Congratulations Efren “Kuya Ef!” Penaflorida Jr.! One of the top 10 CNN Heroes for the year 2009.
What do children of the slums do when they have free time after a hard day’s work of scavenging for recyclables in the garbage dump? They go on cheap high sniffing solvents such as rugby to numb their senses to escape the stinking reality of their wretched life. A life fraught with misery where survival of the fittest is the norm in an environment that is so surreal where society’s refuse are recycled even spoiled foods known as Pagpag are considered a prized find to feed their malnourished body.
Slum areas are not exactly in the police radar and their neighborhood is below the totem pole for protection thus juvenile gangs offer a false sense of security and protection. So rampant are these gangs that in the past 10 years, Preda reported as high as 130 youths are involved in these criminal gangs.
Efren “Kuya Ef!” Penaflorida Jr., was born and raised in the slums near the garbage dump to a tricycle driver father Efren Peñaflorida Sr and a laundrywoman mother Lucila Geronimo. The middle child of the Penaflorida couple he is no stranger to what the children of poverty is going through as he has lived and experienced the same tough slum neighborhood where he once was bullied and pressured to join gangs. Just like any other kid on the slum he has been assaulted quite a number of times by gangs and solvent sniffing kids. Yet, unlike the Tongress members easily succumbing to pressures just like the juvenile addicts on a solvent sniffing high they get their high on pork barrels, power, and privilege, Efren “Kuya Ef!” Penaflorida Jr decided early in life not to get affected and influenced by the social ills around him. A child, who knew that education is his only salvation out of this wretched existence, pursued his schooling with honors through studious perseverance earning him scholarship from World Vision Phils. A quote from DTC website:
At 16 years of age, way back in high school, F! started a youth group which aimed of diverting students’ interest from joining fraternities and gangs into making a difference at home, in school and community and do their best to excel in studies and in everything they do. Joined by classmates Jefferson Bernal and Rezcel Alconcel, they named this group Dynamic Teen Company (Making A Difference) in 1997 under the guidance and supervision of Club 8586, Inc. For several years, he was a regular “viajero” of fish crackers from Baclaran to Cavite and sells these in school to be able to help his family even then Kuya F! emerged as an everyday hero for all of the kids who know him because despite of his lack of finances, he is such a giver and a sharer of his blessings to them. The neighborhood bakery and sari-sari store is where he buys biscuits and bread for the kids with his fifty or twenty pesos in pocket. As an adviser and trainer to the youth of Dynamic Teen Company, he literally practices what he preaches with no exceptions whatsoever. There are countless stories of people, young and old, about the goodness of heart Kuya F! possesses. He is well-loved and respected by the people he touches, honored by friends and family. It is proven that others are his priority than himself.Having no resources on hand does not stop him from pursuing his giving back to society what he can thus the Kariton Klasrum (Pushcart Classroom) was born, here is a quote from Oprah’s Angels:
In 2003, pursuing his education major in college, Efren devised an outreach project for a street school. In 2007, the Dynamic Teen Company constructed a pushcart school prototype that carries books, school materials, table and stools, first aid kits and even snacks for the kids.Indeed, it is the youth that will inherit what the older generation left for them and hopefully not in the garbage dump condition at the rate trapos plunders whatever is left of the nation’s riches. Mikey Arroyo the "Marie Antoinette" defender of her mother's Le Cirque Brouhaha and Prospero Pichay ougth to take a hint or learn from Efren and his Dynamic Teen Company volunteers. So far they have touched the hearts and change the course of more than 10,000 kids and CNN Heroes recognizes the contribution of Efren “Kuya Ef!” Penaflorida Jr., and so should you by going to the site to vote for Efren “Kuya Ef!” Penaflorida Jr..
Early this year, they again constructed another pushcart carrying with it a play center, hygiene materials for bathing, clothes and slippers, and food bins. They called it K4, meaning Kariton Klasrum, Klinik and Kantin (pushcart school, clinic and canteen.) Efren and his Dynamic Teens teach literacy, values and promote the basic rights of children. They bathe, clean wounds, and cut nails and hair. They travel almost five kilometers by foot around town every weekend and children flock to greet them. His K4 educators and volunteers are former juvenile delinquents themselves. He trains them weekly and helps send them into traditional schools.
Filipino skeptics were proven wrong when they thought that children were not part of nation-building. Efren and the Dynamic Teen Company have proven that real change happens when people join together and pursue their goals and live out their purpose. It’s a slow process and needs a lot of patience because they help bring forth change by touching one heart at a time.
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