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The first lipdub video with 300 Cambodian kids and the story of how I met Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt

Posted by on 26 January 2012

Pour lire cet article en français, cliquez ici. To read this post in French, click here

I have been keeping this video secret for almost 8 months, but I think it’s time to release it now. I’m going to share with you the most important video I made so far while traveling, the one I have worked the most for, and also the most meaningful to me.

It is a lipdub (a video where numerous people are lip-syncing on a song) that I made in an Angkorean Temple with 300 Cambodian Kids from the local primary school of Krasang Roleung near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I believe it’s the first lipdub made with 300 kids as well as one of the first made in South East Asia in general.

I want to tell you why this video is so special to me. It’s a VERY long story. You’ll learn all the difficulties we went through to make the lipdub, how the kids reacted when they saw it, why and how I chased Angelina Jolie but eventually talked to Brad Pitt. And most importantly, what important lesson in life I learnt from that experience. So get some popcorn and enjoy the ride.

It’s an interesting story, but if you are out of time, just skip to Part 5 to see how you can help the kids from the lipdub.

Part 1/5: When comfort makes you empty inside and you need to quit it all

Let’s go back to 2010. I was living in Paris, running my business and making some decent money. I just bought a nice apartment, where my friends were coming over regularly to enjoy a nice barbecue toes in the water in my inflatable swimming pool. I’m an IT Engineer, so I let you picture my place full of high tech gadgets: a home theater, 3 computer screens and well, all kinds of geeky toys. I had it all, right ? The “successful and happy” figure. I was living the good life, well according to our modern societal standards. Deep inside me, something was missing. I was bored. So this is it? Work my ass off, pay the bills, get married, have kids, and finally retire and enjoy life after the age of 60. And if I just had 2 more months to live? What was my greatest dream ? The answer was easy : travel and explore the world. I had to quit it all. So, after a few months of deep thinking… I did it. I closed my company, sold my apartment, and jumped into the unknown : I’ll be traveling around the world, with no agenda.

My initial project was to make videos of unusual things I’d see abroad, and share them online. I wanted to surprise, entertain, inform or inspire. Here are some of these videos: at Coldstone in Japan, you can ask the staff to sing a song when buying an icecream or pitch your icecream to the cup at Coldstone in Dubaï. In Bangkok, I saw people freezing everyday for a minute in public places, I got a nice (professional) massage in the bathroom, and discovered the amazing 4D theater at the Cineplex Theater.

Then I discovered Cambodia, I was immediately touched by the people’s kindness. It surprised me to see materially poor people with always such big smiles on their faces. Oh, I heard it many times “money doesn’t buy happiness”, but this was actually the first time I saw it : the true happiness of people living a simple life. They had no possessions, but they looked much happier than most of my friends, complaining about their unfulfilling life. I loved it so much I ended up staying there 4 months. Far from all the consumerism of our modern society, I was feeling good here.

I wanted to make a video relating to that idea, but I couldn’t find an entertaining way to do it for the viewers. So I just kept that in a corner of my mind, waiting for an idea to come.

I did some volunteer work for the first time in my life, and loved it. I did not feel confident enough to give English lessons to the kids from the orphanage, as I am a native French, so I thought I could contribute by making videos for them. And show them videos from my travel around the world. The kids loved it. And I loved spending time with them.

One day, I went to a school in a small village in Siem Reap where my friend, Winfield, was volunteering. He needed me to shoot a short promotional movie for the Learning Foundation, an organization which assists kids in improving their English. I fell in love with the kids there and I wanted to do something for them, and with them. I immediately became inspired when I saw the magnificent Angkorean temple next to the school. A lipdub would be a perfect way to share the joy and happiness they gave me to the world.

Part 2/5: Shooting a lipdub with 300 kids: a huge project

When we received the authorization from the principal of the school to use the 200 kids in a movie, he suggested that we do the shooting 2 days later, on Wednesday June 1th, because it was International Children Day and the kids didn’t have class.

So my friend Winfield and I had to work quickly to make it happen. Choose the song, come up with ideas for the choreography and take care of all the logistical issues.

When we started shooting on Wednesday, we didn’t expect it to be so hard. It looked easy on paper. But we had to face a lot of issues that we were unprepared for.

