At Far East Joint, you can order crispy fries drizzled with spicy aioli sauce and pieces of Korean beef. You can have tender chicken wings that come in six flavors. The best part? For every meal you purchase, Far East Joint provides a meal for a child in need.
The Asian Fusion restaurant has a chill ambiance that attracts teens and young adults to catch a bite and hang out. Halfway through my meal I caught sight of a board with the hashtag #mealformeal and a number up in the thousands—this was the number of meals for children the restaurant has raised so far.
“We’re trying to promote this notion with hashtags because we want to be known for our meal for meal concept,” said Arthur Han, owner of Far East Joint. “As people come in they know that it’s actually making a big difference for our kids.”
By “our kids,” Han meant the organization founded by his father which serves underprivileged kids in three countries: Cambodia, Tanzania and North Korea.
“My father was orphaned during the outbreak of the Korean war. He lost his family during the war and he became homeless at the age of six. After several years of living on the streets, he came across an American soldier who was stationed in Korea to help rebuild the education system out there,” explained Han.
Eventually, this American soldier became Han’s grandfather, adopting his father and bringing him over to the States. Han’s father flourished, going on to study at Fresno State University and Stanford University for grad school.
Then, in 2002, Han’s father was diagnosed with terminal bone-marrow cancer.
“That was a wake-up call for him. My father was very big on faith. He grew up in a Christian household. He felt like that was God telling him, ‘You need to do something different with your life,’” said Han.
In 2007 Han’s father took his first mission trip to North Korea. He was devastated with what he witnessed in the country. He decided to dedicate the rest of his life to help orphans in need by initiating the Han-Schenider International Children’s Foundation the very same year. They aim to battle hunger, stop illiteracy, donate clothes and medical supplies, and give children hope for their future.
In 2012, Han’s father lost his battle with cancer. That was a wake-up call for Han as he reflected on his life and tried to figure out his purpose. That year, he quit his job at a private equity investment firm in order to pursue what his father had started.
“It was probably the best decision I could have ever made. It’s totally changed my life. It’s changed my perspective on how I view the world,” said Han. “I grew up in a great life. I didn’t know what it was like to grow up on the streets as an orphan, but my father did. He wanted to give back to the children who lived in his shoes. It was a struggle for me to make that transition in quitting my career and doing what my father wanted. It was not what I was passionate about but I knew it was important for my father.”
Every year, Han visits children in either Tanzania or Cambodia. And every year, his love for them grows. Despite the poor conditions and struggles the kids and their families have to go through, they are the happiest kids he has ever been around.
“Even though I’m a stranger from thousands of miles away, the first time they see you they just run up to you and embrace you. It just makes you want to love them more,” said Han. “You see the struggles but you see how resilient they are. You see how they make life work with what little they have. That’s what humbled me. I realized this is what I want to do the rest of my life. I want to help kids. I want to help build schools. I want to help feed kids. I want to help educate these students.”
Han started Far East Joint in Oct. 2014, stating that it had always been a dream to open his own restaurant. He was able to put together a business plan where he could honor his father’s wishes in caring for the children as well as bring his own dream to life.
“We just want to provide a feel-good environment where you can enjoy what I call ‘great quality junk food’ and be able to make a difference for kids around the world. We keep track of how many meals we raised and people realize, ‘Wow I’m actually feeding a kid today simply by eating here,’” he said.
Though the transition from quitting his job to opening the restaurant as well as balancing the foundation and the business has been tough, Han finds his strength and guidance through his Christian faith. His wife, Tran Ngo, has also been there every step of the way, quitting her job to help Han pursue his dream.
And the dream is alive, complete with menu specialties such as the mouth-watering Joint Fried Rice topped with a sunny side up egg cooked to perfection and Joint Tacos, tacos my little brother calls the best he has ever tasted. The food tastes delicious, looks delicious, and practically pleads to be posted all over social media along with the hashtag #mealformeal.
“Our time today has changed. The younger generation today—they want to be socially involved and interactive with the world. And that’s why they want to post. The food craze is so big. Everyone wants to snap a photo of the food they’re eating. Why not hashtag a great meal you’re having and let your friends know that this meal helped feed this child?” asked Han. “We want to be spread awareness about being socially responsible. It means understanding how blessed your life is and doing your part to lend a hand and help someone in need, whether it is the kids we take care of or something you’re passionate about. In today’s time it’s about doing our part in giving back.”
For more information about the organization, visit www.han-schneider.org.
For more information about the restaurant, visit http://www.fareastjoint.com.
Price range: $ according to yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/far-east-joint-west-covina
Far East Joint is located at 1230 Lakes Dr #104 West Covina, California 91790.