What better way to celebrate Christmas than to give? So, when Cris Bonoan of the Maraming Bayani Foundation said she will be delivering school books to children in Cavite, I volunteered to help and organized a book drive by collecting books and school supplies from friends and colleagues.
The Cavite-site is the Dyanmic Teen Company (DTC) of push-cart educator Efren Penaflorida who was recently bestowed the title of CNN Hero of the Year in November 2009. DTC was founded in 1997 and aims to educate children of the slums as an alternative to gang membership. There are four push-cart kariton classrooms (right photo) which volunteers use to teach literacy, values formation, hygine and first aid.
Efren was being interviewed online by international media and thus, we were met by surprisingly very young heroes - - 17-year Emmanuel Bagual, fondly referred to as Kuya Em is the incumbent president of DTC, a Biblical Servant Leader, a United Nations Advocate for Human Rights and one of the five finalists of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for Children in Europe for his project “Mind Your Rights,” a campaign to educate children and parents on child’s rights.
The second young hero is bright and cheerful, 10-year old Chris Kesz. He is the youngest kariton volunteer and teaches hygiene and first aid. He was apparently found lying on the street, gravely ill abandoned by his mother at a young age.
After talking to the kids and helping out in their preparation for their annual Christmas party, Efren finally came down to meet us. He is very humble and unassuming despite his now celeb status. He still takes public transportation to meetings and events and is always on time. His zeal is infectious as evidenced by his effervescent, passionate volunteers. At the CNN Heroes award he says: "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...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."