We were not sure of the choreography yet. We tried to visualize the whole action before the shooting but to know if the choreography worked, we needed the kids to act out the scene so we could be sure of the timing. And because the kids had to lip-sync on the song, the timing was crucial. We went back and forth, trying to come up with ideas on stage and it made us lose a lot of time.

The weather was very hot so we had to buy an emergency 200 bottles of water as the kids were struggling under the sun. We sent a few people to buy the bottles, but because they couldn’t buy 200 bottles all at once, everytime they came back with some, the kids fought over each other to get one.

Managing 200 kids at 2, Winfield and me, is tough. Kids were always playing and running around, and it was hard to remember who was doing what and if they all had a part in the movie. The school’s teacher Soksan was the only one able to do the translation between Khmer and English, so we mostly communicated with kids by gestures.

After 3 hours, we managed to come up with a first part (around 1 minute and half of action on the 4 minutes total of the song). But obviously, the whole song wouldn’t be finished that day and their attention had reached their limit.

So we decided to postpone the shooting to Saturday. Fortunately, the principal agreed to let us shoot with the kids one more day, which was supposed to be a school day. To thank the kids for their hard work, I offered to organize a big party and take everyone involved in the project to see the Smile of Angkor show, the biggest theatrical performance in Siem Reap, once the project finished. The management of the show previously agreed to give me 70 complimentary tickets for an orphanage, and they told me that they would be please to do that again for other kids in need. When we told them, the kids were so happy they shouted and screamed – how wonderful.

So we had 2 more days to prepare the whole event. The shooting in the morning, the party in the afternoon, and the trip to the Smile of Angkor show at night. Needless to say it was a lot of work for Winfield and I.

For the second day of shooting, we wanted to have a script ready for the whole movie. We had to walk around the temple for hours, trying to identify which action would go where and when. We did a step by step, second after second script with the action matching the lyrics.

We realized that we didn’t have enough kids to play in the movie. Even if 200 kids seems a lot, it was not enough for the lipdub. We went to convince a principal from another school to participate in the project. We added 100 more kids, so 300 total. But then, we had to take care of their transportation and safety to the temple.

We ordered 700 liters of water and 50 kg of ice to cool the water. We bought meals for the 300 kids as well. To cut the cost, we had to prepare the food ourselves, so the school cook had to get some help from other villagers and staff.

Plus, we had to find more staff – especially people who could speak English and Khmer. We managed to get 4 more bilingual people involved: Sharky, Sambo, Amum, On and a few other teachers and friends.

Then we had to buy all the accessories for the movie: a rope, swords, a dress, watergun, a bucket, sunglasses, an umbrella… but there was no big supermarket in Cambodia. We had to go around the whole town from shop to shop to find everything that we needed.

Also, we had to bribe the security guy from the Apsara Authority in order to get the authorization to film in the temple. The Angkorean era Temple is a holy and protected place, built in the 12th century. We had to take care that we were not committing a sacrilege to their culture.

We were under so much stress during these 2 days of preparation, running everywhere to fit in all the things that we had to do into the required timeframe.

The big day arrived all too soon. However, we were ready. But there was still one last decisive parameter that we couldn’t plan: the weather. The weather forecast was bad: a 50% chance of rain… and all of the shooting was taking place outdoors. We didn’t have a second chance, as the principal already gave us one more day of shooting, with the 200 kids, and the other 100 kids from the other school. In the morning it looked like the weather was OK. We prayed for the weather to stay good, and fortunately it did.

Eventually, we had a lot of fun, a lot of stress, a lot of unexpected problems occured, but we did it. The lipdub was in the box. I edited the lipdub in the next hours, while the party was going on. I showed it to the team. We watched it. We loved it.

Part 3/5: Help others to help yourself or when I discover happiness

After the party, the kids boarded the buses, and headed to the Smile of Angkor show, where Annie, the sales manager was waiting for us. While the kids were watching the show, I showed the lipdub to Annie. She loved it. The theater where the Smile of Angkor show was performed is huge. It is a big production involving massive sound and light effects. And most importantly, they have a giant screen with a projector, like a movie theater. I wondered if it was possible to project the lipdub on the screen so the kids could see it. I asked Annie, she found the idea wonderful, and with the technical team of the show, we managed to make it happen. So at the end of the show, after all the spectators left, the kids had the surprise of seeing themselves on the giant screen. Moreover, the 100 performers of the Smile of Angkor show took place in the seats. This time, the roles were switched: the kids were the performers and the show performers were the spectators.

I can’t even describe the feeling I had, seeing the kids laughing and their amazement when they saw themselves on the giant screen. These kids don’t even have access to a camera, so they are not used to seeing themselves on video, or even in pictures. You can imagine the kind of experience it was for them. My heart was beating wildly, and even 30 minutes after the show, it still was. I have never felt that good in my whole life. I felt fulfilled. I felt that I was doing something meaningful. Everybody clapped their hands and I congratulated my friend Winfield, and the whole crew of the project. We took a team picture to remember that moment, but in the end, it wasn’t necessary. This moment became recorded in our memories forever.

During the next few days, we showed the lipdub to the kids at school. We didn’t have a TV or projector, so we had to show it to each class on my 13″ screen laptop. They were still amazed by it. It was funny as I remember one of the girls, Srey Nuch (one of the youngest one who went under the human tunnel at the beginning of the lipdub) went to all the screenings, going from class to class. She is the most adorable little girl that I have ever seen.

From that moment on, I knew my life was taking a deep turn. Doing good for others was making me a happier man. I knew I was on a good path. Happiness is not about fancy things. It’s about finding the magic in common things. It’s not about what people do for you but what you do for them. No possessions can lead you to true happiness. Only your behavior will. And only when your behavior meet your true self with your core values will you find peace of mind.

We showed the video to other people in Cambodia who were all amazed. I wanted to release the video online, to show to the world what a wonderful country it is. I was dying to show it to my friends and to the readers of my blog. But then what? I would probably have my little moment of fame, but nothing would change for these kids, and I wanted to do something for them. This video had to go viral. This video had to spread awareness about these kids, their school. How could we achieve that?

And that’s when a crazy idea came to me. Let’s see if Angelina Jolie can help us in that task. Yes, Angelina Jolie, the famous Hollywood star!

Part 4/5: Chasing Angelina Jolie

This part describes how I tried to contact Angelina Jolie in order to ensure the video go viral online and how I did eventually see her. It’s a long part. So if you don’t have the time, go straight to the important part at the end by clicking here, to see how you can help the kids.

A few weeks before shooting the lipdub, I read Angelina Jolie’s book “Notes from My Travels”. This is a book that is found practically everywhere in Siem Reap, Cambodia. At the time, I was curious, and I learnt a lot about her.

She came to Siem Reap, Cambodia for the first time in 2001 to shoot the movie Tomb Raider. She fell in love with the country and it was probably one of the major moments in her life: this is when she realized that she wanted to do some humanitarian work. She started travelling with the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency), helping refugees in developing countries. Today, she is still a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and works actively to spread awareness about their cause. She bought a house in Battambang, Cambodia and started The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation. But more importantly, she adopted her first kid Maddox in Cambodia. Lately, when she became the spokes model for Louis Vuitton, she was asked where she wanted to shoot the pictures. She answered Siem Reap, Cambodia. So I knew Cambodia was a special place for her. It made sense to contact her.

But we knew that it would be difficult to get to her. She’s probably one of the most solicited women in the world. But nothing is impossible for anyone that dreams big! To maximize our chance, instead of sending a letter, we thought it would be a good idea to send her a personalized DVD including videos of the kids, and pictures. The DVD presented our project and why she could be a great help for us. Our ultimate goal was to have her make a guest appearance in the video, ensuring that the video would go viral on the web.

At the same time I talked about that idea of contacting Angelina Jolie to one of my friend, Stefan, who is a visual artist (check out his facebook page). He’s known for making beautiful paintings of celebrities. He’s so talented that Lady Gaga asked to meet him when she saw that he painted her. Even the singer Pink twitted about a painting he made of her. So he kindly offered to make a painting of Angelina Jolie that we would send to her with the DVD, hoping to get her attention. The timing was good as we were a few weeks from Maddox’s 10th birthday. We decided that we would send a painting of Angelina and Maddox as a birthday present.

