Christian des Pallieres, Founder of Child NGO, Dies at 82

Christian des Pallieres, who together with his wife co-founded Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE), an organization that supports thousands of Cambodia’s destitute children, died on Saturday night, friends said on Sunday.

The 82-year-old Frenchman died from natural causes at the organization’s center in Meanchey district, said Pin Sarapich, who recently resigned as the director of PSE after 16 years. Christian des Pallieres, who also held Cambodian citizenship, had been tired and weak for some time, but decided not to go back to France for medical treatment, he added.

Pour un Sourire d'Enfant founder Christian des Pallieres walks through a dumpsite in Phnom Penh's Meanchey district, in a still image from the documentary 'Little Gems.'
Pour un Sourire d’Enfant founder Christian des Pallieres walks through a dumpsite in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, in a still image from the documentary ‘Little Gems.’

“He left everything behind and gave up his life in France, and he stayed in Cambodia—he decided to pass away here,” Mr. Sarapich said.

Mr. des Pallieres and his wife, Marie-France des Pallieres, created PSE in 1996 after witnessing impoverished children collecting and eating trash at the Stung Meanchey dumpsite on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

After setting up a center near the site, the couple eventually opened two more in Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. The NGO last week celebrated its 20th anniversary with screenings of “Les Pepites,” or “Little Gems,” a documentary about the organization.

The group says that it has helped feed and educate more than 10,000 children since it was started.

“I think he was a real model of sharing and giving love…. He released many people from misery,” said Mr. Sarapich, who considered Mr. des Pallieres “much more my father than friend.”

Sebastien Marot, the executive director of Friends International, another NGO that has long worked with impoverished children, said he had known and worked with Mr. des Pallieres since the establishment of PSE.

“It’s very sad,” Mr. Marot said of his passing. “He was a very strong advocate for children—he relentlessly went around and talked about children from the slums.”

Mr. Marot said that although the two organizations “don’t always agree on everything,” he believed PSE would continue to serve the poor.

“PSE is solid and able to operate without him—he built something that will last and that’s something strong to his credit and his wife,” he said.

A traditional Buddhist funeral for Mr. des Pallieres is set to be held today at 1 p.m. at the PSE campus in Stung Meanchey commune.

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