A general laborer from the SFPUC’s Sewer Operations Division never thought his ability to speak four languages would ever come in so handy.
Steven Trang has been supporting the Emergency Operation Center (EOC) for the City and County of San Francisco, activated in response to COVID-19 as a translator stationed at local food banks. In addition to speaking English, Trang speaks Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.
For the last few weeks, as San Francisco tries to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, Trang has been on the ground helping communities in need. Practicing social distancing, with a mask and gloves on, Trang has been extending a helping hand.
“I can ask them in their native tongue what kind of help they are looking for and give them as much information as I can. We can’t assume that everyone can speak or understand English,” explained Trang. “We need to make sure we include all walks of life in our outreach efforts to connect them with resources. They are afraid and stressed, not knowing where or when they will get their next meal.”
Trang recalls what it was like for him, when he came to America at the young age of twelve. His parents were of Chinese descent and lived in Vietnam where his mom taught Cantonese and Vietnamese at the local school. As a child, Trang had bad asthma that kept him from going to school. He didn’t get any formal education, until his family immigrated to the U.S. at which point, he was placed in middle school. Trang credits his mother’s perseverance in homeschooling him and teaching him several languages at the same time.
“She would be really proud to know how I’m using my language skills. My mother would always tell me growing up, ‘the more languages you speak, the better’ and you know what, she was right,” explained Trang.
Trang says he’s witnessed thousands of people waiting in line for hours since the shelter-in-place orders were put in place in the City mid-March, hoping they can get some groceries. He describes that at times, there wasn’t enough food for the number of people in line, at which point, people started asking him where they could go to get some. While Trang can’t wait for all of this to be over, he says he is touched by the number of caring hearts out there.
“I hope we can continue to help the community as much as we can. There are a lot of people in need out there, but there is also a lot of helping hands as well. So many people from the community have stepped up to make sure the food banks continue to stay open. Every little bit counts,” said Trang.