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Henry Beh to newcomers: You have to learn English

Don Fennell   Mar-14-2018

Henry Beh recently retired from RCCS.

Weidong Tan via flickr.com


Resting comfortably at home following heart surgery just days ago, Henry Beh happily reminisces.

His thoughts are immediately drawn to a game he’s enjoyed since he began playing as a young boy: Badminton.

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Yearning to get back on the courts—he still played at least once a week prior to surgery—Beh was first introduced to the racquet sport at the age of six or seven.

“It’s the national game in Malaysia. It’s played everywhere, even in the street,” he says of the sport’s popularity in the country in which he grew up. “When it’s on TV, nobody sleeps.”

Born in Thailand, Beh was still a small child when his family moved to Malaysia, which afforded him not just a home but a quality education.

When he finally settled in Richmond 30-plus years ago, where he and his wife raised two now-adult sons, Beh was keen to pass on his love of both sports and academics. That’s now being passed on to his two young granddaughters who also reside locally.

“They’re already in musical dance, and I enjoy that when I see them performing and following the instruction,” he says. “But I still want to see them in soccer also (following the footsteps of their dad). In soccer you don’t play by yourself, so you need to become a team player. I think that’s important.”

Recently retiring from his post as executive director at Richmond Chinese Community Society, where he led for the last 29 years, Beh, who founded the organization, is looking forward to spending more time with his family and their various activities.

But after “relaxing for a few months,” rest assured he’ll find his way back to another of his favourite pastimes: giving back to his community.

“I’m sure I will be helping out in the community a lot,” he acknowledges, while reflecting back fondly on his varied contributions in service of the Richmond community.

Besides his role at Richmond Chinese Community Society—a non-profit charitable organization established in 1989 to promote the spirit of community—Beh also sat for eight years on the library board and served four years as a board director and treasurer at the Richmond Foundation.

In every capacity, he has been unwaveringly dedicated to helping build “community harmony.”

One of his favourite events while at the Richmond Chinese Community Society was celebrating Chinese New Year with the greater community—through an annual festival at Lansdowne Centre.

“This year, my last, was really great to see,” he says of the 20th gathering. “We had Chinese Folk Dancers, Korean dancers, even Filipino and a Polish dance group that was very colourful. This is culture. I was quite touched when a parent told me she had bringing her daughter in all the way from Langley for the last 15 years to enjoy this multi-culture show.”

As far as Beh is concerned, there’s never been a bridge too far—especially when it comes to bringing people from different cultures together. But, he cautions, there are always challenges.

“When I came in 1974, we were all working people and building families,” he says. “Now, I think a lot of new immigrants have to learn our culture. If you learn only one language, the older mother tongue, it’s not going to work. You have to learn English. I’ve always believed education will help.”

Any time Beh can offer a hand, he’s always willing. Helping has always been a part of who he is.

“Because I know so many languages, if I have a chance to help someone who needs translation on the street, I will always stop and help. I have met so many good friends in Richmond though networking. Helping is in my blood.”

Once his new heart valve is working at 100 per cent, Beh will also be back playing badminton every Sunday with even more energy. And leading by example, on the court and off.

“I enjoy playing with my group of friends, and then going for dim sum afterwards.”


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