Efren Penaflorida, who founded the “pushcart education” for the poor children in the Philippines, has been hailed as CNN Hero of the Year 2009. Penaflorida received the award during the CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles, California, Saturday. He was the outstanding among the nine other nominees from different countries for the Hero Year Award.
Penaflorida is the first Filipino to win the prestigious award from CNN.
In his valedictory address, Penaflorida told CNN: “Our planet is filled with heroes, young and old, rich and poor, man, woman of different colors, shapes and sizes. We are one great tapestry… Each person has a hidden hero within, you just have to look inside you and search it in your heart, and be the hero to the next one in need. So to each and every person inside in this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell to my co-volunteers … you are the change that you dream as I am the change that I dream and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.”
Peñaflorida will receive $100,000, which will be used to fund his work in the Dynamic Teen Company (DTC), a volunteer organization that he put up to conduct his “Kariton Klasrum” program.
Peñaflorida’s program conducts weekly visits to poor and under-served areas in Cavite, north of Luzon, to teach young people basic lessons in Mathematics, English, and Science using only a specially designed pushcart.
Efren’s humble beginnings
On the website http://www.dynamicteencompany.org, Efren “Kuya Ef!” Penaflorida Jr. who is residing near the city dump site and one of the group’s founder, began to reach out to slum kids in 1999. This marked the emergence of the “Kalingain Batang Mahirap” (Care of Impoverished Children), DTC’s feeding project for children who scavenge for left-overs and spoiled food from the dump site. The group had a hard time involving older people to the cause and so they trained themselves to be self-sufficient enough to teach the young kids themselves. The group was able to support itself and its projects by showcasing their talents in staged concerts and performances; and by selling old newspapers, bottles, and recycled products. This enabled DTC to train more potential youth leaders and eventually led to a purchase of a pedicab for its literacy and feeding projects.
Today, with the training and supervision of Kuya Ef who is a professional educator, DTC has indeed come a long way. Their mission to teach unschooled, labor-exploited and neglected street children is slowly being realized today. The group also conducts weekly feeding, first aid treatment of scabies and wounds, and values formation activities through their K4 Project (Kariton Klasrum, Klinik at Kantin). Hygiene and first aid skills are supervised by registered midwives and professional nurses who are DTC Alumni.
The fruits of their labor are slowly being reaped as former drug users and petty thieves who were reformed through their projects are now also serving as volunteers. Former scavengers are now in school and are helping to raise funds. Some of the children who remain unschooled are now able to read and write. DTC was able to reach thousands of children through their Mind Your Rights (MY RIGHTS) campaign and through their health-literacy work.
In 2007, they launched the “WE ARE THE CHANGE” campaign to inspire people to be the catalyst for change – in what they want to see in their home, community and the world we live in. For they believe that real change happens when we begin to touch one soul and change one heart at a time.
We need more like Efren
We need more “upright” educators like Efren Penaflorida. Our country has filled with laxity of classrooms and low quality of education. If you want to improve our country’s image, cease all forms of corruption in all government agencies, punish corrupt government officials and bring them to justice. I include also to the rich people (to the oil sectors) to stop greed in all forms. Better to collect money to all oil players for public schools to improve or make higher quality of education than to put in your pockets!
To all presidential aspirants must stop greed and ambitions in their hearts. Their priorities must improve the quality of education and stop the tuition fee hikes in all private schools and colleges.
I call to all the non-government organizations who wish to start and provide mobile classrooms for the poor children who live in slum areas in different regions in our country. Let’s help our children to alleviate poverty and all forms of illiteracy.
I believe Filipinos, in desperate times, are world-class because they can excel in arts, education, sports, and other fields. Let us prove that we are not dumb Filipinos but we are more intelligent than the other people around the world. Kaya natin ito, pinoy! Mabuhay si Efren Penaflorida! Mabuhay ang buong sambayanang Filipino at sa buong mundo!