CNN has chosen a young Filipino Catholic as the winner of the their annual prize, “Hero of the Year.” Efren Penaflorida, 28, is the head of an organization which seeks to prevent impoverished children from involvement with crime through education.
The son of a motorcycle-taxi driver and a homemaker, Efren grew up near a landfill in the city of Cavite southwest of Manila. He decided at a young age that he would not join the local gangs, as did most of his friends, and would overcome poverty by getting an education.
At the age of 16, he promised to help other children make the same choice, and subsequently created a program which offered tutoring and books to kids who live on the street and in poor neighborhoods.
His organization, Dynamic Teen Co., is made up of volunteers and has improved the reading and writing skills as well as the health of some 1,500 children. Efren has become one of the models of the Asian Youth Day organized by the Catholic Church in the Philippines.
According to Bishop Joel Baylon of the Bishops’ Committee on Youth, Efren is an inspiring model for young people who demonstrates that they too can make a difference in their daily lives.