THE HAGUE - A young Filipino who lived off a rubbish dump and slept in an open tomb has won a prestigious children's award in the Netherlands for his work to improve the rights of his fellow street kids.
Cris "Kesz" Valdez, aged 13, was handed this year's International Children's Peace Prize at a glittering ceremony in The Hague on Wednesday, where he received a 100,000 euro ($130,000) prize.
Valdez was chosen from three finalists for the work of his "Championing Community Children" charity which raises funds to hand out gift parcels to needy children in Cavite City, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the capital Manila.
"You are wonderful," Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu, who handed over this year's prize, told Valdez at a press conference shortly after the ceremony, held in The Hague's historic Knight's Hall.
"My message to children around the world is not to lose hope" and to remember things like hygiene, said Valdez, who added that the prize would help him get an education and perhaps realize his dream of becoming a doctor.
Through his charity, Valdez has handed out more than 5,000 gifts to destitute children that included everyday articles like flip-flops, toys, sweets and clothes, said the KidsRights Foundation, the prize's initiator.
In all, he has helped some 10,000 children in his area on health, hygiene and children's rights, the foundation added.
Some 246,000 street children are, like Valdez was as a young child, subjected to abuse, violence and child labor in the Philippines, it said.
Asked about the prize money, KidsRights Foundation chairman Marc Dullaert said a committee was now to decide, together with Valdez, to which projects it would be donated.
Archbishop Tutu, the South African peace icon who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize is in the Netherlands for a nine-day visit.*AFP
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