Glamorous Parisian Chalek Dounia, activist, world citizen and president and founder of French-based NGO Donnons Leur une Chance ( Give Them a Chance), holes up in the presidential suite of the Park Hyatt in Siem Reap after embarking on a “donation spree” in some of the far flung villages of the provinces.
“It was an insane day”, she tells Good Times2, describing the day before when her distribution tour of largesse culminated in Bor Val village, Sout Nikum district, about two hours by car from Siem Reap, where the village chief had gathered all donation beneficiaries including lots of happy kids on newly-gifted bicycles to enjoy a dinner and cultural show.
“It was such a rich experience meeting the chief of the village and all the families,” Dounia says.
The philanthropist runs her own business in France, operating a luxury concierge which services the whims of the richest of the rich, but she is also busy running her NGO, with offices in Paris and New York, which services the needs of the poorest of the poor globally.
The NGO’s communications director Claire Depageaut says Dounia has been a benefactress since a teenager.
“She has been working as a humanitarian since she was 18,” Depageaut said, “In 2011, she was touched by the story of a three-year-old Cameroon girl suffering from malnutrition and requiring imminent hospitalisation.
“She organised an online fundraising to provide the necessary care for the survival of the small child, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Give Them a Chance was born.”
Dounia said, “That campaign received more the 100,000 euros ($123,000,) and I thought why not create a non-profit traveling around the world helping people in need?”
The NGO was established six years ago, but this month’s visit to Siem Reap was the organisation’s first involvement with Siem Reap and this came about, according to Dounia, because of the involvement of one of the Parisian volunteers – a Khmer woman whose hometown was Siem Reap and whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when she was five.
In Paris she talked about the needs of her country Cambodia, and how she wanted to give back to her community one day. But her life was cut short when she died aged 58 and Dounia says a mission emerged of “how to honour her memory.”
A fundraising campaign was subsequently initiated that raised about US$250,000 online and from corporate sources, and this enabled the NGO to embark on a “billion Khmer riel spree of benevolence through Siem Reap,” including providing up to 100 water wells by the end of this year, giving a thousand bicycles to kids so they can get to school easily, and donating 350 chickens to villagers so they can start-up small farming businesses also backed by further grants to develop the farms and build chicken pens.
Personnel also visited floating villages like Chong Kneas to assess people’s needs, and to gauge how much to donate to people in those villages.
The NGO will also collaborate with a local non-profit to organise a workshop to educate women on birth control and contraceptive use.
“We’re working with a local non-profit organisation in Siem Reap that helps us to identify the families with the greatest needs, and all the products donated to the beneficiaries are bought locally to help to boost the local economy and small businesses,” Dounia says.
“Indeed, one of the guidelines of our non-profit is to help wherever it’s needed. From new-born baby to the elderly, from covering environment, education or health issues, nobody and nothing is left out.”