,COLLEGEVILLE -- For as long as she can remember, Ashraya Ananthanarayanan has cared about helping animals.
The 7-year-old Collegeville girl said her concern for all living things is something she learned from her mother, who taught her about compassion.
"They have a place in this world, too," Ashraya said of animals. "It's not only humans. Everything has a place in this world, too."
Ashraya recently took action to help an animal she thought was in need, and for her efforts she will receive a Compassionate Kid Award from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Several weeks ago, Ashraya learned that a turtle living in her friend's backyard had been captured by her friend's brother and one of his friends. When Ashraya went to see the turtle, she felt badly for it.
"It was being kept in an icebox with wood chips and grass," Ashraya said, adding that "I was really sad for it because it probably missed its family and the ice box was shut fully" not allowing fresh air or sunlight in.
Ashraya learned that the boys intended on keeping the turtle confined for several weeks or months and she became upset.
When she returned home, Ashraya talked with her mother, Aarthy Ananthanarayanan, before she decided to try and help the turtle.
"It was I who introduced her to PETA," Aarthy said, further explaining that she had done work for animal welfare groups when she was just a teenager in India. Aarthy said she learned to respect and appreciate all living things from her father and has in turn taught her daughter to respect all animals also.
Although Aarthy has never worked for PETA, she was familiar with the organization and told her daughter about it.
"That day, when she came home I gave her the phone number (for PETA) but I told her she needed to call, it was her effort," Aarthy said.
After calling PETA, Ashraya learned that in addition to her belief that keeping the wild turtle confined to a box was inhumane, it was also likely illegal, because there are state laws that prohibit certain reptiles being taken from the wild and kept domestically without a license.
With that information and her desire to have the turtle released back into nature, Ashraya went to talk to the boys.
"I told them it was illegal (to keep the turtle) and I pleaded with them to let it go," she said.
Not having realized previously that keeping the turtle in captivity was illegal, the boys listened to Ashraya and agreed to free it.
Ashraya said she felt proud knowing that she made a difference and helped to free the turtle.
In addition to speaking up about the turtle, Ashraya has also looked for other ways to help animals.
During this past school year when her class was going to collect insects to observe, Ashraya talked to her teacher about doing an alternate assignment where she created colorful illustrations of insects like grasshoppers, and their anatomy and stages of life.
Aarthy said she is proud of her daughter for not only having compassion for other living things, but also for standing up for her beliefs even when it can be scary or intimidating to do so.
"I definitely feel very proud," she said. "If you feel something is wrong, then something is wrong. You don't need to be rude to others" to express your feelings.
Ashraya said she hopes other people and children can learn from her example.
"They can learn to be brave and stand up for every kind of life."