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About Karen Community of Akron, Inc.


The Karen Community of Akron was founded in 2009 to help refugees and immigrants from Burma obtain self-sufficiency. Our goal is to facilitate an easy integration of newcomers into American society by working as a community. We build strong relationships with employers, organizations, and institutions to provide maximum benefit for Akron, Ohio's Karen population.


The Karen are an ethnic group from the mountainous border regions of Burma and Thailand. Dispite having been subject of ethnic cleansing schemes by the Burmese government, the Karen have prevailed in being the second largest ethnic group in each country. Approximately 1,000 Karen call Akron home, living among refugees from other regions in Burma and South Asia.


Consisting of over 53 million people, Burma (Myanmar) is extremely diverse. Its population can be divided into nine major ethnic groups including the Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Zomi (Chin), Arakanese, Mon, Burmese, Rohingya, and Shan, each with its own distinct language and culture. After having obtained independence from British rule, the Burmese government has failed at integrating its vast population into a truly united and cohesive citizenry. Its rugged tropical landscape and extensive collection of peoples makes Burma a truly unique and often misunderstood nation.

Source: The United States Central Intelligence Agency, Langley, VA


Akron, Ohio is a major center for refugee resettlement in the Midwest and Great Lakes Region. Hosting refugees from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Vietnam, Syria, Uzbekistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and elsewhere, Akron's North Hill and Middlebury neighborhoods are among the most diverse in the country. Actions taken by the city's two resettlement agencies, World Relief and the International Institute, ensure Akron's lasting support and vital role in the responsible relocation of refugees. 

Source: The International Institute of Akron, Akron, OH



Karen Community of Akron, Inc.

Karen Community of Akron, Inc. is devoted to the development of Akron, Ohio's Karen community through the celebration and preservation of Karen cultural customs in our community.


What is a Refugee?

Refugees are people who have fled their homelands due to persecution or fear of persecution for their religious beliefs, ethnicity, or political affiliation. They flee to camps, typically in neighboring countries with few provisions and limited knowledge of the area. Although designed as temporary solutions, the average time spent in a camp is  seven to twenty years.

Source: World Relief Akron, Akron, OH


Karen, and Origin Story

The Karen migrated to the modern Burma and Thailand from Tibet and China in the 8th and 9th century. Hoping to overcome Burmese oppression, the Karen sided with the British against the Burmese and Japanese in WWII. After Burma achieved independence in 1948, the Karen were denied land rights by the ruling Burmese ethnic group. Worn down by unrelenting torture and terror inflicted by the military regime established in 1962, the Karen have little choice but to flee to the relative safety of refugee camps in Thailand. 

Source: Karen Organion of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN


The Impact of Refugees

Refugees are an extremely hard working demographic, often providing support for each other through independent organizations. The United States' refugee population is the country's most entrepreneurial, owning and operating more small businesses than any other population sector. Refugees reinvigorate depressed communities and establish a culture of shared commitment to the betterment of the community they inhabit.

Source: New American Economy, June, 2017

Refugees in Akron belong to two different resettlement groups. The Karen are primary refugees, those who come from refugee camps or other alternative temporary housing, and are resettled directly to their new residence in Akron. Secondary refugees are those that are resettled in another city in the United States and eventually migrate to Akron. The UNHRC reports less that one percent of refugees are resettled in a third country, particularly only those determined to be facing the greatest threat.

Source: The United States Department of State, Washington, DC

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