The Karen (pronounced Ka-REN) are an ethic group from the mountainous border regions of Burma and Thailand, where they are the second largest ethnic group in each country. They have long been subject to persecution and ethnic cleansing by the Burmese government, and many have been living in refugee camps in Thailand for years before being resettled to Minnesota.
There are approximately 6,500 Karen living in Minnesota with an additional 500 refugees from other ethnic groups in Burma. St. Paul currently has the largest and fastest-growing Karen population in the U.S. Other communities in Minnesota with a large Karen population include Worthington, Willmar, Austin, Albert Lea, and Faribault. They made up more than 30% of Minnesota’s primary arrivals in 2014, and about 50% of arrivals in 2008, and have declined a bit since then.
WellShare currently has three programs that work with the Karen community in the Twin Cities: The Karen Youth Health Education Program, Spacing Pregnancies for East African and Karen Communities, and the Karen Tobacco-Free Program. With all of these programs, we partner with the Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM).