Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, an extraordinary couple :

Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, an extraordinary couple

Discover the biography of the founders of the association who, after a lifetime of adventures around the world, have saved thousands of poor children in Cambodia thanks to their generosity!

Christian and Marie-France at the PSE centre in Phnom Penh

Born in 1934, a child from a large family, Christian des Pallières decided at the end of his higher education to join the army: 4 years in Algeria during which he tried to make the life of the inhabitants of Kabylia more humane: as a young officer in charge of 10 villages, he very quickly became a teacher with original teaching methods. He had to leave his beloved Algeria in chaos and heartbreak.

Back to civilian life, he joined IBM in 1962 and married Marie-France in 1964, without whom, he says, "I could not have carried out any project". IBM offered him a job in Morocco where they settled in Casablanca from 1970 to 1973. A caravan they soon bought allowed them to travel through the Atlas and the Sahara with their young children.

Back in the Parisian region a few years later, they decided to leave everything behind and set off in a camper van, "Nainbus", to travel the world with their children: this was to be the extraordinary adventure in 1977 and 1978 recounted in what was to become a best-seller in 1984: "Quatre enfants et un rêve" (Editions Nouvelle Cité). India, Afghanistan, the Middle East; eighteen months in Asia where their children learned the school of life. In 1985, they left for China, still in a camper van, and returned via the Transmongolian, accompanied, of course, by their four children.

Back in "civilian life", Marie-France worked as a secretary for the Archdiocese of Paris and Christian travels the world, still at IBM: Africa, Oceania. The couple adopts Wâhed, a young Afghan. Christian was elected president of the Guilde du Raid and was in Agen in 1992, at an NGO forum dealing with humanitarian actions. At the same time, IBM offered him early retirement.

During the Agen forum, an association, SIPAR, suggested that he go to Cambodia to help rebuild the primary education system that had been totally devastated by the Khmer Rouge. Christian left without delay for Phnom Penh and moved heaven and earth to open schools and train teachers. Marie-France joined him a few months later, their children having left home.

Christian, on the Phnom Penh dump

In the capital of Cambodia, still unsettled by ongoing gunfire and intense armed tension, they rub shoulders daily, with the hungry little scavengers roaming the streets in search of food. When SIPAR's mission came to an end due to lack of funds, the couple naturally turned to these destitute children. They soon discovered the huge and disgusting Phnom Penh dumpsite where thousands of people, including so many children, lived in conditions "unworthy of humanity".

At the sight of this horror, Christian and Marie-France immediately decided to stay and "do something" to save them. This was 1995.

Today, Pour un Sourire d'Enfant (PSE) looks after more than 6,500 children who are fed, clothed, cared for and educated. They receive vocational training so they can find a job, a worthwhile job. More than 4,500 youngsters, our "graduates", have followed this path and are already in the workforce and have, for the most part, started a family.

Christian created the cinema vocational training school, whose patron is the film director Patrice Leconte. He is the author, with photographer Thomas Goisque, of a photo album, "Les Pépites", published in October 2016 by Albin Michel about the fantastic story of this human adventure.

A feature film, "Les Pépites", directed by Xavier de Lauzanne, which won an award at the La Rochelle Documentary Festival, was released in cinemas on 5th October 2016 tells the extraordinary story of this couple and the children of Cambodia.

Christian and Marie-France, who have been granted Cambodian nationality, have always been on the ground, living among the children and the 600 or so Khmer employees who run the PSE Centre in Phnom Penh.They are both Chevaliers de la Légion d'Honneur Française, Honorary Citizens of the City of Phnom Penh, Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Cambodia, 1st prize "Humanitarian Hero of the year".

Christian des Pallières passed away in Phnom Penh on 24 September 2016. His wife Marie-France continues, unstintingly, with her commitment to the children.

Poster of the film "Les Pépites" by Xavier de Lauzanne