So Stefan shipped the package containing the painting and the DVD from Paris to her manager in Los Angeles. The package arrived on time. But unfortunately, we found out that Angelina was in the UK because Brad Pitt was shooting a movie there, and she was staying there for a while. So we waited a few weeks… a few months. We called her manager to check the good delivery of the package. We were told that it would be handed to her when she comes back to Los Angeles. So we waited more and more, but nothing happened.

So I kept travelling, went to Burma, China, North Korea and Vietnam. I always kept an eye on the tabloids to see where Angelina was, hoping she would come back to Los Angeles soon. And completely randomly, on November the 11th, while i was in Ho Chi Minh City, I read in the news Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and her whole family was on Con Dao, an island in Vietnam just an hour flight away from Ho Chi Minh City! It was a sign. Destiny was sending her straight to me! I bought the first available plane ticket for Con Dao, hoping to meet her there, with no idea where she was staying. I had never been on that island before. I had no idea how hard it would be to find her. But one thing was sure. I wouldn’t leave without meeting her.

I started searching on Google for information about that island, and tried to find where the Jolie-Pitt family could be staying. Fortunately, Con Dao is a very small island, and there’s only one 5 star hotel: the Six Senses. I went to their website and tried to see if any room was available. It was sold out. There were no rooms available, even the most expensive ones at more than 3000 USD a night, and that was from November 11th to the 16th. After that day, there were plenty of rooms available. That was pretty good info. Now I was almost sure she was staying there, and I knew when she would be leaving the island.

So the next day, early in the morning, I arrived at Con Dao. I checked-in to my hotel, rented a scooter and went straight to Six Senses. Everybody on the island confirmed that they had seen Angelina Jolie going to that hotel. Because Angelina was on vacation with her whole family, I didn’t want to bother her. So my strategy was to write her a letter, joining the DVD that I had previously sent to her manager, and ask for a meeting. I would just deliver the letter to hotel reception, and hopefully she would get in touch. It looked pretty simple and easy to me. I was wrong.

When I arrived at the reception of the hotel, I asked if I could leave a letter for Angelina Jolie. The receptionist said that there was nobody staying there with that name. I explained my case, saying we all know that she’s staying there and I just needed to deliver a very important letter. They wouldn’t help me. I asked to see a manager and met her an hour later. I explained the whole reason why I was there, but she stayed very cold and asked me to leave, making me uncomfortable. After all, they all had very strict orders, were under pressure, so I understood that the manager was just doing her job. But I had my own mission to complete. And I do not surrender easily. So I went back to my hotel, and started thinking of other options.

I tried to come back to the hotel just for lunch. Maybe I could bump into Angelina in the restaurant. But the receptionist told me the restaurant was only for customers, to which I replied that I’d like to book a room. But obviously, there was no room available. They had probably rented the whole hotel to be safe. They were travelling with all their kids, assistants, babysitters, bodyguards. 16 people in total if I remember correctly. Thinking about it now, I was pretty lucky there was no vacancy as the cheapest room was 700 USD a night. By the way, I did come back to eat at the hotel later, when Angelina left the island, without having to book a room.

The staff at my hotel said that I might be able to talk directly to the CEO of Six Senses, because all the managers couldn’t risk taking that kind of decision. We managed to find the CEO’s phone number, Mrs S.. I called her and told her I just came back from her hotel and wanted to talk to her about something very important. I tried to stay as vague as possible. She agreed to meet me but asked for the reason. I said I preferred to talk about it face to face but she insisted. So I had to say I needed to deliver a letter to one of her customers, and she immediately understood what I was trying to do. She said she couldn’t meet me until the following afternoon, as she was very busy, and she would call me back the following morning to give me an appointment. She didn’t call back. So I called her, and she kept postponing the meeting. I understood what was going on. She was trying to win some time until Angelina left the island, and then she would meet me.

So I knew I wouldn’t get any help from the staff of the hotel. I went onto Google Maps, trying to analyze the hotel surroundings. Maybe I could sneak in some way. I walked all around the hotel, but there was no way to get in. Moreover, the security of the hotel was increased, every few meters, some security guards were patrolling, talking to each other with walkie talkies. This was a live video game, we were playing Metal Gear Solid and I was the spy.

