In case you were not aware, every year CNN hosts a special awards ceremony where they honor a special real-world hero. Heroes are nominated every year, and then the public can vote on the hero of their choice, who is awarded in a special celebration. In 2009 Efren Peñaflorida was chosen.

Efren Peñaflorida, was constantly bullied by gangs in high school. Gang activity is a growing problem in the Philippines, where teenage gang membership have now reached an estimated 130,000.

Rather than follow in their footsteps and succumb to the pressures of his peers, he decided to not only get out, but work to solve the problem. Now he offers Filipino youth an alternate option: education.

Gangs start targeting kids as young as nine years old, mostly victims of poverty with little or no educational opportunities, who are then dragged into the lifestyle out of pressure and lack of strong options.

So for 12 years, Efren Peñaflorida and a team of volunteers taught reading and writing to children living on the streets by use of a mobile classroom. It’s literally a pushcart classroom stacked with books, tables, chairs, and other necessities. He’ll set up classrooms wherever he can⁠—even in cemeteries or the local dump.

Now children as young as two and as old as 14 come to his mobile classroom each Saturday for their lessons. Since their beginning in 1997, they’ve taught more than 1,500 children, their costs supported primarily by recycling and making and selling crafts.

It’s a phenomenal thing to watch someone not only overcome their past and their circumstances, but then devote so much of themselves to trying to fix the situation. I firmly believe that we are not subject to our environments but are able to rise above them, to rise above our past, and to create lives for ourselves. You can see my story (here) to see why I believe this so strongly.

We all find ourselves subjects of circumstances that would bring us down and keep us from achieving individual greatness. Stories like those of Efren Peñaflorida simply help us realize that if people can overcome such great odds, and choose to make a difference, so can we.

You can read more about Efren Peñaflorida’s story at CNN here: http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/wayoflife/03/05/heroes.efren.penaflorida/index.html

You can also choose to nominate your own hero here: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/nom/

Please, share this post with a friend so that they too can be motivated by a real life hero, Efren Peñaflorida.


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