I Believe in Animal Rights.
During my transition from middle school to high school, one thing I looked forward to the most was joining the Animal Relief Club. I couldn’t wait to work with people that truly cared about animal welfare as much as I did and having been involved in a few projects concerning animal welfare in the past, I felt like I had a lot to offer to the group.
Earlier in 2016, I submitted a proposal regarding a leadership role that I wanted to take in the group and starting October, I became one of the leaders of the Animal Relief Club.
Why I led the group:
For many years, ARC was limited to focussing on helping animals locally (i.e: homeless dogs) and although this was understandable given that we were on a tight budget and there was very little we could do as a small group, I always wanted to contribute to something bigger like the promotion of animal welfare on a more global scale. Witnessing homeless dogs forced to live in the tiniest cages with collars caved into their neck was terrifying but what hurt more was the thought of millions of other animals in the world chained up in even poorer conditions.
Since taking on the leadership role, I made a list of things I wanted to achieve as a group and ticked them off as I completed them:
– My proudest achievement as a leader of ARC was educating my peers on issues concerning animal welfare. When I first joined the group, so much of the activities we did as ARC involved local shelters and homeless dogs and sometimes, it upset me a little that our service group was only known as “the group for walking dogs”. Before joining ARC, I was involved in a couple of animal welfare projects outside of school such as participating in an 8km marathon with Animal Rescue Chiba, and throughout my life, I have also been surrounded by a lot of people who care about animals, including my family. Therefore, I had a lot of background knowledge on issues concerning animal rights before joining the group and the very first thing I wanted to do as a leader was share my experience with the group. Throughout our weekly meetings, I educated the group on issues like animal testing, factory farming, and introduced the group to organisations like Animal Rescue Chiba, Animal Refuge Kansai and World Associations of Zoos and Aquariums. As we became more knowledgeable about animal welfare outside of Japan and outside of dog shelters, we began to integrate more activities in the group like signing petitions and promoting cruelty-free brands at YIS.
– Another one of my proudest achievement was organising a “Lush Sale” at school to promote cruelty-free products. This was our very first event focussed on an issue outside of local shelters and I’m very proud that I could bring something new to the group, especially given how successful the event was.
Mastering the leadership role in ARC required lots of fear-conquering – as much as I loved the group and being part of it and supporting such a good cause, I couldn’t imagine myself standing up in front of the classroom every week. But conquering my fears every week was what also made the experience so much more meaningful and rewarding 🙂
- Speaking – This was my biggest fear as a leader. When I first started leading the group, I always tried to avoid and work my way around anything that involved talking in front of everyone. I would show up to the classroom before anyone else could, write instructions on the whiteboard and just watch people follow through the instructions. But eventually, I started feeling ashamed and embarrassed that as a leader and as someone who’s supposed to be actively engaged and be a role model for everyone else, I couldn’t even put in a bit of effort to stand up and talk. To conquer my fear of speaking in front of everyone, I began to use presentations to help me gain a little bit of confidence. I would write down instructions and goals for the meeting on a keynote presentation and project it on the whiteboard – this meant that the classroom lights had to be switched off for the presentation to be visible and this meant that I couldn’t really see the students’ face – this was probably one of the strategies that worked best for me because I realised that a lot of my fear of speaking came from having to make eye contact with the audience. Leading ARC not only helped me gain confidence in speaking but it also allowed me to speak more openly about my thoughts on animal welfare and I felt more personally-involved in the group 🙂 And I found myself becoming much more closer with other members of the group and this also meant that we got much more done during our meetings.
- Criticism – One of the biggest challenges of being a leader was being prepared for criticism and one of the most important skills I learnt through my experience with leading ARC was remaining calm and treating other members of the group with respect and understanding. Every meeting consisted of some kind of criticism and sometimes, they were hurtful and they affected my confidence a lot, but they were also what drove me to strive in the group. For example, if I received criticism on a particular event proposal, I took the criticism on board to come up with even better ideas – this was how I also came up with the LUSH idea :)Leading the Animal Relief Club was one of my most memorable experiences of service at YIS.