My full is name Nguyen Dinh Hieu, I come from Vietnam. I was born in the northern part of Vietnam then my family moved to Ho Chi Minh City when I was 3 years old in 1986. Although at that time we faced lots of difficulties we overcame every obstacle. My parents sacrificed their life, my siblings dropped out of school early to find a job so that we have money for my studying. I have a story about Community Tourism – Homestay at my village for share with people – Hieu Liem Village, situated in the valley of greens.
I graduated from Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences & Humanities majoring in political science but I have interest as well as many opportunities in tourism which gave me chances to travel and broaden my knowledge a lot. Many young people choose to stay in big and modern cities such as Ho Chi Minh city and Ha Noi after finishing their studies with the hope that they can have a good job and better life than those in their hometowns which are poor lands. I was quite confused and worried after graduating and thought a lot about my future and my responsibility. I was brought up with the education that being a man in the family, besides earning for living, I should have great sense of responsibility in taking care of my parents and worshiping our ancestors just like many other men in oriental traditions. If I stay in the city and find a job, I cannot fulfil my responsibility of being a son in the family, but if I come back to my hometown, it would be hard to find a good job let alone follow my dreams. Finally I decided to come back home with strong determination as I know that the first step is always the hardest. I applied for a job as a tour guide in Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve so that I have money to live while chasing my dream of working in tourism field.
I know that ‘giving them fish is not as good as giving them a fishing rod’…
When I was a student, I enthusiastically joined volunteer programs in my university’s student union with the aim to help the poor and community. Even during the time I worked in the city, I together with my friends went from places to places to raise funds then bought rice, food and other useful things for the poverty-stricken and fragile people to cover their everyday needs. They are extremely grateful to us and appreciated us for what we did for them but it could not last for a long time, they used everything in a short period of time. After that they did not know what to do but wait for another help which can get them out of starving and poverty. I know that ‘giving them fish is not as good as giving them a fishing rod‘, therefore I think I should help them with something more sustainable and long lasting such as offering them a suitable work that they can do to earn for a living so that they do not have to depend on others.
The poor and people who have their lives depending much on nature are the ones that cause lots of damage to nature and ecological environment. They destroy the forest, cut down trees to have land for farming. The last Rhinoceros sondaicus in Vietnam is now extinct, the number of Asian elephants is decreasing dramatically because of being killed and poisoned by people, gayals, primates, deer, and countless other kinds of animal are on the verge of extinction. The flora is also under threat of being destroyed.
I designed programs that help tourists experience the life and culture of native people through living and working with them.
From what I have seen, I thought day by day and talked to myself that I had to do something to improve the situation and help the community as well. I talked to my boss about my idea but I just received a cursory agreement without any support, there are even some people who did not want me to develop my plan and prevented me. As a result I decided to do it myself. After a long time carrying out surveys and considering I made up my mind to establish a Club about Homestay Tourism. This club is considered as the first club on sustainable tourism which is environmentally friendly and responsible with nature in Dong Nai province, Vietnam. The success of the club and project will not only promote the local economics, help local residents to have higher and stable income but also help to avoid deforestation, poaching of wildlife, illegal logging, rapid exhaustion of Dong Nai river’s aquatic creatures, and countless negative effects on the environment.
I designed programs that help tourists experience the life and culture of native people through living and working with them. Besides our club have many meaningful activities such as cycling for the environment, campaign about reducing the number of plastic bags, planting trees. Especially we have programs about biking, trekking, discovering the rainforest, adventure including sport games, learning living skills. It is the simplicity, hospitality and the friendliness between local people and tourists that will bring them together as a family. Tourists will get unforgettable memories and precious relaxing moments of their busy life while natives can have some small amount of money covering for their everyday needs without doing any harm to the environment and animals.
In order to have the project as today I went through countless obstacles 5 years ago. Because it is too new to the local government, local presidents and even my family, no one supported me. They said that I was crazy, risky, ambiguous, that this project was almost unfeasible in such a poor land. I spent a great deal of time talking and sharing with everyone. Time flew, they gradually understood me and what I am doing since there were some tourists came and stay with my family. This proved that my story was listened to attentively, and it spread to Wild Asia which gives me a chance to tell my story to all friends around the world. I was extremely happy and had considerable encouragement more than ever thanks to this program.
There are times when I wanted to give up because I was also exhausted. I did loads of work alone. In the morning I worked at Dong Nai Culture and Nature Reserve, went into the forest and guided tourists when they wanted to camp overnight. In the evening I went home, stayed up late to design programs, find partners and sponsors, send emails to tourism companies. I was stressed for a very long time. Luckily I have my family by my side whenever I need them, especially my mother and my sister. They are very good cooks with traditional Vietnamese cuisines. Tourists or partners who come to visit our places are all impressed by their dishes and felt extremely relaxing living in the tranquil and peaceful countryside. I believe that in the future if my project develops, we can motivate local economics through selling fresh, nutritious food and specialties produced by native farmers.
Hieu Liem Community Tourism is considered as the first club on tourism connected with responsibility of the environment protection. We have local people and friends who are very nurturing and they are now open to the idea of doing something beneficial for the community. Besides providing tourists with traditional homestay program and environmental friendly activities, we sincerely want to involve tourists from everywhere in our country together with foreign friends from all over the world in our environment and animal protection campaign.
The negative impacts on the forests have caused the rapid exhaustion of the earth’s natural resources bringing about problems about pollution, forest fires, extinction of animals, climate change, global warming. These consequences directly affect the place where people are living and themselves also, all nation and all over the world, change our green earth into a dangerous place. All those things urged us to do something to improve the environment and get local people into our activities. Hieu Liem Community Tourism was established with the aim of giving tourists interesting first hand experiences by living with local residents near Dong Nai river.
Finally, I hope that my story impacts the thoughts of people so that everyone will have better habits of living responsibly with the environment. I am not a talented scientist who can invent something great enough to change the world but with my experience and enthusiasm of youth I chose sustainable community economics development with environment protection. I have great desire to have a chance to share my story in ITB Asia this year. I believe that there will be more and more friends, tourism partners, activists for the environment, sponsors and tourists all over the world listen to my story. To conclude I just want to say that please give me an opportunity in order that I could have more inspiration, motivation, encouragement to continue to write the next parts for my story.
For more info, visit www.hieuliemtravel.com