CNN Hero of the Year – Pushcart Educator From the Philippines

Efren Penaflorida, a pushcart educator from Cavite City, Philippines has been named “CNN Hero of the Year” in 2009 for his outstanding advocacy to educate Filipino out-of-school youth through his “pushcart classes.”

CNN’s Anderson Cooper revealed Efren Penaflorida’s selection at the end of the third-annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” held at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Saturday night.

After seven weeks of online voting at CNN.com. and more than 2.75 million votes were cast, Penaflorida was selected and will receive $100,000 to continue his work with the Dynamic Teen Company. Ninety per cent of the said amount will go to DTC and ten percent will go to church, this is what he said during an interview.

In 1997 at the age of 16, Penaflorida and three of his high school classmates formed Dynamic Teen Company (DTC) which aims to turn away kids from joining gangs and involving themselves in petty crimes. After a decade, they have 10,000 volunteers who are working for that cause.

According to Penaflorida, it was at Club 8586, Inc. where he met his mentor who changed his perspective. They joined in their volunteer work and jail outreach programs. Since that time, their eyes were opened to reality, how kids who aren’t properly guided grow up to be criminals rotting in jail cells or worst, ending up at the cemetery.”

“It was Michael who thought of the concept,” Penaflorida recalls. “He was the one who did the shelves and the built-in blackboard.” They stocked the pushcarts with pens, books, tables and chairs and this is where the “pushcart classroom,” started. They replicate a school setting every Saturday in the most implausible places like the cemetery and the municipal trash dump.

Because of hardship and pure sacrifices, Penaflorida and his team came to a point where they almost gave up. But again, it was his mentor from Club 8586 who kept encouraging them. He said, “Why would you be ashamed of doing something you know is right?” and that inspired them again to continue their advocacy.

His mentor believed that the Internet was a good way to let others know of their cause so they can reach out to even more kids in need. So he filmed the group’s “pushcart classroom” one Saturday and uploaded the video in youtube.com. It didn’t take long for the said video to catch attention worldwide. Eventually, this is where a staff member from Oprah’s Angel Network, a foundation inspired by respected daytime TV host Oprah Winfrey, found out about it. And because of this, Penaflorida’s story was featured on the site. In December 2008, someone from CNN noticed Penaflorida and his group’s efforts and got in touch with them, suggesting that they submit Penaflorida’s story for CNN Hero of the Year.

The top 10 CNN Heroes, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel were each honored with a documentary tribute and introduced by a celebrity presenter. Each of them receives $25,000 as well. The heroism of these ordinary people is really inspiring. They are like seeds of hope in this world of darkness and hopelessness.

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2 Responses

  1. bilib na bilib talaga ko dito kay sir efren..
    akalain mo natalo nya ang napakaraming contenders.
    nabasa ko panga yung iba nag papakain ng maraming tao, mga ganun ba..

    basta one of a kind talaga tong kariton na to!!

  2. Talaga naman sana lang wag mahaluan ng intriga ng showbiz…

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