In case you were not aware, every year, CNN hosts a special awards ceremony where they honor a special real-world hero. Hero’s are nominated every year, and then the public can vote on the hero of their choice, who is awarded in a special celebration. This years celebration happened just tonight, where we learned that Efren Peñaflorida had been chosen.
Efren Peñaflorida, now 28, was constantly bullied by gangs in high school. A growing problem in the Phillippines, where teenage gang membership has now reached an estimated 130,000 in recent years.
But rather than follow in their footsteps and succumb to the pressures of his peers, he decided to not only get out, but work to solve the problem. Now he offers Fillipino youth an alternate option – education.
Gangs start targeting kids as young as 9 years old, mostly victims of poverty, with little or no educational opportunities, who are then dragged into the lifestyle out of pressure and lack of strong options.
So for the last 12 years, Efren Peñaflorida, with a team of volunteers, has taught reading and writing to children living on the streets by use of a mobile classroom. Literally a pushcart classroom stacked with books, tables, chairs, and other necessities. He’ll set up classrooms wherever he can, in cemetaries, even the local dump.
Now children as young as two and as old as 14 come to his mobile classroom each saturday for their lessons. Since their beginning in 1997, they’ve taught more than 1,500 children, their costs supported primarily by making and selling crafts, and recycling.
It’s a phenomenal thing, to watch someone not only overcome their past, or circumstances, but then devote so much of themselves to trying to fix the situation. I firmly believe that we are not subject to our environments, but are able to rise above them, to rise above our past, and to create lives for ourselves. You can see my story (here) to see why I believe this so strongly.
But even if you come from a background that is far less dramatic, we all find ourselves subjects of circumstances that would bring us down, and keep us from achieving individual greatness. Occasionally stories like those of Efren Peñaflorida simply help us realize that if people can overcome such great odds, and choose to make such a difference, then so can we.
You can read more about Efren Peñaflorida’s story at CNN here: http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/03/05/heroes.efren.penaflorida/index.html
You can also choose to nominate your own hero for 2010 here: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/nom/
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