At an age when most kids’ role models are the latest Disney Channel TV star or pop singer, ten-year-old Ashraya Ananthanarayanan of Upper Providence looks up to a very different person – doctor and Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer.
Ashraya is a passionate animal advocate, like Schweitzer, and hopes one day to win the Albert Schweitzer Prize for her work in humanitarianism and for her love of animals. Her favorite quote to share with people is something Schweitzer said: “Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.”
She has already collected an impressive list of awards: the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Award from People for Animals, a PETA Compassionate Kid Award, a President’s Call to Service Award, and a Senator’s Leadership Award from Senator Stewart Greenleaf.
She has also been named a Daily Point of Light by the Points of Light Foundation and the Official U.S. Child Ambassador for Karunashram (part of People for Animals, Karunashram is an animal shelter located in Wardha, Maharastra, India).
Last week, Ashraya published her first book, “Ring of Hope”, which is the story of how she rescued a baby turtle that had wandered out of the woods and into a friend’s yard.
Ashraya says her best friend came running to her house one afternoon to tell her she had seen a baby turtle and that two neighborhood boys had picked it up and put it in a cooler. “They didn’t know what a turtle needs, what its food is, what its habitat is, or anything like that,” she says.
She talked to the boys and their parents and explained what the laws were concerning keeping wild animals as pets. She was able to convince the boys to let her take the turtle, and she found the turtle’s parents and released the baby back into the woods where it came from.
In addition to her writing, Ashraya is a fifth-grader in the Spring Ford Area School District. She is also a musician, dancer, volunteer teacher, and poet. She has a dog, a cat and three gerbils and has rescued several other animals. She recently started a group called the Harmony Club, which will be active in environmental issues like recycling to spread the “green globe” message. She plays violin, piano, and harp, sings, and teaches classical Indian dance at her parents’ arts school, Shruthilayam Academy.
Her book, which contains the story of rescuing the turtle, along with several other short stories and quotations from famous people, is available at her website and will soon be available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Some of the proceeds from the book are going to help a small school in India that serves some of the neediest children in the country.
She is busy working on her next book, “Aria”, which will be a book of examples of all 51 different types of poetry. The book is being illustrated by Ashraya’s classmate Tyler Edwards.
Ashraya will still find time, among all her other activities, to continue to spread her message of compassion toward all living things.
“My message is to live and let live, and to always spread compassion around you,” Ashraya says.