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Efren Penaflorida - Inspirational & Motivational Stories

Efren Penaflorida - pushcart classrooms for poor

Not many children in the Philippines had an option of getting a basic education. Most ended up being inducted by gangs and surrounded by violence. In a country where teenage membership in urban gangs has surged to an estimated 130,000 in the past 10 years, there was not much hope for kids who did not want any part of these gangs. Efren Penaflorida, now 28, was no exception to the rule. Back in high school, he was also amongst those bullied. "Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as 9 years old," says Penaflorida. "They are all victims of poverty." Gang activity was a common phenomenon in high schools across. They would terrorize the student body, vandalize school property and inducted members by forcing them to rape young girls. "I felt the social discrimination. I was afraid to walk down the street." says Penaflorida.

Penaflorida took it upon himself to give the children around an alternative. He founded a non profit, Dynamic Teen Company to provide impoverished children an empowering life choice to gang induction. It was a simple idea; a 'pushcart classroom model'. People saw a pushcart as a symbol of poverty, but now it's a symbol of hope and education. Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, this movement recreates a school setting in various unconventional locations such as the cemetery, municipal trash dump etc. They teach children basic reading and writing so they have the skills to live a better life. A life without being part of a gang.  "They need education to be successful in life. It's just giving them what others gave to me," he says. The Dynamic Teen Company has provided many with an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. Even today, every Saturday Penaflorida sees children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from him and his trained teen volunteers. "Our volunteers serve as an inspiration to other children," he says. Also, the foundation runs a hygiene clinic, where children can get a bath and learn how to brush their teeth. Since 1997, more than 1,500 children living in the slums have been reached out to by an estimated 10,000 volunteers. Besides slum children, Penaflorida has successfully been able to help former gang members, addicts and dropouts through his educational programme. Before, I really didn't care for my life," says Michael Advincula, who started doing drugs when he was 7. "But then Efren patiently dug me from where I was buried. It was Efren who pushed me to get my life together". Today, he is a senior in high school as well as a regular volunteer.

In the near future, Penaflorida hopes he can expand his pushcart model to other areas and give a more children a chance at a brighter future beyond gangs and violence.

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