Intergenerational Storytelling in the Karen Community
Q&A’s with Eh Doh Thaw Sar
Where are you from? What place do you currently call home and why?
I am from a refugee camp that resides near the border between Thailand and Myanmar, Mae La Oon. 14 years ago my family moved to Saskatoon and we’ve called this lovely place our home ever since. From the amazing people that we’ve met here to the beautiful nature, there is no place that is more laid back than the “Land Of Living Skies.”
What community/communities are you part of ?
I am a part of the Karen (my ethnicity) community including a lot of the other communities that support us in Saskatoon. The influences that I get from the community come from the desire of the older generations that came to Canada seeking a better life for their family. Their desire is rooted in their war-torn lifestyle which results in wanting to see the future generation prosper and eventually have the life that they couldn’t have. As a teen growing yp in this community surrounded by this kind of hope, this mindset had been growing on me.
What are you passionate about? What are your hobbies?
One of my hobbies is playing guitar. Playing guitar comes from my parents and their background of having a role in worshiping at church and overall their love of music. My favorite hobby of all time is playing volleyball, although I am not the best at it, I love the rush that it gives me as nothing has ever before. As I am graduating high school I would say that traveling with my teammates, collecting medals, and creating that brotherly bond would be one for my books.
How did the idea for this project come to you?
The idea came about when a few youth from the Karen community gathered together with the supervision and help from our friends from Servant Partners. Our friends from Servant partners have been helping a lot of other communities in the area we live in and they have been a blessing to everybody’s lives they’ve walked into, so we trusted them with ours too. After some brainstorming, we came upon the idea to do a listening project that would help the youth learn from the older generation. This project was an insightful experience that was done at the right moment and right time considering we finished everything just before covid started to creep upon us.
What was your motivation behind this project?
The motivation behind our project was because we understood that we have a lot to learn and the older generation has so little time left and not all of them get the chance to speak out about what they think and hope for in the upcoming generation. We thought that asking questions about what their hope for us is, culture, life, and listening to what they had to say would be a very good opportunity for us to grow. When we encountered difficulties like confusion in the questions we asked, we would try to rearrange the sentence and do our best to get through the language barrier that keeps the adults and kids from communicating. After that, we would gather as a team and see what we could fix and try again the next time we went out to listen.
How did your community react to your project? Have they been encouraged to get involved in any other ways?
The older generation loved that kids were interested in learning about what they had to say about life, culture, and what they want to see in the future. After every interview as a small gift we would give them small jars of tea leaves as we know they love tea.
In retrospect, what was the impact of your project?
The goal of this project was to listen and learn. The results that we got were even better. After all the listening and learning we invited everyone to an event that would go into depth about what the older generation shared with us. We had grandma’s that came out with props and showed us ethnic food, different religious beliefs, and clothing. We had a grandpa come out and tell us stories about life as a kid and we had a veteran who told us about his experience being one of the leaders in the civil war between The Karen people and Burmese military back in Myanmar. What we expected was exceeded and we can rest with that.
How has the project impacted you in your everyday life?
It has been a while since this project occurred and because of covid we haven’t had the chance to build on the interaction of the two generations but we’ve done a lot of other events that include the whole Karen community. Personally when I look back what I cherish the most is all the new people I got to meet and gaining everlasting friendship with people from Servant Partners which would eventually open many doors for me. The journey we went through also helped me improve my leadership skills and organization skills with the wisdom received from listening.