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Influence of the Young Minds has led to the formation of a New Vegetarian Family

The motivation behind primary school teacher Low Yee Leong’s path to vegetarianism for the past ten years was to wish for his wife’s smooth delivery. He had been practicing “flexitarianism” at home until his three kids started attending schools that provide plant-based meals. It then started a whole new chapter for his family of five to go vegetarian.

(Photo provided by Low Yee Leong, 20/8/2020)

”Often, parents will have to rack their brains on how to influence their children but with the roles reversed, it takes only a moment to change parents’ perceptions. This is the display of parents’ love.
Many a time, we really need to humble ourselves to learn from our children.
The purity of our children’s hearts in protecting animals is usually the reason that drives adults to adopt a plant-based diet.
Are you willing to believe that with every child who goes on a plant-based diet, there will be another family turning to meatless options?
We should not undermine the influence of children.“

The above paragraph that had attracted the attention of everyone is an introduction from Episode 29 on “Go Veggie Singapore 1.0”.  

The host for this episode was Low Yee Leong and his wife, Hwang Man Wei. Together with their children, the family of five mustered their courage to share their vegetarianism journey on Singapore Children’s Day. Yee Leong also circulated the clips from this food hunt programme to his family, friends, colleagues and parents at the primary school he is teaching at. His videos have since received more than 1500 shares, and among them, some non-Chinese speaking colleagues have even requested him for a translation of the content. There were also parents who started going on a vegetarian diet upon his inspiration. The influence and impact of "Go Veggie Singapore 1.0" have far exceeded its earlier expectation.

When Man Wei was pregnant with her first child ten years ago, the foetus was in an unstable condition. Yee Leong then took a vow in front of Bodhisattva where he prayed for his wife’s smooth delivery and for both mother and daughter to be safe. He then committed to a meatless diet going forward. Yee Leong said, “Perhaps my prayers were answered as my daughter is already ten years old. It was her who had me embark on this journey. Since then, I have been on a vegetarian diet.”

As working parents, their kids had to be entrusted to the care of a babysitter who is a Tzu Chi volunteer and a vegetarian. Because of that, the babysitter had provided their children with plant-based meals as well. Yee Leong then enrolled his three children at the newly established Tzu Chi Great Love PreSchool at Chong Pang and later the Great Love Student Care Centre in Sembawang.

“It is very fortunate that our children have been immersed in an environment that is conducive for vegetarianism from birth till primary school.” The family was not on a full plant-based diet then and that prompted him to consider from the perspective of his children’s upbringing, “Why do we stick to a meatless diet outside but do not practise it at home?”   

Man Wei confessed, having hailed from a non-vegetarian family, she is not good at cooking plant-based dishes. She was also concerned about any deficiency in nutrition in her children’s vegetarian diet. Hence, she opted to include meat in her cooking. “I feel really apologetic that my husband had to practise “flexitarianism” for so many years!”

As the children started their kindergarten learning, teachers have been educating them on vegetarianism, to love all animals and abstain from killing. However, back home, Mom will be cooking fish for them and this made the children very confused. Man Wei said, “It was then that I realized I was the barrier to getting them started on vegetarianism. Since my children are not eager to eat meat, I shall respect their choice and have started exploring nutritious and delicious plant-based recipes for my family.” Their kitchen has since been free from fish & poultry, and Yee Leong no longer needs to be a “flexitarian”.

Although Man Wei has been adopting a meatless diet at home, she was not a full vegetarian when dining out with colleagues and friends purely out of convenience. This was not until early 2020 when COVID-19 broke out. Master Cheng Yen had called this wave of virus outbreak “A Great Lesson” to humankind and urged everyone to abstain from eating meat and adopt a plant-based diet. It was then that Man Wei suddenly realized that the only obstacle preventing her from turning into a full vegetarian is herself. To be an able disciple of Master, Man Wei eventually gave up the remaining 10% of her craving and became a full vegetarian.

(Screenshot by Chan May Ching, 9/10/2021)

As the host of the food hunt programme, on this day, Yee Leong brought his family to an eatery at Yishun Block 729 in the northern part of Singapore. Their special recommendation is the green Mee Hoon Kueh and Soya Milk Mee Sua Soup. The kids have chosen Dry Kolo Mee with mock meat and finishing the meal with a cup of aromatic brown rice coffee.

Man Wei also shared that her children have become healthier after adopting a plant-based diet and falling sick less frequently. Friends around her were also surprisingly supportive upon knowing her vegan diet and that has helped to overcome all her concerns. During the Dragon Boat Festival, her younger sister had specially made some meatless dumplings and that left her extremely touched. “With my perseverance, it turned out that my family have gradually grown to understand and accept my diet preference.” 

Yee Leong is especially enthusiastic in sharing videos relating to plant-based food and introducing books on a nutritious vegan diet. Under his recommendations, his friends have also started borrowing related reading materials from the library. After his sharing about the eatery on Food Channel, Yee Leong is overjoyed to see the pickup in the crowd opting for a meatless diet at the eatery. The mere ten minutes of sharing on “Go Veggie Singapore” has not only benefitted himself but also deeply influenced many others. There is much to be gained in his journey of promoting vegetarianism as he has since forged a good relationship with the eatery owner too!

Low Yee Leong and wife, together with their three children participating in the Year End Blessing ceremony at Jing Si Hall. The children pour their savings collected in a bamboo coin bank into a jar, contributing to the pool of Tzu Chi’s merits. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng, 23/10/2021)

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