“Ah ma, do you feel like the weather has been very hot recently?” Tzu Shao Shen En Qi asks an elderly woman resting on a bench. En Qi, along with her Tzu Shao group mates were all ready to share with granny, the benefits of recycling.
On the 8th of June, 83 Tzu Shao students dutifully set aside time during their school holidays to help sort recyclables at the ten recycling points island-wide. In addition, they also diligently crafted posters to educate residents on the importance of saving resources and recycling, as well as the negative aspects of consuming shark’s fin – elements under the “Compassion Project”.
Under the guidance and encouragement from the volunteer facilitators (parents), the teenagers gradually overcame their shyness in approaching strangers with their mission in promoting the “Compassion Project.”
Dare to Speak Up on What is Right
En Qi and her group mates were deployed to the Admiralty recycling point; there was a total of 27 Tzu Shao students and 9 parent facilitators. The Tzu Shao students practiced their campaign in front of volunteers, before heading out to advocate recycling to the public.
“We were all quite nervous during the campaign. There was no script, so we could only rely on the posters we’d prepared. There were times when we didn’t know how to continue, so our group mates had to step in and help,” shared En Qi.
Preparation for this day started one month ago during the monthly Tzu Shao class. To better equip herself for the campaign, En Qi had taken the initiative to head to the library and do some research. The main message of recycling was the “5Rs”—“Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle.”
On hindsight, En Qi observed that promoting the campaign was easier than it seemed. “Talking to strangers isn’t that tough. Furthermore, recycling is an easy thing. We are all children of the earth; each one of us has to play our part.”
“I rarely interact with strangers, so I was shy at first,” Wei Ming Hong let on. Nevertheless, remembering the particular Jing-Si aphorism, “Do not underestimate ourselves, because everyone has boundless potential” helped Ming Hong overcome his initial hesitation. Even though he encountered members of the public who were cynical, he was not discouraged, “We shouldn’t give up just because some people are doubtful (of our cause). Who knows, after thinking through it slowly, they might eventually realize that we do makes sense.”
Next to the Redhill recycling point is the Redhill Market. As usual, the area is packed and the atmosphere is lively. However, upon closer inspection, one would notice a crowd of 16 Tzu Shao students who do not seem to belong there. Some are holding onto colourful posters, others have flyers in hand, while a few of them are carrying around various recycled materials. Curious passers-by cannot help but take a closer look.
A group of Tzu Shao approaches a granny who is having breakfast at the market, in an attempt to discourage her from consuming shark’s fin in future. They solemnly share with her the sad tale of the shark. To obtain shark’s fin, fishermen catch sharks, slice off their fins, and then cruelly throw them back into the sea, alive yet in so much pain. After learning about the heinous origin of shark’s fin, the granny resolved never to eat it again. “I used to eat shark’s fin, but I won’t eat it again. I want to become a vegetarian!” Granny then adds a sticker to the students’ feedback form, to support the avoidance of shark’s fin.
Spotting resident Ms Yang Li Ping who had utilized plastic bags for her take-away breakfast, the Tzu Shao students used this opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of recycling. They explained that plastic bags are non-biodegradable, and hence will leave permanent damage to our earth. We should thus recycle or reuse such products. Ms Yang clarified that she knew the importance of recycling. Unfortunately, due to her busy work schedule, she cannot help but order take-out every day. Even so, she promises to wash the plastic container after consuming her food so that she can reuse it again. Ms Yang also commended the youths for understanding the value of conservation. Moreover, she agrees that the habit of recycling should be inculcated from a young age.
Witnessing this group of energetic youths actively promoting recycling, the residents were full of praise. “Keep it up!” Mr Lu Rong Rong encouraged, pleased to see youths with such high awareness on environmental issues. He remarked that this is a great improvement from his generation. “I hope schools will continue to advocate recycling, so that more youths are educated on its importance.”
Mr Xu Bing Xia was having breakfast with his friends that morning. Inspired by the students’ compassion, he has since inquired about the location of the nearest recycling point, and hopes to play his part in contributing to the earth.
Even with flushed faces from the scorching sun, the Tzu Shao students nonetheless remain energetic. Once back at the recycling point, they get to work and help out with the sorting of recyclables. After all the work had been done, it was time for reflection.
“This is my first time doing a campaign in public,” shared Feng Si Rong. “I was shy at first, but I overcame that by thinking about how important it is to raise awareness that sharks’ fins are sliced off from live sharks. Killing is wrong!”
Lin Yi Kai recalls that he had previously watched documentaries on how sharks were killed; the gruesome images remain etched in his memory. He had then resolved to make good use of this campaign to discourage others to stop eating shark’s fin.
While doing research in preparation for this day, Huang Zhi Yun was saddened when she realized how many people would kill just to satisfy their taste buds. Nevertheless, her spirits were lifted after the campaign when she found out that many people have actually stopped consuming shark’s fin.
It was Tian Shu Hao’s first time taking part in recycling. Because he had to “sacrifice sleep” on a weekend morning, Shu Hao was initially not too enthusiastic about the event. It was only under his mother’s encouragement that he reluctantly conceded. At the end of the day, not only did he not regret taking part in this, he says he enjoyed himself. He particularly had fun stepping on and crushing the plastic bottles, and interacting with the public. “It’s very special, because schools don’t conduct such recyclables sorting nor promote recycling activities.”
Parent facilitator Su Teng Ying was full of praise, “These kids are amazing! Everything was done by them, including manpower allocation, planning, and research; we only assisted minimally. Also, our students are usually more reserved during classes in the Jing Si Auditorium. Through this outdoor activity, we got to know more about their personalities, as well as uncovered their various strengths. Our teenagers have learned more about responsibility, teamwork, diligence, and character building. During the campaign, they would have encountered difficult or doubtful members of the public. From this, the Tzu Shao students would have learned that when the going gets tough, they should persevere.”
While spreading the message behind the “Compassion Project,” the youths of Tzu Shao have not only inspired others, but also themselves, to become better people, and make the world a better place for all.