Monday, November 9, 2009
For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom.
Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump.
Peñaflorida knows firsthand the adversity faced by these children. Born into a poor family, he lived in a shanty near the city dump site. But he says he refused to allow his circumstances to define his future.
"Instead of being discouraged, I promised myself that I would pursue education," he recalls. "I will strive hard; I will do my best."
Get involved: Dynamic Teen Company
In depth: CNN Heroes
In high school, Peñaflorida faced a new set of challenges. Gang activity was rampant; they terrorized the student body, vandalized the school and inducted members by forcing them to rape young girls, he says.
"I felt the social discrimination. I was afraid to walk down the street."
Peñaflorida remembers standing up to a gang leader, refusing to join his gang. That confrontation proved fateful. At 16, he and his friends "got the idea to divert teenagers like us to be productive," he says.
He created the Dynamic Teen Company to offer his classmates an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. For Peñaflorida, that meant returning to the slums of his childhood to give kids the education he felt they deserved.
"They need education to be successful in life. It's just giving them what others gave to me," he says.
Today, children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to the pushcart every Saturday to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from Peñaflorida and his trained teen volunteers
Posted by sweetytots at 3:41 AM