|Cris "Kesz" Valdez with Archbishop Desmond Tutu after receiving his award. Photo courtesy of Charlie Curilan for ABS-CBNNews.com
NETHERLANDS – A 13-year-old Pinoy had the privilege to be the center of attention at the same venue where Queen Beatrix delivered her annual speech to the Parliament.
Befitting a royalty, Cris Valdez or “Kesz”, went up the stage as the winner of the very prestigious International Children’s Peace Prize at the Ridderzaal or Knight’s Hall in The Hague.
The Hall of Knights is one of several buildings in the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch parliament.
Valdez received the award on Wednesday from 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu at a ceremony attended by dignitaries.
"Kesz received this award for his efforts to improve the rights of street children in the Philippines, where more than 246,000 street children are subjected to abuse, violence and child labor," the award organizers said in a statement. "Many of them also struggle to cope with major health issues. Kesz was in the same situation. He was severely abused and forced to scavenge at the dumpsite at the age of two. Three years later, he sustained burns on his arm and back, which forced him to run away and look for help. He has transformed his own experiences into a drive to help other street children and inspire them to change their own lives."
"For his seventh birthday, Kesz didn’t want any presents for himself. Instead, he wanted to give something to other street children: Gifts of Hope. That same year, Kesz started his own organization, Championing Community Children, aimed at giving street children hope and showing them that they can take their future into their own hands," the award organizing body said.
"Every week, he and his friends go to underprivileged communities to teach children about hygiene, food and children’s rights. He even takes things a step further, by teaching children how to teach each other. He has so far helped more than 10,000 children in his local area," it added.
Tutu, who presented the award, said Kesz is a deserving and inspiring example of "a new voice for the voiceless."
The International Children’s Peace Prize is presented annually to an exceptional child, whose courageous or otherwise remarkable acts and thoughts have made a difference in countering problems, which affect children around the world, the organizing body said.
The prize is an initiative of the Dutch organisation KidsRights and was launched during 2005 Nobel Peace Laureates’ Summit by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Each year, the International Children’s Peace Prize Laureate is selected from nominations from all over the world. An Expert Committee assesses the candidates and then selects the winner.
The prize money of €100,000 that is attached to the Children's Peace Prize is spent by KidsRights on projects that are closely connected to the winners' area of work.