Growing up in Asia, I was moved by the plight of suffering animals - a frequent sight. But I didn't know how to help them. Nobody around me cared about animals. After college in the UK, I joined animal, environmental, and human rights groups, but my involvement was only letter-writing and becoming a vegetarian. I was busy exploring Europe and building my academic research career.
Then ten years ago, when I was in my late 30s, my parents' business began distributing annual dividends to me and my siblings. I plunged into learning about philanthropy and about the animal welfare community. I listened and asked innumerable questions, from the practical to the sublime. In time, I decided to limit my living expenses significantly, so I could channel as much money as possible into animal protection, especially animals in developing countries, and gathering oral histories of long-time animal advocates (which I worked on full-time for six years without pay through a small non-profit I started).
I still struggle with expectations and demands - from myself and from others, especially my parents - which cannot be met. (I'm always at a loss for words whenever they ask me, "Why haven't you bought yourself a nice house? What's the matter with you?!") Nonetheless, although I am a latecomer to philanthropy and social activism, I have come to appreciate the beauty of committing my financial resources to progressive causes and the sheer good such actions can do for everyone- for persons with the checkbooks, for those who receive the checks, and for society at large. After all, are we not all fellow travelers in the same boat?