This blog piece has been contributed by Dr Paul Thu. I would like to preface Dr Thu's piece by saying that history should not be confined to the re-telling of the big picture; it is also in the stories of ordinary people like Titus Ti Reh Polarbaw who hold the keys to the past. Dr Thu shares a language with Titus and thus has the ability to unlock the past. It is meaningful connections like this that remind me why the Utopia project was conceived. Dr Thu and I attended Karenni new year celebrations in Norlane followed by dinner at Titus's family home. For me it was a transformative moment. Dr Thu captures the essence of his conversation with Titus and added a whole new dimension to the celebrations. Thank you Paul!
Dr Paul Thu (standing) with community elder Titus Polarbaw
Utopia Health founder Dr Lester Mascarenhas and Utopia GP Dr Paul Thu attended Karenni New Year celebration (Kay Htoe Boe) at Diversitat Hub in Norlane, Victoria on 09 April 2023. The event was organised by Mr Augustino Moedu and the Karenni Community in Victoria. Many Karenni communities from Mount Gambier, Perth, Wollongong, Bendigo and Brisbane also attended the more than 2600 year old traditional event. The Karenni people first settled in Western Melbourne in 2009 as refugees from Myanmar previously known as Burma. Mr Titus Ti Reh who is a Karenni Senior of Werribee resident explains “this significant event was first celebrated in Australia in 2011 with 8 Karenni households in Werribee and Geelong which has now grown since. A new wooden pole painted in white is erected each year and it is a symbol of connection to God, and the event is a rain calling ritual to favour agriculture . It is believed that there has been adequate rainfall every year since 2011 when the Karenni ritual was first practised in Western Melbourne”. He also explained that the similar event is being held in IDP (Internally Displaced People)’s camps in Myanmar despite the difficult circumstances. Utopia Refugee and Asylum Seekers Health wishes a happy, healthy and prosperous year to all Karenni people around the world