The Star Malaysia - Star2
Starting them young
Emerson and Sheldon Chong are finding ways to use their talents to effect change as they were raised to be socially conscious and help a planet in need.
ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD Emerson Chong’s superhero is called Earth Boy, and it won him third place in last year’s Unicef Climate comic contest.
In many ways, Emerson and his brother, Sheldon, 13, are also environmental heroes.
When they have spare time, the brothers are happy to follow their parents Selina Chew, 45, and Chong Eng Beng, 53, to the beach for a couple of hours.
But the Chong family is not there to bask in the sun, roll with the waves or collect seashells. They are there to do beach clean-ups.
In the last five years, the boys have visited many sandy shores ruined by trash. During beach clean-ups on Melaka’s Klebang Beach, Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan, and Bagan Lalang beach in Tanjung Sepat, Selangor, they have collected bags of waste, straws, food wrappers and plastic bottles.
“You wouldn’t believe the amount of garbage we found on the beaches.
We found diapers, discarded tires, even tables, cigarette boxes, and many plastic drinking bottles. In just a short time, we managed to collect so much garbage,” says Sheldon.
Emerson chips in: “Early this year, there was a story of a whale shark found dead in the waters of Sabah. It died of starvation and indigestion as it had a huge plastic bag stuck in its stomach. I’ve also seen videos of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril. Some sea turtles eat floating bags, mistaking it for jelly fish. That is very sad.”
Emerson and Sheldon’s volunteer work goes beyond beach clean-ups. They have been involved in community service projects with their parents for a number of years now.
It includes volunteering at turtle conservation centres and organising free arts and craft workshops for various non-governmental organisations, including Buddhist associations.
The boys, who can sing, play the guitar and keyboard, have showcased their musical prowess at fundraising campaigns too.
Caring for the community is a commitment that the boys’ parents have cultivated in them from young.
Through participating in charitable activities, Chong notices his sons have a better appreciation of life and how to make the world a better place. He says parents play an important role in teaching children ways to be responsible citizens.
“If children aren’t taught the art of giving from young, when will they learn? Through volunteer work, children develop respect and an understanding of people, community and nature,” says Chong, who has been involved in volunteer work and corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects for over 25 years.
Out of the many charitable activities, Chong notices his sons are especially interested in conservation efforts, so he encourages them to use their skills to try and make a change.
“My wife and I allow our sons to focus on things they are interested in.
Skills to do good
Emerson’s brother Sheldon, 13, also has a talent for drawing comic strips. The brothers have been using their artistic abilities to draw illustrations to educate children on ways to save the environment.
Emerson has also collaborated with New York artist Wendy Conception to create an Earth Boy comic panel which was published in Unicef’s climate comic book.
“I love to draw comics and was inspired to start saving the earth after experiencing a terrible haze a few years ago. Coming in as the second runner-up in the Unicef comic contest in early 2018 started me on my journey to create Earth Boy comic strips. Children can learn a lot about taking care of Mother Earth through simple comic books and cartoons,” says Emerson who was the youngest participant in the contest.
Last November, they conducted the Cartooning and Music Inspirations workshop at the 2018 Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Summit, an event to celebrate young people who are making social impacts through their own initiatives and projects, organised by Women: girls.
Three years ago, Emerson was invited to conduct a Creative Cartooning workshop for 100 secondary school students at the 2016 Tuanku Bainun Young Changemakers Summit.
Last year, Emerson and his broth
er also created an online game — Earth Boy Recycling Game on Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu) to help kids learn about the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle).
For the Chong brothers, earth’s sustainability is not just a cause they actively promote, but also a way of life.
“Since they are passionate about cartooning, we let them develop their skill, and teach others. We try to focus on character-building and confidence,” says Chong, a training consultant.
As Sheldon and Emerson are homeschooled, their parents are able to schedule their studies to accommodate their voluntary activities and conservation efforts.
Last month, Sheldon participated in the Yunga Ocean Challenge Badge hosted by the Sea Scouts Division – 7th and C Fort Sea Scouts of Melaka to learn about ocean conservation.
Developed in collaboration with United Nations agencies, civil society and other organisations, Yunga Challenge Badges aim to raise awareness, educate and motivate one to become an active agent of change in the local community.
“The event was really fun. It was filled with lots of activities that allowed me to learn about conservation, and how children can play a role in protecting the oceans for future generations,” says Sheldon, who is a member of the Seal 30 Sea Scouts open troop. To date, he has participated in 14 programmes on conservation.
Last year, Sheldon and his brother each released their self-published comic book, The Time Dimension and Attack On The Evil Clone respectively.
They have sold over 500 copies each, and 40% of the proceeds go to the Ariya Vihara Buddhist Society to support their charity work.
“I feel good that I am able to contribute
a portion of my sales to charity as they can use it to help others in need,” says Emerson.
Sheldon encourages his peers to give back to the community in whatever way they can.
“Children can help out with charity work in various ways, such as baking cookies to help raise funds, volunteering at an animal shelter, donating pocket money and taking care of the environment.
“As for us, since we can teach, draw, perform music, and do coding, we use our talents and time to share and inspire others in our own creative ways.”