Poor kids in Manila find a lot of ways to stay busy, but school generally isn’t one of them. School uniforms, books, supplies and lunches all require money many families cannot spare. Some of them help their families out by prostituting themselves or dealing drugs.
Efren Peñaflorida was troubled by that. He and three other friends had already started a friendship club in high school. Their intent was to give young people an alternative to the “violent gangs and notorious fraternities that were thriving on campus.”
That morphed into a feeding program for children who survived by finding food in the dumps, then into the Dynamic Teen Company, whose string of accomplishments over the past dozen years is astounding. Here’s how they describe the impact of their education and health programs:
The fruits of their labor are slowly being reaped as former drug users and petty thieves who were reformed through their projects are now also serving as volunteers. Former scavengers are now in school and are helping to raise funds. Some of the children who remain unschooled are now able to read and write. DTC was able to reach thousands of children through their Mind Your Rights (MY RIGHTS) campaign and through their health-literacy work.
I only recently learned of this inspiring group, through a piece on Radio Australia about the “pushcart classrooms” that bring schooling to impoverished Manila neighbourhoods. These tiny classrooms on wheels bring education to children hungry to learn. The pushcarts include a blackboard, school supplies, mats, a little library, first aid supplies, and snacks. The teachers are young volunteers.
In 2009 Efren Peñaflorida, the visionary behind the efforts to give a future to the children of Manila’s slums, was named CNN Hero of the Year. A quote on the Dynamic Teen Company’s Web site gives a sense of the spirit of this remarkable young man:
When people regard me as a hero, I always tell them that they should look inside them too because I believe that there’s a hero inside every one of us and all we have to do is just to open our eyes wide and feel what’s going on, then let our hearts be willing to accommodate the needy, the desperate and the hopeless simply by extending our hand to them, and there you will unfold the hero that is in you. — Efren G. Peñaflorida, Jr.
This Christian World News video also tells the story: