 2009 expedition to build a community kitchen there.
Narcis said the trip had been testing but worthwhile. “It was lot of physical labour, but the university made sure we were prepared for it by requiring us to go to the gym before we left,” she said.
“There was a lot of mixing cement and plastering, which was hard work, but the end result was worth it. When we saw how little these people had, we realised that this library would make a big difference to their lives.”
The majority of the Karen people live in Burma, and yet they also form by far the largest of the major tribes of northern Thailand.
They can be found living both in the mountains and on the plains, most of them in the provinces of Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Sorn, Chiang Rai, but also in central Thailand.
They live in bamboo houses raised on stilts, beneath which live their domestic animals. The mountain-dwelling Karens practice swidden agriculture, and the plains-dwellers, for the most part, cultivate irrigated paddy fields.
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