As I was about to call it a day, I saw a video link from a Facebook Page I joined called “Definitely Filipino” about the CNN Hero of the Year. It say’s: Acceptance speech of OUR 2009 CNN HERO and the thumbnail picture of Efren Penaflorida was attached to it.
Prior to being feted as such, Efren is relatively unknown. At such a young age of 28, he has accomplished something that not many people his age or even older had accomplished or will ever accomplish in their entire life..that is, changing the lives of others–for the better.
He created the group called “Dynamic Teen Company” which aims to teach basic reading and writing to children living on the streets in the hope that it will be a diversion to hooking up into gang activities like vandalizing, bullying others or even raping young girls.
Their classroom is a ubiquitous push cart wherein volunteers teach children with age ranging from 2-14 years old. Since 1997, approximately 10,000 members had taught over 1,500 “children of the slums”. To sustain this activity, they make and sell crafts or collecting items to recycle.
Moreover, those children that they taught upon getting the inspiration to learn more and strive to have a better life has also become volunteers for future students.
CNN selected 10 nominees for this year’s Hero of the Year which is now on it’s 3rd year. These Heroes as what the tagline says “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Impact” was selected by a distinguished panel comprising of leaders and humanitarians such as Gen. Colin Powell, Whoopi Goldberg, Sir Elton John, Phil Jackson, Shakira among others.
The Gala Tribute attended by an audience of 3,000 was held in Kodak Theatre, Hollywood last Saturday, November 21 and will have its premiere on Thanksgiving, November 26.
Apart from the prestigious recognition, Efren received USD 100,000 to continue his advocacy. More than 2.75 million votes were received online in CNN.com in a span of 7 weeks. Proof of the impact CNN Heroes of the year has brought us in 3 years time.
Presenters include Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Neil Patrick Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Randy Jackson, Greg Kinnear, George Lopez and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Here is Efren’s acceptance speech. While delivering it, he was visibly shaken and emotional maybe upon realizing he won such a great recognition and soon will be watched by millions of people worldwide.
“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.”
His speech is short but so meaningful and inspirational. May this recognition give him and his team more energy and passion to continue helping needy children have the education they deserve. It is such a pride and honor to the Filipino people to be given such award. Hope this would also open the eyes of many of us to help someone in need whenever we can. All the small efforts we exerted can be a life-changing experience for others.
For the full story of the CNN Hero of the Year gala night, please click the link below.
Update: According to ABS-CBN news report, Efren said 90% of the prize money will go to his organization and the remaining 10% to the Church and none for him..really a selfless act. May your tribe increase.
Mabuhay ka Efren! Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang lahing Pilipino!