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Env. Protection, People

Fearless Children Advocate for Animals’ Survival

Over ten episodes, 22 vegetarian children appear before the camera one after another to introduce different snacks in their kiddy voices. Some are full of confidence while others got themselves into tacky situations. Regardless of the outcome, their fearless spirit to stand up for animals’ survival has won the hearts, praises and encouragement of their viewers!

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Children’s hearts are as pure as the bright moon.  The purpose of producing “Go Veggie Singapore 2.0 - Kids Series” is to allow children to express their love for animals and respect for life on live broadcasts and try to move and influence family and friends around them to do the same. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng; date:13/11/2021)  

Yang Wen Ting, one of the team members who developed the idea of promoting vegetarianism through a food channel on social media, recalled reading a book titled “The Moon Reflects the Children's Hearts” when she was a child. The book described how a group of children saved money from buying diapers or helped their mothers to do housework or took care of their younger siblings so that they could donate the pocket money earned “for Master to build the hospital” when Master Cheng Yen was raising funds to build Tzu Chi hospital in Hualien at that time.

"So, there are sensible children after all. I shall not only do good deeds but also influence those around me to do so. The same goes for encouraging vegetarianism" said Yang Wen Ting. During then, the 30-episode “Go Veggie Singapore 1.0 series” was successfully broadcasted and well-received by the public. The production team rode on its success and introduced “Go Veggie Singapore 2.0” and decided to feature children as the leads in the series.

Children’s hearts are as pure as the bright moon.  The purpose of producing “Go Veggie Singapore 2.0 - Kids Series” is to allow children to express their love for animals and respect for life on live broadcasts, hoping to move and influence family and friends around them to do the same.

But where are the vegetarian children? The planning team called up parents they knew one by one to “beg” for children participants and finally found 22 child broadcasters who bravely marched into the live broadcast station to complete ten episodes. Most of the parents contacted were already vegetarians and were very supportive of the project. Some registered their children immediately; others who were worried that their children would have stage fright started “training” them at home to build up their confidence.

Yang Wen Ting shared that the food in the Kids Series is quite different from the selection in the adult series. She hopes to feature cheap vegetarian tidbits and snacks to assure that it is not challenging to be a vegetarian child in Singapore. An array of traditional vegetarian snacks was planned, including Malay desserts, kueh tutu, kueh lapis, putu mayam, curry puff, roti prata, ice kacang and peanut pancake.

“The thing is, after we started broadcasting the children's series, we realised that the snacks we have in mind are no longer what the kids are eating today!" The local cuisine world has grown rapidly in recent years and new food and snacks have emerged from the East and West. The snacks children are having now have evolved into bubble milk tea, McDonald's apple pies, Subway sandwiches and other interesting items. “The food featured on the live broadcasts must keep up with times. We can't just show the old snacks that won’t appeal to viewers."

Other than making food choices, it was equally challenging to encourage the children to speak naturally in front of the camera. “Come on, tell us, what is our role today? What is your name, broadcaster?" Very often, once recording begins and the child became conscious of the camera pointing at him, he would freeze. Mothers who stood by the side would get all anxious and wished that they could step in to help. Some of the children spoke mainly English and when they get nervous, their ten lines prepared in Mandarin would be condensed into half a sentence and eventually, they just switched to English. Although surprises kept popping up during the broadcasting, the children’s innocence has still won praises and warmed hearts.

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When recording in restaurants, parents would even take out notes to help the child broadcasters rehearse their lines. (Photo by Fong Kok Kee; date: 9/11/2020)

Eat not debt-laden meals but meals of gratitude

Eight-year-old Khoo Jing Yue and her five-year-old brother, Khoo Bo Liang are both vegetarians since birth. Their parents and aunt are Tzu Chi members. Their aunt, Khoo Chai Ling is also a videographer for the Go Veggie series.

When Khoo Chai Ling, who was involved in the recording of the food channel broadcast project at that time, asked her elder brother, Khoo Jyh Hao casually if he could host one of the episodes, the strict and serious man hesitated. Jing Yue who was there overheard the conversation and anxiously asked Khoo Jyh Hao, “Dad, why are you a vegetarian and yet do not help to encourage others to be the same?" His daughter's words hit him hard, so Khoo Jyh Hao, together with his wife, Chan Hsiong Peng and their pair of children appeared in the 28th episode of Go Veggie 1.0, and the family ate their way to a happy broadcast!

