A homeless 13-year-old Filipino last week won a very prestigious award for his commitment to improving the lives of fellow street kids.
Business News Online reports that Cris "Kesz" Valdez, who lived off a trash dump and slept in an open tomb for the majority of his childhood, was awarded this year's International Children's Peace Prize in The Hague on September 19, receiving $130,000 in prize money.
"You are wonderful," Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, who awarded this year's prize, told the resilient teen.
Valdez survived by scavenging off a dumpsite since the age of two; he was viciously abused and was forced to seek help after he was badly injured, according to Global Post.
However, he had a remarkable idea to help other homeless children.
At the age of seven, Valdez founded "Championing Community Children," a charity that raises funds to hand out necessities to street kids in Cavite City.
GMA reported that Championing Community Children has handed out more than 5,000 gifts, including sandals, clothes, candy and toys, to poor children living in the slums around Manila.
To date, Valdez has been able to help more than 10,000 at-risk children, reports GMA News.
According to Business World Online, 246,000 Filipino street children are subject to abuse, violence and child labor every day.
Valdez's message to children around the world: "Our health is our wealth! Being healthy will enable you to play, to think clearly, to get up and go to school and love the people around you in so many ways."
Most of the prize money will go directly into the charity. But Valdez hopes to someday realize his dreams of getting an education and becoming a doctor.
The Holocaust saw the mass murder of approximately 6 million European Jews during World War II. At the time, Andree was in her 20s. She was one of many brave women who risked death to save the lives of Jewish children by hiding them. "When you are in your 20s, you're not afraid," she said. "I had the feeling that I was doing something useful, and it's very helpful to know in life that you are doing something useful."
Jan Karel Wijnbergen
Jan Karel Wijnbergen was just 14 when he was asked to join the Resistance movement against the Nazis. Like Andree, he -- then barely older than a child himself -- risked everything to save the lives of Jewish children. Wijnbergen remembers picking up children in and outside of Amsterdam and traveling with them by train to other -- presumably safer -- locations.
Borivoje and Ljubinka
In July of 1995, Serb troops and paramilitaries led by Ratko Mladic descended upon the village of Srebrenica, systematically killing, raping and deporting thousands of Muslims. Borivoje and Ljubinka had always lived in harmony with their Muslim neighbors. Putting their safety at risk, the couple welcomed a fleeing Muslim man and his family into their home -- giving them a room to take refuge in. Borivoje and Ljubinka then helped the man, his wife and their three children escape through their territory to Sarajevo.
Though she knew that her Serbian neighbor was spying on her, Mina risked her own safety, as well as that of her family, to hide and take care of a badly wounded Muslim man who had escaped execution. Mina, whose four children were also in her care, said that saving the man's life had been an obvious choice. "Why did I save him? I knew that the same fate could happen to my children, to my sons, and it was totally normal to help a man in trouble. I didn't separate him from my own children," she said.
In 1994, after the death of Rwandan President Habyarimana, Hutu military and militia groups began rounding up and killing all Tutsis they could capture. When the Rwandan genocide began in 1994, Silas was a Hutu soldier in the army. However, as he watched scores of Tutsis being murdered, he found himself unable to understand the violence and the butchery. "[I] did not quite understand how these innocent people could be killed with no apparent reason," he said. Risking his life, Silas began smuggling Tutsis over the border to Burundi. He rescued more than 50 people before his fellow soldiers caught on, and he, too, had to flee for his life.
"It is true cowardice to not do anything for someone dying right in your sight," said Kamegeri Augustin. Despite the risk to his life, Augustin sheltered a Tutsi woman whose family had been brutally murdered. He sent her -- along with other Tutsis -- to live in a small forest of bee trees that their aggressors were too afraid to enter.
The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives under the Khmer Rouge regime, was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. Ngen Ngon risked his own life to help many of his fellow Cambodians escape torture and death. Ngen Ngon remembers going to a Buddhist temple and helping the people detained there. "I broke the door of the temple to release the women. Some of them could not jump over the fence of the pagoda because they were exhausted. But I helped them run away," he said.
A soldier before the Khmer Rouge began in Cambodia, Duch Keam was part of a band of resistance fighters who helped over 700 hundred people escape to Vietnam through a treacherous jungle. An expert at mine clearance, Keam risked his life time and again to ensure safe passage for his fleeing countrymen.