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RP’s Efren Peñaflorida is 2009 CNN Hero of the Year


Embodying the spirit of Filipino volunteerism that bloomed in this stormy year, Efren Peñaflorida Jr. was named CNN Hero of the Year, the international news network announced on Sunday (Manila time). The Cavite City native pioneered a brand of mobile education, or the "pushcart classroom," for urban poor youth.
Peñaflorida, fondly called "Kuya F," was named 2009 CNN Hero of the Year. In his acceptance speech, he said: "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." Sophia Dedace file photo
"Efren Peñaflorida, who started a ‘pushcart classroom’ in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership, has been named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year," the world-renowned Cable News Network said in an article posted on its Web site. The 28-year-old Peñaflorida will receive $100,000 from CNN. The network's top anchor Anderson Cooper announced the winner at the conclusion of the annual awards ceremony. Earlier, Peñaflorida told GMANews.TV that should he win, he would pledge the prize money to the children that his group, the Dynamic Teen Company, is helping. In his acceptance speech at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, CNN quoted him as saying: "Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell 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." The taped event will be aired on November 26, CNN said. Peñaflorida won over nine other "CNN heroes," seven of whom were American. One of them, 20-year-old Jordan Thomas, lost both his legs in a boating accident and set up a foundation that provides prosthetics to poor children who have also lost limbs. News of Peñaflorida's selection spread briskly among Filipinos through the Internet. One Facebook user, Kristine Fonacier, had recently spent a year as a volunteer in Guyana. "We need all the hope that we can get from our Manny Pacquiaos," Fonacier wrote. "But here Efren Penaflorida has made a name for himself on the global stage not because he's enormously successful or fabulously wealthy, but because he's given his time to 'helping others.' It's such a simple but world-changing idea, and it's high time we Filipinos get behind it." Last October, CNN opened the online voting for its Top 10 Heroes. Peñaflorida said that being included in the top 10 alone was already an honor. Still, he refused to take credit for the recognition. "If the people vote for me, they are actually voting for the poor kids DTC is teaching and the dedicated volunteers behind this work," he earlier said. CNN said more than 2.75 million votes were cast during the seven-week online voting. The network, however, did not indicate how many votes Peñaflorida got. Peñaflorida, who hails from Cavite City in Cavite province Philippines, started the Dynamic Teen Company in 1997. His group used “Kariton Klassrooms" or mobile pushcarts to reach out and teach underprivileged children [See: A CNN hero started with a pushcart full of hopes]. The DTC has now over 2,000 members teaching basic reading and writing, and even personal hygiene to marginalized children in slum areas in Cavite using pushcarts filled with books, pens, tables and chairs. From CNN.com:
Peñaflorida gives his acceptance speech at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time). The "CNN Heroes: All Star Tribute" will air on CNN on November 26. CNN.com screen grab
Efren Peñaflorida, who started a "pushcart classroom" in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership, has been named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year. CNN's Anderson Cooper revealed Peñaflorida's selection at the conclusion of the third-annual "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute" at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Saturday night. The gala event, taped before an audience of 3,000 at the Kodak Theatre, premieres on Thanksgiving, November 26, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the global networks of CNN. The broadcast, which honors the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2009, features performances by Grammy Award-winning artist Carrie Underwood, R&B crooner Maxwell and British pop sensation Leona Lewis. Peñaflorida, who will receive $100,000 to continue his work with the Dynamic Teen Company, was selected after seven weeks of online voting at CNN.com. More than 2.75 million votes were cast. "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." The top 10 CNN Heroes, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from an initial pool of more than 9,000 viewer nominations, were each honored with a documentary tribute and introduced by a celebrity presenter. Each of the top 10 Heroes receives $25,000. "With the recognition they receive on our stage," said Cooper, who hosted the tribute, "they'll be able to help thousands and thousands of people. Through their efforts, lives will be changed and lives will be saved." Maxwell sang "Help Somebody" from his first album in eight years, 'BLACKsummers'night.' Lewis, a three-time Grammy nominee, performed "Happy," from her second album, "Echo." All three performances echoed the spirit of the CNN Heroes campaign, which salutes everyday people whose extraordinary accomplishments are making a difference in their communities and beyond. Presenters included Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Neil Patrick Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Randy Jackson, Greg Kinnear, George Lopez and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. "This record number of nominations is further evidence of the momentum CNN Heroes has built in just a few short years," said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide. "Viewers have been engaged by these stories of inspiration and accomplishment beyond our expectations. It is truly an honor to be able to introduce the CNN Heroes to our global audience every year." Again this year, producer/director Joel Gallen served as executive producer of "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute." Among his credits, Gallen produced telethon events supporting victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina, winning an Emmy Award and a Peabody Award for "America: A Tribute to Heroes." The Kodak Theatre is best known as the first permanent home of the Academy Awards. Here are the 2009 Top 10 CNN Heroes: Brad Blauser Brad Blauser is providing hope and mobility to disabled children and their families in Iraq. Since 2005, his Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids program has distributed nearly 650 free pediatric wheelchairs to children in need. Roy Foster Army veteran Roy Foster started Stand Down House to help veterans struggling with addiction and homelessness in Florida. Since 2000, his program has provided life-changing services to nearly 900 veterans. Doc Hendley Bartender Doc Hendley is providing clean water to communities worldwide. Through creative fundraising, his nonprofit Wine to Water has brought sustainable water systems to 25,000 people in five countries. Andrea Ivory Breast cancer survivor Andrea Ivory is bringing early detection to the doorsteps of uninsured women. With mobile mammography vans, her group has provided more than 500 free screenings in Miami, Florida. Betty Makoni Zimbabwe native Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to provide a haven for young victims of sexual abuse. The organization has rescued more than 35,000 girls since 2001. Jorge Munoz School bus driver Jorge Munoz is helping hungry New Yorkers make it through tough times. Since 2004, he has handed out more than 70,000 meals from his mobile soup kitchen in Queens -- for free. Efren Peñaflorida Efren Peñaflorida gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. His Dynamic Teen Company's 10,000 members have taught basic reading and writing to 1,500 kids living in the slums. Budi Soehardi Budi Soehardi founded a children's home in one of the poorest areas of Indonesia. Today, Roslin Orphanage in West Timor provides food, shelter and education to more than 45 children. Derrick Tabb Derrick Tabb started The Roots of Music to give young people an alternative to New Orleans' streets. His music education program provides free tutoring, instruments and music instruction to more than 100 students. Jordan Thomas Jordan Thomas, 20, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, lost both of his legs in a boating accident in 2005. Since then, his Jordan Thomas Foundation has raised more than $400,000 to provide prosthetics for children in need. - Sophia Dedace/HS, GMANews.TV
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