The event is free, but you must RSVP to the guest list, which can be found at www.oceanbeachwomansclub.org. We really hope to see you there.
And now, for Part II
We left off after Steve Yeng’s parents escaped the Khmer Rouge regime and its “Killing Fields.” They ran a successful butcher business, but left everything in Cambodia to find help in Thailand for 1-year old Steve, suffering from Polio. (If you missed Part 1, you may read it by going to the Peninsula Beacon website at www.sdnews.com.).
Bandits and apples
After the dangerous journey, including a very close call, the family landed in a refugee camp in Thailand. Food was scarce and conditions were bleak. Steve recalled drinking water so muddy it looked like coffee.
The fear of bandits, who preyed upon people like his family, was constant. And one night those fears became reality. Targeting their hut, the bandits beat Steve’s father nearly to death, and also broke three ribs and beat his older brother. They took all their gold and valuables, the family escaping only with their lives.
The Yeng family spent five years in the refugee camp. His younger brother was born, so they were now a family of five. Steve’s polio had never been treated, but he was able to crawl to get around.
He recalled the time his mother and father were able to purchase a delicious apple and stored it in a makeshift ice box. They ceremoniously cut it into three sections for the boys. They wouldn’t take a bite because they wanted the boys to know the joy of an apple. Steve claims it was the most delicious apple he’d ever eaten.
At this point in our conversation a plane flew overhead. Steve paused and said that plane noise never bothers him, because at the camp when he saw a plane it meant freedom.
Random acts of kindness
What is at the heart of his charity? Steve said simply, random acts of kindness. He and his family had been the recipient of so much kindness, giving back is the only natural response.
Probably chief among these acts was a family from Ocean Beach, who decided to sponsor Steve’s family anonymously. They were selected from a book of refugees, flown to the United States and all five lived in a garage in North Park. They ate lots of Top Ramen and bags of Red Delicious apples.
But they were in the USA! Yeng’s parents took different jobs, finally landing in a donut shop, working for free to “learn the business.” That donut shop was OB Donut. When it faced bankruptcy, his parents were able to round up enough resources to purchase it. You can still find them there every day on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.
Steve recalled a group of regulars who helped he and his brothers learn English. He also talked about the people who helped while he went through multiple surgeries to try and repair the damage polio had done to his leg. Even though he lived in terrible pain for five years (and still suffers today), he laughed, explaining how he looked forward to the hospital with its cafeteria food and cable TV!
In the midst of this conversation, a Japanese beetle flew nearby. “I remember eating them with garlic powder, and salt and pepper,” he said. “They’re good!”
Steve still walks with a limp from the ravages polio wrought on his body, yet that never slowed him down or limited his drive. His businesses employs more than 160 people in Ocean Beach, of which, 90 percent live and work there.
He also helps subsidize some of his employees housing to make it affordable for them to live where they work. His generosity to Ocean Beach (and elsewhere) is often never known.
He is a shy, humble and joyful man and we are so very, very lucky to have him as one of our community champions!