Efren Penaflorida follows dream to serve - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Efren Penaflorida follows dream to serve

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by Mindy Aguon

Guam - A 29-year-old Filipino man has received worldwide recognition for taking a simple dream he had when he was 16 and turning it into a movement showcasing the capabilities of every single person to make a difference.  Raised in poverty, Efren Penaflorida grew up in a slum in Cavite City in the Philippines. 

A victim of bullying, Penaflorida was blessed to become one of world vision's sponsored children when he was a child.  The assistance he received helped spark a dream and when he was only 16, Penaflorida established the Dynamic Team Company.  Wanting to encourage others in his situation to stay away from street gangs, Penaflorida started what was initially a friendship club. 

With the help of another community service organization in the Philippines, Club 8586, Penaflorida was the brainchild behind the Pushcart Classroom, changing the lives of hundreds of underprivileged children living in slums and the ghettos in the PI.  "We were able to gather them and help them realize that learning is fun it's important to love learning and to embrace it because it will love and embrace them back and enable to change their world so that's actually the main objective of the program," he told KUAM News.

Penaflorida says he's learned that not having much money or being young doesn't have to be a hindrance to give back to society.  His dream was a simple one-teach kids to love learning.  "With the kids that we teach. These children cannot afford to go to formal school they've lost their love for formal learning, it's because some of them are being forced to work at an early age to earn more," he shared.

The Dynamic Teen Company has been spreading that message of years, and last year Penaflorida was recognized for the Pushcart Classroom being awarded CNN's 2009 Hero of the Year Award.  He said, "More than the recognition, it's actually an affirmation to us that our work is a worthy cause, it's a noble cause."

His dream has seen its share of rewards, as Penaflorida and the more than 300 volunteers who assist the Dynamic Teen Company have watched children become passionate about going to school.  The Pushcart Classroom isn't anything fancy - just a pushcart with a built in blackboard, learning materials and a simple play center, but it has changed lives. 

While Penaflorida has become an inspiration for many, the hero stresses that anybody can do small things that can have a big impact. "Each one has a hidden hero within that every day people even ordinary people can make a small yet significant difference in every life that they may cross paths with so that hero inside them is just waiting to be unleashed," he said.

With worldwide exposure, Penaflorida and the DTC is now working to raise money to build a learning center for the children of Cavite City - a sort of halfway house to get kids of the streets and in a learning environment. Efforts are also underway to establish similar Pushcart Classrooms in other parts of the Philippines and in other countries, as well.

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