Thalias Hospitality

Leakhena Gauquelin des Pallières. Photo supplied
Leakhena Gauquelin des Pallières. Photo supplied

Thalias supports PSE, let’s talk with Leakhena des Pallières

At Thalias Hospitality, we’re proud to have shared many milestones with PSE. Over the years, we’ve not just sponsored numerous events but also found incredible talents from this amazing community. Today, we wish to celebrate Mamie and the incredible difference she made. With the help of Thalias, her birthday will be celebrated the 16th of september 2023. That is the opportunity to meet with Leakhena des Pallières, now managing director of the NGO and living proof of PSE’s success !

“I’m not interested in careerism, what counts are the children”, says Leakhena Gauquelin des Pallières who is one of the first former PSE beneficiaries to rise to the position of Managing Director of the NGO Pour un Sourire d’Enfant.

In an exclusive interview, she talks about her early days with the association and how she rose through the ranks.

Can you tell us who Leakhena is in a few words?

My name is Leakhena and I’m 34 years old. I’m an only child, born in Kandal, but grew up in Phnom Penh. When my parents divorced, my mother and I moved in with an aunt in Steung Meanchey. My earliest memories date back to our move to the capital. I went to school, but rather irregularly, as I had to work to earn enough to eat.

“My aunt was an ice-cream seller, and we helped her by digging through the garbage, but it wasn’t always enough, and there were days when we didn’t have enough to eat.”

This aunt already had to look after her four children, and as she lived very close to the large Steung Meanchey rubbish dump, we began to rummage, sort and sell garbage.

CM: How old were you when you started doing this?

Eight or nine, until I became a boarder at “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant”. I met the founders of PSE on the dump, and they agreed to take me in when they saw my predicament.

At first, I was able to attend school, but I had to go home at night, and that wasn’t always easy. Soon, cousins joined me at the school. This relieved the family and did us all a lot of good. We were finally able to have two meals a day, which was far from being the case before PSE.

As for access to school, it was a chance we hadn’t dared to imagine! It was only under very special circumstances that I was then able to benefit from their accommodation.

Under what circumstances?

One morning, my mother accompanied me to the PSE premises and told me quite clearly that I would have to live there permanently from then on. Of course, I was completely lost and didn’t really understand what was happening to me. No one at PSE knew anything about it either, but faced with a fait accompli, Grandma and Grandpa didn’t hesitate to take me in. This enabled me to continue my schooling up to the baccalaureate. I wanted to become a social worker, but there wasn’t any university course at the time.

“Nevertheless, I was able to learn on the job, initially by working with Papy and the PSE social teams.”

This enabled me to acquire the rudiments of the job, and then to practice it to the full by taking part in a whole series of internships both in Cambodia and in France. Some of these internships, which took place in Paris, enabled us to share our skills with people from all over the world. I also had the opportunity to work with an American organization based in Cambodia. As I already had a lot of practical experience, my skills were validated without me having to undergo lengthy training. So, at the age of 20, I was able to start working as a social worker and live outside PSE.

What does it mean to be a social worker at PSE? What were your duties?

Participating in the recruitment of families, trying to solve the problems faced by the children, listening to them, assessing their situation, and what we call “opening” or “closing” a case, i.e. putting together a file and closing it.

It must be a difficult job…

No, it’s not a difficult job, because it’s a job I love. It’s true that sometimes our children’s situation seems insurmountable, but with time, PSE has been able to put in place a solution adapted to almost every situation.

And getting children out of misery, being able to give them what I’ve been given in the past, all that is extremely motivating. It’s a job I did for 3 or 4 years, before I was put in charge of foster families. But in a way, it’s also part of my job as a social worker. After a year and a half spent on this mission, I then became responsible for half a dozen people, before taking over the management of the social team.

How many cases do you handle each year?

It’s quite difficult to measure, but there are around 5,000 cases a year, with sometimes very different problems. Being myself from the same background as the children we support helps a lot, in both directions: on the one hand, to better understand their situation, but also to show them that if I’ve managed to get by, they can too.

How did you get started?

They were tough! When I started work, I was just a young woman who didn’t yet have the keys or all the diplomas in my pocket. Thanks to the help of those around me, I was able to overcome this stage and climb the ladder to become responsible for various programs within PSE: accommodation, extra-curricular activities, medical department…

Which of these departments had the greatest impact on you?

I liked accommodation the most, because you work 24/7 with the young people. It’s very exciting.

How many departments are there at PSE?

There are large departments that cover smaller services. For example, the Education department covers schooling, vocational training, language schools, pedagogy…

We’re talking about a structure with more than 600 employees… as in any organization of this size, we have support departments (finance, HR, administration, purchasing, communications…) and, of course, the whole social side, which refers children to our huts for the very youngest, our remedial classes, public schools or vocational training.

And you’ve worked in all the association’s departments?

