When she was five, Megan Tan watched a documentary on how animals were skinned to make clothes, shoes and bags. She was so upset that she drew a picture of the fashion items along with the message "Please do not use animal skins to make things like these" and stuck it on the door of her bedroom.
Last Tuesday, despite her fear of public speaking, Megan, now 10 years old, made a simple and heartfelt speech to 320 delegates at the Asia for Animals conference which won her praise from animal lovers and netizens alike.
"It must have been difficult for her to stand in front of an international audience and give a speech. But she decided to, because of her deep care and concern for animals... Well done, Megan!" wrote Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, an animal welfare advocate, who has shared her speech on his Facebook site.
The post has already got more than 2,100 "likes".
The Primary5 pupil from Maha Bodhi School is the youngest volunteer at Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), the organiser of the five- day event. It ended last Friday.
It was the organisation's founder Louis Ng who asked Megan to be the keynote speaker after being impressed by her passion for animal welfare.
"Even though we depend so much on them, many animals are treated unfairly. When they get abused, they cannot defend themselves or tell us how they feel. So I think it is up to us to speak up for them," she told the delegates during her 10-minute-long speech.
She also revealed how she has designed four animal-themed covers for A'zone notebooks made with recycled paper.
"I hope my art can inspire people to be more considerate to our animal friends," she said, adding that all proceeds from notebooks sold would be donated to Acres.
Mr Ng said: "She designed them, printed them out and passed them to us. We often talk about inculcating compassion and raising leaders... I think we have succeeded with Megan."
Megan has two siblings. Her parents, secondary school teachers Kayne Tan, 38, and Jo Tan, 36, told The Straits Times: "Megan was so quiet in Primary1 that she almost failed her oral exam. Once, she came home in tears because she was asked to give a presentation in class.
"When asked to give the speech she was hesitant at first. However, she found her courage because she was inspired by Louis' unwavering commitment."
This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 20, 2014
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