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November 8, 2014

Scavenger with big dreams hailed as global kids’ inspiration

The first Southeast Asian, Kesz Valdez to receive the award from the 2012 International Children’s Peace Prize by the Netherlands-based Kids Rights Foundation.

Maltreated by his own parents, Cris “Kesz” Valdez ran away from home. He was four years old at that time. Growing up, he kept himself alive by sleeping atop tombs and begging in the slums of Manila. Despite the challenges he faced at a very young age, Kesz channeled the negative into positive. As a result, he was awarded with the 2012 International Children’s Peace Prize by the Netherlands-based Kids Rights Foundation. He is the first Southeast Asian to receive the award.

A kind-hearted man saves the dayz. Cold, hungry, and covered in scabs, Kesz was spotted by Harnin “KB” Manalaysay, founder of local Christian charity group Club 8586, who eventually enrolled him in an alternative learning program known as the Kariton Klasrum.

Developed by KB and CNN 2009 Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida, the Kariton Klasrum is a program where volunteers wheel wooden pushcarts filled with learning materials and sanitation supplies into shantytowns to teach basic education and hygiene practices to out-of-school children. It was through the Kariton Klasrum that Kesz learned how to read, write, and care for himself.However, upon returning home, Kesz was forced to scavenge once again. KB took him in and treated him as his own after Kesz met an accident that severely burned parts of his arms and back.When Kesz turned seven, KB offered to throw a birthday celebration. It could have been Kesz’s first time to experience such, but he thought of others before himself. Instead of receiving a birthday treat, he asked KB if he could give gifts to street children in Cavite instead. With KB’s full support, he gave out slippers, snacks and other items that he aptly called Gifts of Hope. That same year and at such a young age, Kesz made the bold decision to reach out to more children by starting his very own organization.

Kesz makes his own mark in society. Filled with compassion for others and inspired by people who continually give without expecting anything in return, Kesz founded the Championing Community Children or C3. 

My classmates and I were thrilled when the construction of the second floor began,” says Kesz Valdez, founder of Championing Community Children (C3). Kesz along with other grade nine students take their classes inside the classrooms donated by Universal Robina Corporation.
“We hope to make a difference by teaching kids four basic things: hygiene, rights, nutrition, and gardening.” Kesz firmly believes that by teaching kids the importance of proper hygiene, informing them about their basic rights, distributing nourishing snacks, and sharing ways on how to create a greener environment for all, out-of-school youth will be more prepared in the challenges life offers.

Since its inception in 2005, C3 has helped thousands of kids and is continuously making significant changes in the lives of many. Because of this organization, Kesz rose to fame as the first Southeast Asian to receive the International Children's Peace Prize award. 

“I was given a trophy, an international podium where I can talk about children’s needs and supplementary educational support until I graduate from college,” shared Kesz. The awardee cleared that he did not receive any money from the foundation that bestowed the recognition.

An abundance of blessings. Kesz still leads a humble yet inspiring life with his foster parents in Cavite City, where he is a grade 9 pupil in DTC’s educational program. Kesz and his classmates take their classes in the URC Learning center, an educational facility sponsored by Universal Robina Corporation (URC). Adding fun and excitement to their classes, the walls of the learning center are adorned with colorful murals of URC brands such as Jack ‘n Jill Knots, Chiz Curls, Magic Flakes, Fun Fries, Wafrets, Roller Coaster, Refresh, C2, and Payless Instant Mami.

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