Photo of boy studying by shop light wins hearts

Daniel, pictured with his mother, Ms Christina Espinosa, has been overwhelmed with aid after a photo of him (right) studying on the pavement by the light of a McDonald's outlet went viral on the Internet.
Daniel (above), pictured with his mother, Ms Christina Espinosa, has been overwhelmed with aid after a photo of him (right) studying on the pavement by the light of a McDonald's outlet went viral on the Internet.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Daniel, pictured with his mother, Ms Christina Espinosa, has been overwhelmed with aid after a photo of him (right) studying on the pavement by the light of a McDonald's outlet went viral on the Internet.
Daniel, pictured with his mother, Ms Christina Espinosa, has been overwhelmed with aid after a photo of him (above) studying on the pavement by the light of a McDonald's outlet went viral on the Internet.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Facebook post of Filipino, 9, leads to huge donations to help him fulfil dream of finishing school

MANILA • A homeless Filipino boy has been overwhelmed with aid after a heart-wrenching photo of him studying on the pavement and using faint light from a McDonald's outlet went viral on the Internet.

Nine-year-old Daniel Cabrera will fulfil his dream of becoming a policeman after donations of cash, school supplies and a college scholarship poured in, said his mother, Ms Christina Espinosa.

"We are overjoyed. I don't know what I will do with all of these blessings," the 42-year-old grocery employee and domestic helper said. "Now, Daniel will not have to suffer just to finish his studies."

The photo, posted on Facebook last month by a college student, showed Daniel doing his homework on a wooden stool placed close to a McDonald's window to catch the light from the eatery.

The 20-year-old medical technology student, Ms Joyce Torrefranca, captioned her Facebook post: "I got inspired by a kid."

DETERMINED TO DO WELL

He is a very studious and determined boy... He would insist on going to school even without his lunch money because I have no money to give. He always tells me, 'Mama, I don't want to stay poor. I want to reach my dreams.'

MS CHRISTINA ESPINOSA, mother of Daniel Cabrera

The posting was then shared close to 7,000 times on the social networking site and reported by local television.

Ms Espinosa and her three youngest children, including Daniel, have been living in her employer's mini-grocery store since their shanty home was gutted by fire five years ago.

The mother said she earned just 80 pesos (S$2.40) a day working at the store and as a domestic helper for the store's owners in their nearby home. She augments the income by selling cigarettes and candy on the streets on Mandaue, an urban centre on Cebu island in central Philippines. Their grocery store home is close to the McDonald's outlet that had served as Daniel's study nook, she said.

His father died in 2013 due to severe diarrhoea, said Ms Espinosa, who has three older children, all married and living separately from her.

She described the boy as a tenacious child with a single-mined focus on getting an education.

"He is a very studious and determined boy... He would insist on going to school even without his lunch money because I have no money to give," Ms Espinosa said. "He always tells me: 'Mama, I don't want to stay poor. I want to reach my dreams.'"

Ms Espinosa said, aside from the cash, school supplies and scholarship offer that would guarantee his education through college, people had given school uniforms and a reading lamp.

The local church and government social welfare office had also received aid on his behalf.

"Our problem is how to manage all this financial assistance," said the city's social welfare office chief, Ms Violeta Cavada. "He has become a symbol of poor slum boys in the city who can't study because they don't have electricity."

Despite strong economic growth in recent years, roughly one quarter of the Philippines' 100 million people still live on less than US$1 (S$1.35) a day, and giant slums dominate all major cities.

Ms Torrefranca's post was shared around the world and in many languages, including Spanish, German and Portuguese, all touched by the boy's perseverance.

"I couldn't believe how my post went viral and helped him in his studies," Ms Torrefranca said yesterday. She said she snapped a photo of the boy, whom she saw outside the fast-food chain for the first time, while she was on her way home from school.

"I was in awe. While other street kids were begging for alms, he was studying," Ms Torrefranca said.

Many who reposted Daniel's photo on their Facebook agreed.

"I hope he makes it because in my book, he is a legend," Mr Alan Butler said on his Facebook page.

"Great story because, thanks to this picture, his life will change. Sad, because it is one of the thousands, probably millions, who live in these circumstances," wrote Mr Christoffel Sneijders.

AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Photo of boy studying by shop light wins hearts'. Print Edition | Subscribe