Proving again that the Filipino can, an educator from Cavite received the CNN Hero of the Year award today, November 22 [November 21 in the United States], in a star-studded gala event taped at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Efren Peñaflorida, who started Dynamic Teen Company, a "pushcart classroom" in Cavite City that aims to bring education to poor unschooled children, won the award after garnering the most Internet votes in a seven-week poll open to the world public. More than 2.75 million votes were cast.
Efren was awarded $100,000 for his foundation and a trophy from CNN, which marks its third year of recognizing heroes around the world through the award. CNN's primary news anchor Anderson Cooper revealed Efren's name at the conclusion of the event.
In his acceptance speech, Efren said each one has a hero inside.
"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," he said.
He also appealed to everyone to try to be another hero for others.
"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," Efren said. "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." (CLICK HERE to watch his acceptance speech video clip)
Efren beat nine others to win the top citation. Chosen from around 9,000 viewer nominations by a blue-ribbon committee, the top ten heroes were each honored with a documentary tribute and $25,000.
The top ten nominees were presented by famous celebrities, which included Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Neil Patrick Harris, Pierce Brosnan, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Randy Jackson, Greg Kinnear, George Lopez and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Efren received his award from American actress Eva Mendes.
Celebrity performers, meanwhile, included Grammy Award-winning country artist Carrie Underwood, R&B artist Maxwell, and British pop sensation Leona Lewis.
Taped before an audience of 3,000 at the Kodak Theatre, CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute will premiere on November 27 [November 26 in the United States] on CNN.
Below is the list of the top ten CNN heroes:
Brad Blauser is providing hope and mobility to disabled children and their families in Iraq. Since 2005, his Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids program has distributed nearly 650 free pediatric wheelchairs to children in need.
Army veteran Roy Foster started Stand Down House to help veterans struggling with addiction and homelessness in Florida. Since 2000, his program has provided life-changing services to nearly 900 veterans.
Bartender Doc Hendley is providing clean water to communities worldwide. Through creative fundraising, his nonprofit Wine to Water has brought sustainable water systems to 25,000 people in five countries.
Breast cancer survivor Andrea Ivory is bringing early detection to the doorsteps of uninsured women. With mobile mammography vans, her group has provided more than 500 free screenings in Miami, Florida.
Zimbabwe native Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to provide a haven for young victims of sexual abuse. The organization has rescued more than 35,000 girls since 2001.
School bus driver Jorge Munoz is helping hungry New Yorkers make it through tough times. Since 2004, he has handed out more than 70,000 meals from his mobile soup kitchen in Queens—for free.
Efren Peñaflorida gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. His Dynamic Teen Company's 10,000 members have taught basic reading and writing to 1,500 kids living in the slums.
Budi Soehardi founded a children's home in one of the poorest areas of Indonesia. Today, Roslin Orphanage in West Timor provides food, shelter and education to more than 45 children.
Derrick Tabb started The Roots of Music to give young people an alternative to New Orleans' streets. His music education program provides free tutoring, instruments and music instruction to more than 100 students.
Jordan Thomas, 20, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, lost both his legs in a boating accident in 2005. Since then, his Jordan Thomas Foundation has raised more than $400,000 to provide prosthetics for children in need.