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Vie Française | Interviews

Inspiring women: Tina Kieffer – founder of Toutes à l’école

Inspiring women: Collaborative partnership with MidetPlus.fr

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Tina Kieffer, a celebrated journalist, script-writer, producer and columnist, is known for publications including DS Magazine, Marie-Claire, Frou-Frou and Il fera beau. Already a mother of four, Tina decided to adopt Chandara, a little girl from Cambodia.

“A tiny silhouette, one of a three-year-old girl who barely appears two, sits on a bench and is crying into her hands, her scrawny legs floating in the air. It is this image that will dramatically change my life as I had just donated some clothes to a Phnom Penh orphanage. Finding a family was a matter of urgency for Chandara and thus she became my fifth child.”

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The Happy Chandara school

After this event, Kieffer naturally moved towards humanitarianism. “I reviewed my priorities. Identifying the school as an issue, I quickly reached out and made it the most important priority of all.” Toutes à l’école was established, aiming to save the most needy young girls of Cambodia through education. Since all the country’s intellectual elites were killed under the Khmer Rouge regime, primary school teachers are rare and the majority of the population is under 20 years of age.

The current situation in Cambodia particularly discriminates against girls who are abused or sometimes even sold from the age of six onwards, provided they are not first destined for prostitution. Toutes à l’école wants to give the girls the best possible education so that they can stay in their country with a secure job and future.

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The foundation of the Happy Chandara school was the next part of Tina Kieffer’s plan. Its objective is to make Cambodian girls go as far as other girls around the world, by offering the best tools of education and happiness. Moreover, the school espouses equality; a girl’s origins, be it slums or the countryside, has no bearing whatsoever on the help she can receive.

I was confronted with very harsh global realities, particularly concerning children and women’s rights. There comes a point when condemning problems no longer matters and action must be taken.”

After eight years, the results are increasingly positive. A hundred new students are enrolled annually and close to one thousand girls have already completed their education. Along with the school, there is a hairdresser training centre for girls who are unable to complete higher education. Importantly, the diploma awarded at the end of the course is also recognised by the state. Medical and dental surgeries, as well as a boarding school for the poorer students, are also found at Happy Chandara.

Professionals come forward!

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“My new job is not that far removed from journalism since it involves continual investigation into a country’s evolution, its new employment opportunities, women’s issues, the health system et cetera. Solutions for a population can only be found after gaining a perfect understanding of the land. Rigorous inquiries should be made without the use of official government statistics, which are always unreliable.”

In order for Tina to successfully complete her education mission, however, she must constantly seek funding – and a lot of it. Various sponsorship opportunities exist at Happy Chandara: enterprises or individual businessmen and women can become patrons or teachers, while institutional partners can sponsor entire classes. Private partnership is also available for those who would like to cover students’ school fees and other costs, including medical, food and family aid.

What does the future hold?

One of Tina Kieffer’s dreams is to someday open a similar school elsewhere in the world. Why not, when her Cambodian girls are truly motivated and happy to learn and are advancing far better than could ever have been imagined. This is a model worthy of reproduction, if only there were enough funds. Kieffer, nevertheless, holds onto hope, since giving up is not part of who she is.

“Opening other Happy Chandara school is an urgent need. Each year, educated and qualified young women with values of tolerance and generosity enter professional life and assist in their country’s development.”

Tina Kieffer: driven by curiosity and creativity

“Curiosity has been the main driver of my career; curiosity in understanding, and sharing, the knowledge of what is occurring elsewhere,” says Kieffer. “Being creative, my interest in writing pushed me towards journalism. It was once I became the director of socially aware magazines, however, that I was confronted with very harsh global realities, particularly concerning children and women’s rights. There comes a point when condemning problems no longer matters and action must be taken.”MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - midetplus.fr - Tina Kieffer - logo

Such is Tina Kieffer’s profession of faith. It is a true reflection of a life where passion combines with determination, authority and sensitivity – very feminine qualities indeed! It goes without saying, therefore, that Chandara should be very proud of her new mum!

For information on sponsoring Toutes à l’école, click here.


Are you inspired by Tina’s volunteerism? Do you know of any other great volunteers and their initiatives? Let us know in the comments section below.


Inspiring women: collaborative partnership with MidetPlus.fr

[This article was originally written in French by Author: Vicky Sommet ]

Here at MyFrenchLife™ we have pleasure in announcing our collaborative partnership with French site MidetPlus.fr to produce this new series: ‘Inspiring women’.
This article first appeared on MidetPlus.fr and we have translated it into English for your added pleasure: publishing in both, French and English

Mid&Plus takes a decidedly positive view of women in the world and produces wonderful portraits of inspiring women.
This collaboration enables you to read this series of inspiring life stories in French and in English here on MyFrenchLife™ – MaVieFrançaise® magazine and also to visit midetplus.fr for further inspiration and read about Fondatrice Marie-Hélène Cossé.
We hope that you enjoy it.

Meet these ‘Inspiring women’: Spirit . Strength . Stories

Marie-Hélène Cossé – founder of MidetPlus
Claire Basler – artist
Zahia Ziouani – conductor
Alix Baboin-Jaubert – pilgrim
Hannelore Cayre – lawyer, writer & film-maker
Virginie Taittinger – femme champenoise


Image credits:
Header image, via pixabay
All other images courtesy of midetplus.fr

Translated by Artemis Sfendourakis



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