Efren Peñaflorida, who started a “pushcart classroom” in the Philippines to bring education to poor children as an alternative to gang membership, has been named the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper revealed Peñaflorida’s selection at the conclusion of the third-annual “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute” at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Saturday night. The gala event, taped before an audience of 3,000 at the Kodak Theatre, premieres on Thanksgiving, November 26, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the global networks of CNN.
Peñaflorida, who will receive $100,000 to continue his work with the Dynamic Teen Company, was selected after seven weeks of online voting at CNN.com. More than 2.75 million votes were cast.
In his speech he 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,” Peñaflorida said upon accepting the honor. “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.
“So to each and every person inside this theater and for those who are watching at home, the hero in you is waiting to be unleashed. Serve, serve well, serve others above yourself and be happy to serve. As I always tell to my co-volunteers … you are the change that you dream, as I am the change that I dream, and collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.”