Since eighth grade, Palmer Trinity junior Ethan Hill has been an activist for Cambodia.
“We raise awareness about the genocide that occurred there in the 90’s after the Vietnam War—The extreme damage that they did,” he says. “We were trying to raise money for houses in Cambodia.”
He and his sister became interested about the plight of Cambodians from a friend of the family who are in charge of Tabitha UK.
“We’ve actually gone to Cambodia three times,” he says. “The first time we were too young. The first time we were going on vacation. We did know somewhat about the genocide that occurred. We weren’t really made aware of the details. The second time we saw a prison where they tortured people and other prisons there and the Killing Fields. The second time is when we became really invested.”
When he was in ninth grade and his sister was in eleventh, they started the Tabitha Club.
“The first year we were raising money to build wells,” he says. “We spoke in history classes when they were reading First They Killed My Father.”
The book by Loung Ung recounts Ung’s experiences during the years of the Khmer Rouge.
“They feel the rest of the world has forgotten them,” Hill says.
To raise awareness and money to build houses, club members held a garage sale and secured a booth at the international festival.
“We raised enough to build about 22 houses,” he says.
The houses are not luxurious by any standard, but they are well-appointed by Cambodian criteria.
“Before we built the houses, they had shacks made out of leaves,” he says. “The walls are made of metal. The bottom line is that it’s strong enough to resist the wind and the rain. The roofs are made of slightly different metal. The stilts are made of concrete. The houses are on stilts because of floods.”
The houses are made so that the owners can add on later.
When his sister left for college, Hill inherited the club and has kept on working to help the people of Cambodia. This year he’s worked to screen the movie The Missing Picture.
“It’s a fascinating way to portray the events of the genocide,” Hill says.
This is year three of the Tabitha Club. The goal this year is to raise money to build wells.
Alongside his passion to help Cambodia, Hill is passionate about music. He’s the principle French horn in the Greater Miami Youth Symphony. The symphony rehearses three hours a week and plays numerous concerts throughout the year.
He started his music career playing piano but when he started sixth grade he picked up the French horn and loved it.
“When I picked it up the first time, I was just trying out instruments to play,” he says. “I was thinking trombone or trumpet and I picked up this curly one. I loved the feel of it. I loved the sound.”
At Palmer, he’s in the wind ensemble, the highest level band.
“I don’t know if I want to go in a career in French horn, but I want to be playing French horn, probably in a community orchestra,” he says.
One of the reasons he loves being in the Greater Miami Youth Symphony is that the youth symphony plays for underserved communities.
“That’s probably what I’m going to want to do in college,” he says.
At Palmer, he’s also involved in the Chinese Honor Society.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld