“I’m very happy today to be here making snacks, serving the volunteers and children.” said Wu Mei Hong, a parent from the Tzu Chi Parent-Child Bonding Class, during the experiential class on vegetarian cooking. She not only learned how to make simple vegetarian foods but also learned how to serve with gratitude.
It was her first time attending a vegetarian cuisine class, and she was surprised to find out that vegetarian cooking was actually rather simple. She praised the dedication of the volunteers and said that their attitude was commendable.
On 27 November 2016, a total of 116 students, 64 parents, and 105 Tzu Chi volunteers arrived at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Cultural Academy to celebrate the conclusion of the year’s Parent-Child Bonding Class. The theme of the event was “Thank You for Being There for Me”, and the children expressed their gratitude in various ways, including sign language performances, handmade cards, and craft flowers. The parents, too, learned how to prepare vegetarian cuisine to thank the volunteers for their service over the year.
Expressions of Gratitude in All Forms
At around 9.30am in the morning, the Primary 5 and 6 students crafted flowers with ribbons and paper under the guidance of their teacher. With 150 paper flowers laid out on the table, the classroom looked just like a flower garden splashed with a riot of colours!
Another class of students were busy with fashioning paper cards out of recycled paper. Student Chen Xin Yu said, “(This is meant to) express gratitude to the staff and the helpers who cook meals for us.”
Inside the classroom, a pair of 10-year-old fraternal twins were hard at work making 3D thank you cards. Their mother, who is also a Parent-Child Bonding Class facilitator, said, “I’ve learnt so much from the volunteers and teachers during the class and feel that I have become more patient.” She wants to continue with the role next year and remarked that she was on the receiving end during the Bonding Class, but as a facilitator, she could learn a lot.
“......Let love spread, like the rays of the sun, it warms both you and I......”
Singing was heard from a classroom as the class of students practised in groups.
“‘Spreading love’ means transforming it into Great Love. If I see an elderly person fall down or unable to walk, I will help him/her. I will also donate the savings in my bamboo coin bank to help others,” said seven-year-old Xie Si Jing shyly. She has been a vegetarian since birth and dislikes eating meat because she does not want animals to be killed and their parents to grieve.
On the first floor, a vegetarian cooking class for parents was in progress. The adults busily cut up the ingredients, assembled salads and kneaded green bean flour, preparing a tempting spread of dishes from fruit platters and sandwiches to snacks and tossed salad.
Parent Long Xin Yu has been a vegetarian for four years and used to prepare her greens in the more traditional style. However, after two culinary classes, she realised that it was actually not difficult to prepare such dishes and picked up new ways pf presenting vegetarian food. She said that not only is vegetarian food healthy, having a vegetarian diet also helps to protect the earth.
After the students and their parents had enjoyed the food, they began filing into the auditorium where the next itinerary was awaiting. Two volunteers on stage lead the students and their parents in a sign language presentation. They sang a few songs and endeared themselves to the audience watching downstage.
A Kind Environment Nurtures the Right Actions
In October, the Parent-Child Bonding Class launched a month-long vegetarian campaign to teach the value of compassion and the importance of protecting the earth to children. Those who had accumulated more than 80 vegetarian meals are “guardians” of vegetarianism while the “challengers” are those who have chalked up 30 to 80 such meals. A month later, 32 “guardians” and 23 “challengers” emerged.
Eleven-year-old Liu Hui Qi said, “I think that we should save the earth, and animals should be loved and protected. If there aren’t purely vegetarian dishes on the table, I will choose to eat only the green vegetables (cooked with the dish).”
Parent Chen Xu Yi shared with the audience what her child gained during the Parent- Child Bonding Class. She said that she would want her child to continue with the classes as she feels that character building is important. Having also picked up vegetarian cooking and recycling knowledge at Tzu Chi, she realised that vegetarian cooking is easy and tries to prepare such meals for her child as often as possible.
After a semester of classes, parents observed positive changes in their children’s behaviour. Wu Yi Jin expressed how happy he is that his child is in a good environment. He said that in such an environment where people were kind, his child, too, was positively influenced and this would have implications for the actions she takes in future.
In his closing speech, the CEO of Tzu Chi Singapore, Low Swee Seh, said, “By sending their children to the Parent-Child Bonding Class, parents are sowing seeds of kindness in their children’s hearts for the benefit of society.”
He hoped that through the learning opportunities provided in the Class, and with the guidance of volunteers, these little “seedlings of love” that have sprouted will eventually form the pillars of society.