Starting in May 2019, The Urban Village opened the doors of its culturally relevant community space for community-led programs. With bamboo walls, artifacts, a mural, and art the Urban Village promote cultural heritage and preservation in its very being. Sharing this space and our resources with community-led programming gives these programs and their leaders fertile soil to grow, launching them beyond what they would have been able to accomplish without Village support.

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our Story

Our mission is

 "To empower Karen and Karenni continually generations youth to connect, heal, and launch"


We work with and empower local Karen and Karenni artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, ideas, movements, and leaders to serve their community through their own unique skill sets. 

 Here's a running list of all the things we've been a part of...
-Soft TV (weekly Karen news and entertainment show), Asian Youth Outreach (gang and substance use prevention), Friday food distributions (TUV partnership with HAFA and The Food Group), Solidarity Street Art, Youth in Action (Karen youth movement), Karen typing class, Karen for Black lives movement, Karen pro painters, Karen Networking Nights, Karenni dance group, Salween peace park fundraiser, Free Burma Rangers screening, community forums, the Mural Project, and countless informal community gatherings.

At The Urban Village, we know that the road to opportunity and achievement can be difficult to travel alone. We believe it takes a village.



Jesse Phenow, Executive Director

Jesse was first introduced to the Karen community in 2011 when he was paired with a recently resettled family of 9. Growing in kinship with this family, Jesse soon became an active ally of the Karen community. He became a supporting partner of Karen-led initiatives, art, celebrations, programs, etc. within the local Karen community in St. Paul. Jesse Founded the urban village alongside the community in 2019. In the last 10 years, he has strengthened relationships with Karen communities locally and globally.

Contact Jesse:


Ku Hser, Co-Executive Director

Ku spent most of his early life in Mae La Refugee camp He resettled to the United States by himself in 2008, starting in Minnesota. He became heavily involved in the Karen Baptist Conference as a regional youth leader.  In 2021 he graduated from Century College where he graduated with a Creative Arts: Video and Film making degree. In 2020 he started the Sound of Thumweh, a global Karen Singing completion that had over 200 entries. Additionally, Ku is the Co-Executive Director for the Urban Village. He leads and produces SOFT TV, a TV program that airs out of the Urban Village that seeks to educate, entertain, and inspire Karen people globally.

Contact Ku:

Tu Lor-UV_edited.jpg

Tu Lar Eh Paw, Program Manager

Tu Lor is a formal refugee from Thailand. She was born and raised in a small village of KawThooLei. In 2011, her family resettled to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Since then, she's been a champion for higher education in the Karen community. She loves her Karen root and would do anything to preserve that piece of herself. Tu Lor finds comfort in helping her people in whatever capacity she can. She is a daughter, an aunt, a mentor, and many other things. Most important of all, she is proud to call herself K'Nyaw. 

Contact Tu:


I'm always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.