Long before President Barrack Obama chanted his slogan ‘Change We Can Believe In,’ Efren Penaflorida, also known as Kuya Ef, has been building lives of children in dump sites and squatter areas with his group, the Dynamic Teen Company (DTC), with their motto, “We are the Change.”
Kuya Ef is a finalist among the Top Ten CNN Heroes of 2009, under the category, “Championing Children.” The yearly competition extols extraordinary deeds of ordinary citizens from all over the world. The top CNN Hero who will get the most online votes will be named “CNN Hero of the Year”, and shall be awarded S100,000 and will be recognized during the “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” to be hosted by Anderson Cooper, airing on November 26, at 9PM Eastern Time at CNN.
“Efren Peñaflorida is a shining example of how we can all touch the lives of others with our sense of selflessness. What his group has accomplished with their meager resources drives us to reflect how we – who are blessed with better opportunities – can do so much more,” said Ace Durano, Secretary of Tourism.
“Truly, Kuya Ef puts a bright spot on the Philippines, as a Filipino who brings volunteerism to an all new meaning to people all over the world,” added Eduardo Jarque, Jr., Tourism Undersecretary for Planning and Promotions.
For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida led the DTC with its aim to bring education closer to the impoverished children, though the Kariton Klasrum, (pushcart classroom), a mobile classroom stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, holding lectures in unconventional places such as public cemeteries and municipal dumpsites.
Since his nomination as CNN Hero, sponsors have more than doubled for his group. They have also been receiving guests from all over the world who buy their handicrafts and products. Some visitors also pay in dollars and euros just to have a photo taken with Kuya Ef beside his Kariton.
A spokesperson of the group said that 90% of his winning would be allotted to expansion and programs of the DTC, while the rest will be donated to Kuya Ef’s church, “A Blessed Church.”
Despite the success of the pushcart classroom, the group declines to upgrade to a modern mobile classroom, stressing that the Kariton Klasrum is symbolic to their mission and has been replicated in other countries such as Kenya and Cambodia.
The top 10 CNN Heroes include Brad Blauser, who provides pediatric wheelchairs to disabled Iraqi children and their families; Roy Foster, a former substance abuser that now searches for homeless veterans to put them in a shelter; Doc Hendley, a bartender who founded Wine to Water, which provides clean water to people in developing countries through funds raised at wine tasting events; Andrea Ivory of Florida Breast Health Initiative, a group that helps uninsured women age 35 and older in the fight against breast cancer; Betty Makoni, who helps rescue girls from sexual abuse; Jorge Munoz, creator of a mobile soup kitchen serving food that he gathers from restaurants, hotels and other businesses; Budi Soehardi, founder of the West Timor orphanage, which houses child victims and refugees from the conflict in East Timor; Derrick Tabb, who offers free tutoring, instruments and music education to students and Jordan Thomas who spearheads a group that provides free prosthetics for disabled children.
“We encourage all Filipinos to go beyond voting for our very own Pinoy CNN Hero, let us be proud and promote him to others,” added Durano.
Supporters can cast unlimited votes for Kuya Ef until November 18, 2009 through the web link http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/index.htm or for multiple power voting, log on to http://ironnie.com/supportsefren.