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Congratulations, Efren Penaflorida!

Do not shun darkness, but light a spark that others may see.

After Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao made the world record in sports of having SEVEN boxing titles under his name, the Philippines was awarded with another hero. This time, in the field of service to others.

Founder of the Dynamic Teen Foundation Inc., Efren's story was inspiring wherever you look at it. Coming from a poor family in Cavite, he would be bullied and harassed by gang members when going to school. Yet good values and right principles from his parents formed a big heart in this young man. He responded in love, and that made him all the more the winner - a hero.

Along with friends, they would conduct free classes using a kariton (pushcart), feed unschooled, labor-exploited and neglected street children and give them first-aid. Older people were difficult to tap so Efren and his friends had to rely on themselves. And more than 10 years after they have first started, they now boast of former drug users and petty thieves reformed through their projects and now 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.

In 2007, they launched the “WE ARE THE CHANGE” campaign to inspire people to be the catalyst for change – in what they want to see in their home, community and the world we live in. For they believe that real change happens when we begin to touch one soul and change one heart at a time. This is also the core of his acceptance speech at CNN when he was declared 2009 Hero of the Year - chosen among dozens other heroes who have done well in their chosen niche in other countries.

What I like most about Efren's story is the fact that it shows us that anything can be accomplished if we have compassion towards others. In these dark times where there is much poverty in the country, his heart was never calloused. He never demanded that he be treated as the victim, despite the hardships he went through. Instead, his heart longed to serve others. And then real changes begun because unloved people from the dump site felt important. His story shouts to us that we don't only live because we have needs to meet - food, shelter, clothing. We live because we have a purposed, a choice, a contribution to make.

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