News / Asia

From Garbage-Picker to Finalist for International Children’s Peace Prize

Child scavengers pose with their metal hooks used to rummage garbage amidst a mountain of trash in a Manila dumpsite, August 20, 2002.
Child scavengers pose with their metal hooks used to rummage garbage amidst a mountain of trash in a Manila dumpsite, August 20, 2002.
Simone Orendain
A young man from Cavite City near Manila in the Philippines has gone from scavenging for trash, to advocating children’s rights, making him one of three finalists for the International Children’s Peace Prize.  The annual award recognizing remarkable contributions toward countering problems of children, is expected to be announced this week in The Hague.
 
Kesz’s radiant smile reaches children in bedraggled clothes who press in tightly to listen to him read a story about a mouse that goes to the moon in search of cheese.  They sit around a table in this one-room daycare center in Barangay Muzon, an impoverished community along Manila Bay.
 
Kesz and some young volunteers give lessons on reading comprehension, children’s rights, personal hygiene and planting vegetables.  
 
“I saw myself from the children," says Kesz. "When I going to the other cities, when I saw these children in the streets begging money, I saw myself from them before. So I motivate to help them.”

Club 8586
 
Since Kesz was two years old, he begged, stole and picked trash at the dumpsite where the family lived. He says he was abused at home and he later ran away.
 
One day, members of a Christian children’s advocacy group called Club 8586, found Kesz sleeping outside a convenience store. Efren Penaflorida recalls the four-year old covered in scabies woke up and immediately begged for money.
 
“But of course we don’t give money," says Penaflorida. "What we did, me and my mentor KB, KB is his guardian now, we invited him to attend the pushcart classroom.  So we could give him food and teach him basic education.”
 
The pushcart classroom is an alternative-learning program for street kids; a sort of traveling mini-school that also provides meals and personal hygiene items.  
 
Club 8586 founder Harnin “KB” Manalaysay sent Kesz back home with a pledge to pay for his schooling. Instead, he was again forced to scavenge.  When Kesz was five, he was shoved onto a pile of burning tires by scavengers crowding around a garbage truck. Club 8586 paid for his burn treatment - but then his mother abandoned him.
 
“My mother said it’s better I’m in the hands of Club 8586 because I will take care," he says. "She said also… She said I am bad luck.”

Birthday wish
 
Kesz’s luck changed under the guidance of Manalaysay and other mentors. The six year old became an honor student. By the time he turned seven, he made a pivotal birthday wish.
 
“I wish for myself is... the birthday gift that I received I also want to give them, like tsinelas, laroan, like candies,” says Kesz.
 
He says he wanted poor children to have what he got: flip-flops, toys and candies.  This was the start of Kesz’s ambitious mission. The yearly birthday handouts soon included clothing, personal hygiene items and a simple message to kids not to lose hope because they too could turn their lives around.  
 
As the program expanded, he and a core of youth volunteers began reaching thousands of impoverished Manila youths. Last spring, Championing Community Children branched out beyond the Philippines, reaching poor children in Indonesia.  
 
His work ethic is impressive, says 22-year-old volunteer supervisor Klarence Baptista.
 
“Kesz is like a light that shines and inspires the people around him with his simple way of helping others,” says Baptista.
 
There are still reminders of his difficult past. After he was nominated for the Peace Prize, he began receiving extortion threats because of his new media attention - leading him to stay out of sight and only use his first name, “Kesz,” to protect his identity.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs