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Go Vegetarian to Save Mother Earth

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Six-year-old Khor Xin Yi (right) takes the initiative to help out with simple housework at home. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)Six-year-old Khor Xin Yi (right) takes the initiative to help out with simple housework at home. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)

Six-year-old Khor Xin Yi from the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool will sometimes tell her mother that she wants to have a vegetarian meal. Though the request is unexpected, her mother will try her best to fulfill it. The menu on their table at home will therefore change according to her whims. For Xin Yi, the reason behind her request is actually very simple……



Xin Yi’s mother said that even her girl’s father, who had always  consumed meat dishes, was  willing to accommodate his  daughter’s vegetarian  preferences. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)Xin Yi’s mother said that even her girl’s father, who had always consumed meat dishes, was willing to accommodate his daughter’s vegetarian preferences. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)
Xin Yi and her older  sister helping their  mother prepare the  ingredients to be used  for cooking (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)Xin Yi and her older sister helping their mother prepare the ingredients to be used for cooking (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)
Xin Yi has cultivated the habit of bringing her utensils to the tray return station if she dines outside, and will also wash her own utensils after meals at home. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)Xin Yi has cultivated the habit of bringing her utensils to the tray return station if she dines outside, and will also wash her own utensils after meals at home. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)
She makes use of white space left on used paper to draw or make cards and displays her creations on the wall. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)She makes use of white space left on used paper to draw or make cards and displays her creations on the wall. (Photo by Pang Lun Peng)
Xin Yi (first from right) and her classmates at the Tzu Chi Eco-Awareness Centre, learning how to sort recyclables into different categories. (Photo by Bernard Ng)Xin Yi (first from right) and her classmates at the Tzu Chi Eco-Awareness Centre, learning how to sort recyclables into different categories. (Photo by Bernard Ng)

Whenever Khor Xin Yi makes a request for a vegetarian meal, her mother will always agree without hesitation. The graduating K2 student from the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool has a simple reason behind her request. “I want to protect animals; if I continue to eat them there will be no more animals left!” she says with childish innocence.

Her mother will try her best to prepare the ingredients but will often face some quizzing along the lines of: “Is egg (considered) vegetarian? How about cheese?”

As she watches her mother prepare the meal, Xin Yi will send a volley of questions her mother’s way. Not being a vegetarian herself, her mother will pick up the phone to consult relatives. Without realizing it, Xin Yi’s mother finds that her knowledge of vegetarian cuisine has grown over time.

Though both her older sister and father are not vegetarian, the whole family will accommodate her request as long as she decides that she wants to go vegetarian on a particular day.

Going Along with What is Right

If Xin Yi decides that she was going vegetarian on a certain day, her resolve will remain firm even if meat is available on the table. Her father does not mind that and says that every child is an individual in his own right, and as long as it is not a wrong action, he has no grounds to object.

Xin Yi’s mother has observed that the greatest change comes from her husband even though it is their child who wants to follow a vegetarian diet. He will not insist on having meat dishes and will go along with what is served.

Xin Yi is an active child in her mother’s eyes and at first, her mother thought that curiosity and playfulness were the driving forces behind her willingness to wash dishes and pick up litter. However, she soon realized that these were actually voluntary initiatives. Recalling an incidence when her daughter was in a no-smoking zone, she recounted how the little girl automatically picked up a piece of litter without being told.

Teacher Chong Voon Hwee explained that after spending three years in Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, the spirit of caring for the environment has already been internalized in the little girl. If she spots litter, the thought of loving Mother Earth will immediately flash in her mind.

“If everyone ignored the rubbish they saw, what would become of the world?” Chong frequently asked her students. Though she does not entirely understand the harm that environmental pollution would wreck on the earth, nor the problems that climate change would bring, Xin Yi has already begun treating the act of picking litter as a personal responsibility to save Mother Earth.

Teaching Children to Cherish Resources

Before Xin Yi enrolled in the Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool, her mother was everything to her. After being a student of the school, she became more willing to accept others into her life and would interact with them.

The teachers at the PreSchool would take the children on excursions via public buses, and Xin Yi’s mother thinks that without the protective influence of parents, the children can engage in greater self-exploration and learning activities. This bodes well for their independence and social skills.

Xin Yi’s father feels that the school exerts a great influence on children as that is where they spend a great deal of their time. He mentioned how Xin Yi would take the initiative to place her utensils at the tray return station if she had meals outside. At home, she would also wash her own bowl after meals.

Through his daughter’s actions, he saw that the daily living skills taught at school together with the curriculum that draws on the wisdom of Jing Si Aphorisms have molded her character. For example, every time that Xin Yi sees someone leaving food on their plate, she would quote the aphorism that goes: “Waste not and cherish our blessings.”

Chong shared that the PreSchool incorporates the spirit of caring for the environment into its curriculum. Every child is taught to reduce paper wastage, find other uses for recyclables and pick up litter from the floor. When they are given paper to draw on, they are told that both sides can be utilized fully to minimize wastage.

Today, Xin Yi knows how to maximize the use of discards. She loves drawing and engaging in art and craft activities, for which she employs the use of waste paper. She doodles on both sides of a sheet of paper and makes handmade cards out of them. These works of art that stem from her creativity can be seen all over the walls of her house.

Xin Yi even sets a good example for her older sister and as long as her mother has requested her to accomplish a task, her sister would chip in to help too. In the eyes of her mother, Xin Yi is just like a little bodhisattva in the family.

 

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