A young ethnic minority man, who has obtained a master’s degree in the U.S., is dedicated to promoting his community’s culture and tapping into his hometown’s tourism potentials.
While going to university remains a distant dream to many ethnic students in Ia Grai District in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, Siu Hrill- a man of Gia Rai ethnic minority- landed a scholarship to study for a Master’s degree in the U.S.
He now works for a tour operator in Ho Chi Minh City.
Hrill shared he had a tough childhood and worked his way through junior and senior high school as an unskilled construction worker.
While many of his friends chose vocational schools, the young man was set on completing his senior high school and entering a university.
Since an early age, Hrill spent much of his time learning English, including when he was working on the field, as he shared his biggest dream is to go abroad. His efforts paid off, as he boasts a good command of English, and passed the entrance exam into a local university in 2003.
Hrill said during his university years, he successfully forged connections with several local tour operators and tour guide groups who often take foreign tourists across the country.
The young man landed a part time job as a tour guide and soon became an active member of the company he worked at. Upon his university graduation in 2007, Hrill was recruited by a tour operator in HCMC.
He regularly took tourists, particularly foreigners to his hometown, and is happy that they take great delight in the pristine landscape and his ethnic community’s culture and traditional brocade weaving craft.
The man then cherished a dream to launch a community project in his own hometown, which would help natives preserve and pass on their prized cultural identity.
Hrill then worked with a friend on a project called “Preserving Gia Rai ethnic community’s intangible cultural and art heritage.”
His project paper was sent to the University of Hawaii through an organization in HCMC.
Some months later, Hrill was admitted to a master’s course at the university on a scholarship.
He completed his course and returned to Vietnam in 2010.
Though he works in HCMC, he and his friends often shuttle between the city and his hometown and seek sponsorship to preserve his community’s cultural identity.
Hrill also translates cultural documents from his community’s dialect into English.
In 2012, he also worked as a companion and assistant to Vincezo Della Ratta, an Italian postgraduate student who was roaming the villages for his dissertation on the Central Highlands’ iconic gongs.
Hrill now regularly holds classes in preserving traditional crafts in Kep Village in the province’s Pleiku City with the sponsorship from a local NGO which he and one of his Master classmates successfully sought.