Where we Began

The roots of the Karen Hilltribes Trust (KHT) can be traced back all the way to the 1980s.

In 1986, a very young Salahae (the current KHT Director of Programmes) met a British born individual teaching in Mae Phon school, near Chiang Mai. Together they started working on projects to address the lack of clean water in Karen villages. With little support from the government, villages were forced to rely on contaminated river water for drinking, cooking and washing.

To tackle this challenge, they combined their knowledge to design the very first clean water system in the village of Mae Phon, where shortly after, the life changing benefits quickly became clear. With so much more need in the region, the idea was born to form an organisation which would work with Karen communities to help build a better future for themselves. In 1989 this was made a reality with the registering of the Mae Phon Karen Hilltribes Trust.

A Volunteer Journey

From the early days, the organisation welcomed groups of British volunteers to be involved in an array of projects, travelling to Thailand from schools and universities in the UK and other countries.

One of these young volunteers was Richard Worsley, who in 1990 spent six months in Northern Thailand, living with a Karen community while helping to build  clean water systems and teaching English to Karen children. The memory of the Karen stayed with Richard who brought many stories home to share with his family.

Life was sadly short for Richard. In 1996, at the age of just 24, Richard was killed in a tragic car accident.

Remembering Richard

When Ban Huay Kung Po, the community Richard helped build the water system in 1990, learnt of the tragic news, they decided to dedicate the water system in memory of Richard. However, Richard’s death was to leave a far greater legacy.

Richard’s mother, Penelope, touched by the stories Richard shared, visited Ban Huay Kong Po in 1999 and discovered the warmth and gratitude of the Karen people.

It was from here that a link with North Yorkshire was made. In 1999 Penelope established KHT as an international organisation by opening a fundraising office in York and officially re-registering the charity in 2002 as the Karen Hilltribes Trust, in memory of Richard.

KHT Today

Since its humble beginnings KHT has seen over 500 volunteers follow in the footsteps of Richard, and volunteering is now central to the organisation’s ethos. Many volunteers have gone on to remain involved as donors, trustees and members of the KHT team.

After over 17 years dedicated to the charity, Penelope retired from her role. Since then, KHT has undergone a transitional period in which it has relocated resources from its UK headquarters in York to Northern Thailand, so that it can be in the best position possible to assist Karen communities in need.

After 30 years, Salahae, with the support of a team comprised of local Karen and international members and overseen by the Director of KHT, continues to lead the implementation of project activities across Northern Thailand. Clean water has now been delivered to more than 55,000 people, and, in response to the expressed needs of the Karen, the work of KHT has since expanded into the areas of livelihoods and education with the aim to support the Karen ethnic group in building a more sustainable future.