The sprawling green field of Yishun Stadium was filled with endless laughter, fun-filled activities, and boundless energy of young children running about freely, soaked in perspiration.
On 23rd June, Tzu Chi Great Love Pre-School held its inaugural parent-child sports meet. The parents and their children had looked forward to enjoy this special day of shared blessings, and many of the parents, such as Hong Fu An and Tang Hui Wen, had specially applied leave from work to spend some quality time with their children in this special event. Tang said that that her children had awaited with eager anticipation the night before, and even urged their parents to go to bed early. In the wee hours at around 6 plus in the morning, they could not wait to awaken their sleeping parents. “The kids sometimes get so caught up in their joyful moments of fun,” she said with a smile.
With the accompaniment of lively music playing in the background, teams of teachers and their students streamed into the field. After the teachers had led the family members of the students in the spectator stand through some warm up activities, two young participants of the sports meet came forward to say a pledge as a reminder for all to honour the rules of the games and to observe sportsmanship.
The sports meet was a continuation of the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” series of activities that have been ongoing for three weeks, and its main intent was to promote an all-rounded healthy lifestyle. Besides encouraging participants to eat vegetarian, it also aimed to promote the good habit of exercising.
Standing before the 184 parents and children gathered at the stadium, Tzu Chi Great Love Pre-School’s principal, Ms Audrey Koh, delivered her opening speech. She highlighted to the parents the widespread detrimental effects of climate change and weather anomalies due to global warming, especially in the recent decade. Thus, for the sake of the younger generation, she urged every parent present to do their respective parts, to respond to the call for a vegetarian diet to reduce our carbon footprints.
For children between the age of 18 months and 3 years, the teachers had planned a few little games that provided opportunities for them to exercise their bones and muscles. As for the 3- to 6-year-olds, they partnered with their parents to complete a series of challenging games together - they had to pass through 5 game stations of mixed-age groups. The parents’ relay race, which was originally planned to take place after the games, was cancelled due to bad weather.
Although some of the children were a little muddle-headed and dashed about like a bull in a china shop, they brought much laughter and fun to all. Some of the games tested the participants’ responsiveness, while others tested their physical strength or intellectual abilities, but winning or losing became secondary to the shared joy between the parents and their children.
Gradually, an assortment of little “animals”, such as butterflies, sheep, spiders, tigers, etc. made their appearances in the stadium. In fact this was a game that tested the mutual understanding between the parents and their children. Each parent had to bear his/her own child donned in a home-made animal costume and made a dash back to the starting point. On the day of the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” launching ceremony, the children had put on the costumes to signify that they had passed the “vegetarian test”, and successfully landed on the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” to become friends with the “animals” living there.
One mother, Zhou Wan Si (featured below), joined the event with her twin sons, who were dressed up as a tortoise and a jellyfish respectively. She had specially pasted paper streamers to a pastel blue umbrella for her son who wanted to be a jellyfish. “He might have chosen jellyfish because of its many flowing tentacles. After completing the jellyfish umbrella, he kept spinning it and was elated!”
They come from a non-vegetarian family and only ate vegetarian on the first and fifteenth day of the lunar month. When her son informed her of the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” programme, she felt that it was a bit challenging to keep a vegetarian diet. But for the sake of supporting this activity, they conscientiously chose vegetarian dishes whenever they dined out. And the young boy was very careful about what he ate; he always asked before eating, “Is this meat or vegetable?”
6-year-old Zheng Pin Hao was dressed up as a vivid-looking spider. He had four insect legs made from black socks that could move in sync with his arm movements. His mother, Huang Xiao Zhen said that he loved insects, and the whole family often visited farms and the Zoo during the holidays. Zheng Pin Hao and his younger brother often shared about the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” programme with their parents back home since it was launched.
“They (her sons) will not clamour for meat as they have never eaten it before and have never thought of eating it,” said Huang.
Coming from a vegetarian family, Huang Xiao Zhen was amused to see that the Pre-School had adopted interesting ways to encourage vegetarianism. “I feel that this will leave an indelible impression in the young minds. So, even after the kids have grown up, they will still have a firm belief in vegetarianism and not be easily influenced.”
The three months’ long “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” programme not only required the support of parents to accompany their children in adopting a vegetarian diet, but the school’s principal, Audrey Koh, further hoped that this would encourage more parents to start with a short-term vegetarian diet first, and then slowly extend the period of vegetarianism, to finally switch to a vegetarian diet.
During break time, supervisor of the Pre-School Tai Nyeok Moi (pictured below) shared valuable tips on a healthy vegetarian diet, and called upon the parents to collect a vegetarianism pledge card to record the number of vegetarian meals consumed, which also served as a form of encouragement for them. They were to hand over the duly completed cards to the teacher-in-charge of their children’s class by 1st August.
Many parents who were present agreed with the call, and one such parent was Li Xue Shi. Since three weeks before, when the “Vegetable and Fruit Planet” programme commenced, she had tried her utmost to follow her children’s vegetarian diet. “I have no objection, primarily because of health reasons, and because a vegetarian diet has health benefits. Moreover, the teachers have said that eating vegetarian can help to reduce our carbon footprints,” said Li.
Parents and teachers are both important role models to children. The concerted efforts of parents and their children are equally important in ensuring the future wellbeing of Mother Earth and humanity.