Almost all of them, yes, the last one being responsible for the Education sector. At the same time, I had become deputy general manager, and applied when the position of director opened up.

And it worked out well for you! What motivated you to apply?

It wasn’t at all to get the title of director – careerism has never concerned me in my profession. It was the substance of the subject that really interested me, the children, the families, the possibilities of helping them… And then, it’s a job in which you act as part of a team, and I’m well surrounded.

What’s your day-to-day routine like?

I spend a lot of time with the teams, so I can understand in detail what their tasks are and get to know each other better. I’ve only been here a relatively short time, since mid-August, so things are still settling in.

“Getting started was also complicated by Covid, which was yet another challenge.”

Classroom closures, online training, distress for children and teachers, families who could no longer leave their homes, setting up emergency aid schemes… When you know the difficulties this can cause in families in general, you have to imagine the damage among the most vulnerable…

How do you see the future of your career?

I’m going to do everything I can to improve the quality of education, to take care of the pupils, to listen to the needs of the country and to be able to adjust the programs according to those needs… I’m also going to make it more frequent for the children to meet our staff, because it’s important to be able to put a face to a name.

What do you do outside work?

Looking after my three children, plus a niece, is a lot of work! I try to spend as much time with them as possible.

French version

Facebook Comments

You May Also Like

Exploring the Art of Pasta Making

As an Italian restaurant deeply rooted in tradition, Siena restaurant takes immense pride in their pasta making skills. The culinary team crafts each pasta shape in-house, preserving the authenticity and soul of Italian cuisine. This article delves into the rich history of pasta making and explains the unique characteristics of some classic Italian pasta shapes. A Brief History of Pasta Making Pasta has been a staple of Italian cuisine for centuries, with origins tracing back to the 13th century. Each region of Italy has its unique pasta shapes and sauces, resulting in a diverse array of pasta dishes. Pasta is…
Image Source: FreeImages

Cambodia’s Economic Outlook for 2023: A Comprehensive Analysis

Cambodia, a dynamic player in the Southeast Asian market, is expected to exhibit strong economic performance in 2023. We hope to provide an exploration of the upcoming trends, opportunities, and challenges in the Cambodian economy. Specifically, we’ll underscore the role the hospitality industry, such as our company Thalias Hospitality, plays in boosting the nation’s economic development. Despite ranking amongst the lower-tier in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in terms of GDP per capita, Cambodia presents a fascinating economic paradox. This country, abundant in underdeveloped sectors, has been one of the fastest-growing economies in ASEAN for over two decades.…

Cuisine des Cinq: A Five-Star fine-dining Feast at Topaz

At Thalias, we’re constantly pushing the boundaries to bring you unforgettable gastronomic experiences. This time, we’re offering something truly special: A unique fine dining event that brings together the expertise of five of our top chefs. Get ready for the 10 Hands Special Dinner on the 21st of September! A Culinary Affair of Five Master Chefs Our 10 Hands Special Dinner will feature the remarkable talents of: Sopheak Pov, the Executive Chef at Topaz. Chanrotana Sun, the Head Chef at Khéma Giuseppe Napoletano, the Head Chef at Siena. Phyra Hem, the Head chef at Topaz Commune. Panharith Hak, the Pastry…

A Guide to Using Cutlery Properly

Have you ever been to a fancy dinner party or a Michelin-starred restaurant and felt lost when it comes to using the cutlery? The truth is, proper cutlery usage is an essential part of French dining etiquette. Not only does it showcase your knowledge of the tradition, but it also enhances the dining experience for you and your guests. So, grab your fork and knife, and let’s explore the world of French dining together. Types of Cutlery Used in French Dining French dining is known for its intricate table settings, and the cutlery is no exception. The most common types…

The Historical Journey of Dim Sum: A Staple of Chinese Cuisine

Dim sum, a culinary tradition that has stood the test of time, originated in southern China and has since spread across the globe. This timeless food has a rich history and has evolved into a beloved international cuisine. In this article, we will explore the fascinating history and culture surrounding dim sum, and how it has been embraced by popular restaurant brands such as Yi Sang, SevenSea, and World Dining. The Birth of Dim Sum Dim sum, which translates to ‘touch the heart’, originated in the Guangdong region of China, eventually finding its way to Hong Kong. The small portions…

Seize the Magic of Cambodia: An Unforgettable Two-Week Journey from Temples to Tropical Beaches

When it comes to exploring the enchanting landscapes of Southeast Asia, the Kingdom of Cambodia often takes the backseat. Yet, the truth couldn’t be more contrasting. This vibrant country, with its rich history, diverse culture, and stunning natural beauty, offers an unparalleled tourism experience, often underappreciated by many travelers. If you are seeking a new experience, filled with exploration and discovery, then a two-week trip to this captivating part of South East Asia promises an adventure beyond your wildest dreams. MUST TRY RESTAURANTS: At the end of each paragraph, you will find two different restaurants with varying cuisines which will…