A Filipino teen wins a major award for helping homeless kids
Chris “Kesz” Valdez knows what it’s like to be homeless. After running away from his abusive family at age 4, he slept in a dump in Cavite City, in the Philippines.
Now 13, Kesz has a home and an adoptive family, and he’s helping kids still stuck on the streets where he used to live. He’s the founder of Championing Community Children, an organization that distributes clothing and toiletries to thousands of homeless kids in Cavite City.
Thanks to his work, Kesz now has something else—the 2012 International Children’s Peace Prize, which comes with a $130,000 award.
The honor is given every year to a young person who works for children’s rights. A Nobel Peace Prize winner presents the award. Desmond Tutu (above) presented Kesz with the prize in a recent ceremony in the Netherlands. Tutu, an Anglican archbishop, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his opposition to apartheid, the former system of racial segregation in South Africa.
Kesz started his organization after a social worker took him in and became his guardian. Instead of receiving presents for his seventh birthday, Kesz wanted to give gifts to other street kids.
He began handing out “Gifts of Hope.” The packages include clothes and toothbrushes. The teen also shows kids how to protect themselves from the hazards of street life, teaching them about nutrition and how to treat wounds. Kesz has helped more than 10,000 kids in Cavite City, but his work is far from over. There are about 246,000 street children in the Philippines alone.
“My message to children around the world is not to lose hope,” Kesz says. “Every day, [homeless] children die from diseases associated with poor sanitation, poor hygiene, and we can do something about it.”