Khoo Jyh Hao is a senior Tzu Ching. After graduating from university, he performed well at work and his career advanced smoothly. Despite his busy schedule, he has balanced his career, family and Tzu Chi charity mission well. 13 years ago, Khoo Jyh Hao set up a vegetarian food stall hoping to encourage vegetarianism, but the business failed as he was unable to cope with it amidst his heavy workload, but the wish to promote vegetarianism never ceased.

Like father, like child. Khoo Jyh Hao 's daughter, Jing Yue has always loved animals. Not only is she a vegetarian but she finds purpose in promoting vegetarianism and is not shy about it at all. She enjoys sharing vegetarian food with her school teachers and piano teacher.

Chan Hsiong Peng revealed that after the broadcast was confirmed, Jing Yue became a little nervous and took the initiative to discuss the content with her. “Jing Yue felt that vegetarian food is closely related to environmental protection. She sought my help to draft a script for her to practise with her brother at home.” Chan Hsiong Peng shared that during the three days before the live broadcast, Jing Yue would rehearse her lines during a shower, after finishing her homework and before bedtime. On the day before the live broadcast, she roped in her younger brother to set up tables and chairs at home, took out eco-friendly bags and bowls to have a full rehearsal, and even invited her mother, grandma and the auntie next door to pose as her “audience”. Her serious attitude in encouraging vegetarianism really moved the adults."

“Hello, everyone. Today we are going to talk about Indian vegetarian food!" At the beginning of the live broadcast, Khoo Jing Yue led her younger brother, Khoo Bo Liang into the restaurant and introduced the Indian dishes clearly and eloquently. When she was demonstrating how to eat Indian roti, her younger brother, Bo Liang would be “in charge of” eating. She said, "The elephant is huge but it is a vegetarian, and so am I!" The adorable expressions by the cute duo melted everyone’s heart.

Khoo Jing Yue pronounced loudly to the camera, “Vegetarianism is not boring at all. There are many vegetarian options in Singapore! When my teachers and classmates found out that I am a vegetarian, they show respect to me. My neighbours know that I am a vegetarian and would buy vegetarian snacks to eat together with me. That’s how I have influenced a person to become a vegetarian!"

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Motivated by his daughter, Khoo Jyh Hao and his family were happy to appear on screen to promote vegetarianism. (Photo by Khoo Chai Ling)

Mother Chan Hsiong Peng cares about environmental protection. She would bring her own eco-bags to shopping malls and use eco-friendly utensils when she eats out or packs food. Khoo Jing Yue said, “If sea animals eat the plastic bags we throw into the ocean and die, that’s going to be really pitiful.” Khoo Bo Liang even showed the audience his eco-friendly bags and bowls and encouraged everyone to be a vegetarian and protect the environment at the same time.

To wrap it up, Khoo Jing Yue said firmly, “Master told us not to eat debt-laden meals but to eat meals of gratitude.” The brother and sister chanted slogans and flashed hand gestures to urge everyone to love animals and become vegetarians, bringing the broadcast to a beautiful end. Episode 8 of the Kids Series was popular and garnered more than 4,600 hits.

Khoo Jing Yue not only influenced her neighbours but also invited her teachers to watch the live broadcast together. One of the teachers who is a vegetarian hit ‘like’ and shared the post with many.  Another teacher was pleasantly surprised to find out that Jing Yue is a vegetarian after watching “Go Veggie Singapore”. To support Jing Yue's live broadcast, he invited friends to eat at the vegetarian restaurant recommended in the broadcast. The child broadcasters have quietly influenced young children and adults to join the ranks of vegetarianism with their pure innocence. 

Master Cheng Yen said, “Mankind has their own ecological system and so do animals. The two should be at peace and co-exist harmoniously. However, due to greed, humans attempt to eat all living creatures which have caused so much of killing and disorder on earth.” Global warming continues to worsen, and the only way to alleviate it is by adopting a plant-based diet. The children in the Kids Series are innocent and wish to do their part to call for help on behalf of their favourite animals. Adults should learn from their fearless spirit of advocacy.

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