For several years, Cambodia has been restoring itself and development is underway, especially in the cities. But part of the population is still excluded from this. Twenty-five years of war and unthinkable genocide have left the country weak and drained with deep wounds: a complete destruction of society, division of the families, a loss of moral values and old systems of solidarity. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, more than 2 million people were killed. The intellectuals and teachers were the first to be executed. The social system was wiped out. Schools and books were destroyed. The main victims are the children (mortality rate, malnutrition, mistreatment, violence…). Schools are expensive, and without exterior intervention, one more generation is running the risk of being sacrificed. Today, still many children try to survive with difficult and dangerous jobs, without sufficient food, without care, without school, without a future. It was urgent to act.
Everything started one day in April 1995…
Christian and Marie-France des Pallières , a retired French couple, disovered the dumpsite of Phnom Penh:
On an immense ground of fuming rubbish, in a smell of filth and in the middle of swarms of flies, hundreds of children from the age of six to fifteen searched through the rubbish. Wearing rags, covered in infected wounds, a large filthy bag on the back, barefoot in the waste where they sank in to their knees, they searched for bits of plastic, cardboard, or metal to recuperate. They also searched for something to eat, because none of them had eaten anything since the day before.
“It was a true shock. It made you want to cry out… or weep. It was unworthy of humanity!”
Christan des Pallières
Tormented by these dreadful images, the couple decided to help these children, take them out of this “hell on earth” and give them a smile again: “For a Child’s Smile” (Pour un Sourire d’Enfant) was born.
PSE is an apolitical, non-governmental charity organisation that supports the children of families that are in distress or marginalised. In particular, those from the dumpsites and the poorest outskirts of Phnom Penh. PSE gives them food and care, education and schooling, and solid professional training.
Some years later, PSE had enlarged its scope of activities by adding new antennas in two other cities of the country: in Siem Reap, near the famous Angkor temples, and in Sihanoukville, in a harbour city that is in development.
The PSE motto:
A child who is hungry must be fed
A child who is sick must be cared for
A mistreated child must be protected
An exploited child must be rescued
An abandoned child must be given a home
Every child should feel the tenderness of a loving gaze upon him
photo credit: Chloé Desjonquères