This story appears from our archives of Senior Voices publications. NAPCA first shared Hofman’s story in 2009.
Hofman Y. Li
Born 1940, Bangka Island, South Sumatra, Indonesia
Arrived in the US August 1977, Chicago, Illinois
Front Desk, Chinese American Service League, Chicago
At seventeen years old I left Bangka Island to go to China. Indonesia very tough at the time for people of Chinese background. I don’t want to worry about my government post-communism, so I go to China for school. I go to Tianjin University close to Beijing. I learned about the internal combustion engine, diesel engines, and gasoline engines. After, I went to work in Shanghai for a tractor company.
My wife and I moved to the United States with our daughter in 1977. At that time the Chinese government very tough, I was so scared. Now it is different, but it was very scary. When we arrived, I worked at Littell Machine Company making sheet metal. Working in China, I designed many things, but communist work is different from work in United States.
Now, I work at the Chinese American Service League at the front desk. I help them pick up telephone and connect with any nation’s people; I talk Mandarin language in China. Now I come here, I want to learn Cantonese language. I got it! Now I talk Mandarin and Cantonese.
I work half days now; I am there four hours. Some people meet me after work because I have the card to catch the bus, train. I help people, go office, go downtown – because many Chinese people don’t understand English. It is hard to understand the train schedules, where to get off. They offer to give me money, I say, “No, no money.” I am happy to help.
For me, I go anyplace I do a good job; every place, a good job. Now, I do it here, I love the job because I help people. I feel happy. That is my future, I work here every minute and I do something good.
For the young people, you should teach them, “You should give first. Don’t think about what you can take.” You have to teach the people to give.
NAPCA SCSEP has been placing seniors like Hofman with local service organizations for 40 years; as we celebrate these years of service you can read more stories. To support seniors like Hofman, you can donate now to support the continuing mission of NAPCA.