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Perhaps we could all learn something from his tireless efforts and pushcart lessons. Peñaflorida said:
“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. 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.”
And right now, from behind our walls of daily snark and selfishness and shame, we kinda believe him.
Hails from: Cavite City, The Philippines
Known for: Building a new path.
CNN has highlighted the 28-year old Pinoy, who grew up in the slums of Cavite City, amongst their Top 10 Heroes of 2009. Peñaflorida, like many of his peers, grew up terrorized by gang violence in his community that included offenses of vandalism and rape.
In high school, he made a decision–he was going to create a different option. With three friends, Peñaflorida created a club called the Dynamic Teen Company, aspiring to “cater youth awareness projects, talent and self development activities, and community services.” Living near the dump site of his city, he eagerly developed feeding projects for the small children sent to scavenge for leftovers and rotten food there. Years of development (building awareness, training themselves as educators, staging activities and concerts) eventually led the group to become a self-sustaining education organization, and they soon obtained a pedicab to create a traveling vehicle for their educating missions.
Ten years after the launch of DTC, Peñaflorida travels weekly with the pedicab–which has been outfitted as a foldout classroom, around the city to lead classes for children 2 to 14. He is armed with armed with a team of trained teen volunteers. They also run a hygeine clinic where kids can bathe and learn to care for their teeth.
“Since 1997, an estimated 10,000 members have helped teach more than 1,500 children living in the slums. The organization supports its efforts by making and selling crafts and collecting items to recycle.”
It’s a lot of work, with slow-moving impact and very little fanfare. Yet somebody wants to do it: Efren Peñaflorida and his team of friends. What’s a little work when you’re creating real change?
Name: Somaly Mam
Hails from: Cambodia
Occupation: Human rights activist
Why She’s a Babe: You wouldn’t guess, just by looking at her, especially when she’s holding her own while sandwiched between two Sports Illustrated swimsuit models (above), that Somaly Mam has lived a hellish life that most of us can’t even wrap our heads around. Growing up in war-ravaged Cambodia, Somaly was sold into sex slavery at age 12. Later she wound up in a Phnom Penh brothel, where she was repeatedly beaten and raped for ten years. Three years after fleeing Cambodia with the help of an aid worker, she started the nonprofit AFESIP (Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, or Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) that has helped over 4,000 women escape brothels and reintegrate into society. She’s been named a CNN Hero, Glamour Woman of the Year, and in 2009, she made the TIME 100 list. You can see a snapshot of her chatting with Michelle Obama at the gala dinner here; it’s a striking photo of two strong, beautiful women locked in an intimate conversation, not to mention a toned-arm-o-rama. In other words, doing good never looked this good.
Read Marianne Pearl’s 2006 profile of Somaly Mam in Glamour here.
Name: Phymean Noun
Hails from: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Known for: Seeing a disgraceful situation and doing something to make it better. When Noun realized how many children were scavenging through her city’s trash dumps just to survive, she quit her job and started the People Improvement Organization to provide the area’s underprivileged kids with a free education–fronting $30k her own money to build the first school.
The humble Noun was honored at last week’s CNN Heroes Awards, and even though we were momentarily distracted by her presenter Lucy Liu’s bad teleprompter reading and ill-fitting dress, our icy hearts warmed to flooding tears from the inspirasian of her story. If only we could all give so much!
Find out more about the PIO here.