As a child living in the Philippines, Kesz Valdez was beaten by his father, forced to make money to buy him drugs and alcohol.
At 4, Kesz ran away to a dump site, struggling to stay alive. After he was gravely wounded from falling in a pile of burning tires, a man named Harnin Manalaysay cared for him and eventually became his guardian.
On his seventh birthday, Kesz told Manalaysay that he didn’t want birthday presents. Rather, he wanted to give gifts to street kids. Now Kesz is 13, and his charity, Championing Community Children, has given gifts to 5,000 street kids in Cavite City, an act of selflessness that has earned Kesz the 2012 International Children’s Peace Prize, an honor that comes with $130,000.
Today, Kesz educates children living on the streets about personal hygiene and he takes care of their wounds, according to a video made about his story.
"I teach the children how to wash hands properly, brush their teeth daily and bathe regularly. I believe that some of these street children we save will pay the act forward to help champion their own communities," he told GMA News Online.
Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, a retired Anglican bishop from South Africa who opposed Apartheid, presented the award on Sept. 19.
“These young people show the incredible resilience in the human spirit,” Tutu said of the three children before him. “I congratulate this year’s winner.”
Said Kesz, according to the prize website: “My message to all children around the globe is; 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. To everyone in the world, please remember that every day, 6,000 children die from diseases associated with poor sanitation, poor hygiene, and we can do something about it! Please join me in helping street children achieve better health and better lives.”
He dedicated his award to his guardian, Manalaysay, GMA News Online reported.
"I look up to him as a father. He is the first person who made me feel loved so it is only fitting to dedicate this award to him," Kesz said.
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