Karenni (-ni means "red") covers around 9 different people groups who speak different languages and dialects in Kayah State, Myanmar (Burma). Kayah Li Phu is the name of the largest people group in Kayah State. Kayah Li is also the language that the Kayah people speak. In former times, Kayah State was known as Karenni State. Most of the refugees currently resettling throughout the U.S. (and other countries) are Kayah speakers.
The Karenni are a resilient, gracious people with a great sense of humor. They have a very strong work ethic, and don’t complain. They live out of a basic belief that life is difficult, so you do what you have to do in order to survive. If faced with a difficult task, they might respond with ‘a lay hey oh to’ (it doesn’t matter/ no problem). They demonstrate great dignity in providing for themselves and helping their fellow Karenni. They have a very strong connection and commitment to their own country, language, culture and people. They are not easily offended by outsiders (Americans), and are very appreciative of any kind of help they receive. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for them to ask for help, even if they desperately need it. They might be almost completely out of food, yet give you the last food that they have if you came to visit.
As you get to know individuals, ask them to tell you their stories. There are a number of websites that provide a quick summary or share about Karenni history and the challenges they face. Click on links below to access further information: