Filipino teacher Efren Penaflorida won the CNN '2009 Hero of the Year' award for his outreach teaching project known as 'Kariton Klasrum' (push cart classroom). Penaflorida received his award from American actress Eva Mendes at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
The CNN 'Heroes of the Year'
award is a tribute by the international news network to individuals who render selfless humanitarian acts to the less fortunate people in different countries around the world.
"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," Peñaflorida said upon accepting the honor. "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."
Penaflorida started a 'push cart classroom' as a means of teaching out-of-school youth in the Philippnes to learn basic knowledge in mathematics, science, social studies and other basic subjects that are normally taught in schools.
The 28-year old teacher from Cavite, Philippines belongs to a very poor family. He grew up in a slum area where drug addicts, gangsters and pushers ply their trade. His father was a driver and her mother was a laundry woman. Despite his lowly status in life, Penaflorida formed the Dynamic Teen Company and together with his two peers, they push their carts to reach the most depressed areas to teach out-of school children basic literacy skills and values formation.
The CNN hero, while helping poor children in the slum areas, managed to obtain formal education through his scholarship from World Vision Philippines. He received a bachelor's degree in education from a local institution.
Despite the difficulties of bringing education closer to impoverished youth, Peñaflorida finds fulfillment not in awards and other forms of official recognition – not even in the flattery by politicians who have started courting him for their election plans – but in the smiles of the children who rush to meet him when they spot his humble pushcart.
Peñaflorida’s success is not your ordinary rags-to-riches story. While he is no longer hounded by the pangs of hunger and destitution, he continues to offer himself to the underprivileged as an example of a kid who fell victim to violence driven by poverty and yet found a way to lift himself up, the report added.