In a desperate moment, I came up with insane ideas. The hotel has a long private beach, only accessible by the sea. I pictured myself arriving by the sea, running on the beach towards Angelina, giving her the letter, just before her bodyguards tackled me to the sand. That fantasy was a little bit dramatic, but hey, you need to do what you have to do to get the job’s done. I admit I probably watch to many movies though. So I thought about renting a boat to get there. But I realized it wouldn’t work as the boats are not allowed to get to that private beach. Then I came up with an even more stupid idea: swimming to that beach. Fortunately, I wasn’t brave enough to go that way. I would probably have died due to the current crashing against some rocks.

Last idea: meet her when she left the hotel. I couldn’t even stay in front of the hotel, as the security guards would ask me to leave. There were few things to do on the island and only one road, so I couldn’t miss her. I went to all the touristic places, any entertainments that she could possibly visit (National Park, dive center…), and I explained my case to ask if they had any information about Angelina or Brad. I left my phone number, hoping that they would call me if they had any info.

When I arrived at the Tiger Cages, one of the few touristic places to visit, on November 13th, the guy at the ticket window told me that Angelina and Brad were there just 30 minutes ago! They just visited the prison and left! Some journalists just came to buy a few pictures of them. I felt so unlucky but thought at least, I was making progress. I took my scooter, rode back and forth on the only road on the island, hoping that they were visiting another place. But I didn’t find them. Apparently, they went straight back to the hotel.

On November 14th, I had the idea to go to the airport. This is a very small airport, and only a few planes land there everyday. I wanted to try to find the pilot or the flight attendants, to ask them to deliver the letter to Angelina and Brad when they left the island. But nobody would agree to help me. I just needed to deliver a letter! I didn’t ask to meet her, talk to her, get an autograph or a picture. All I wanted was to deliver a letter, but nobody would take that risk for me!

At the airport, there was some paparazzi waiting for them. I thought about how boring it must be for them to wait everyday in place, just to take a picture for a newspaper. But then, I noticed that there were 2 foreigners, speaking English and looking American. That island was very empty, so far, I had maybe seen only 3 or 4 foreigners, and all other tourists were Asians, so it was a bit odd. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it looked like as if they were complaining or organizing something. They were talking to a guy from the airport staff that looked important. They looked very serious and all stayed in the airport for a while. I noticed that they didn’t have any luggage or possessions, so they were probably not travelers. I started realizing that they might be Brad or Angelina’s assistants, so I stayed around to try to get some info. I knew that they would be leaving the island on the 16th as The Six Senses didn’t display vacancy until that day. Suddenly, a black 4 wheel parked in front of the airport. Brad Pitt came out of it alone and walked in front of me. The paparazzi were taking pictures, while I stood in shock. I had been trying to contact Angelina for months now, trying to get in touch with them on the island for 3 days, and now just randomly, I was in front of Brad Pitt. I wasn’t prepared. I saw him walking towards the metal detector. It took maybe 5 seconds from the car to there. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. Fortunately, nobody was trying to talk to him as all the journalists were Vietnamese, so while he was leaning on the metal detector, I just said “Brad!”. He heard me. He turned very slowly to me, in a charismatic way. I couldn’t see if he was looking at me or not because of his sunglasses, but I added “I have a letter for Angelina Jolie. It’s really important. It’s about some humanitarian work. Can I give it to you?”. He just answered “Sure”. That was the most intense approval of my life. The next one will probably be when my future wife say “Yes” at church. My heartbeat rose, adrenaline rushed. It took me 3 seconds to take the letter out of my backpack but it seemed like 5 minutes, and I handed it to his assistant. I left the airport happy, with a big smile on my face. My mission was complete.

Back to my hotel, I thought “well, I have no idea what he’s going to do with that letter”. He left with it on the plane, and I saw on the Internet that he left for South Korea to promote his new movie Money Ball. So he was not coming back to Con Dao. What a shame, Angelina would not see that letter soon. Maybe she will never see it. Maybe he will just throw the letter away or forget about it, thinking it’s another random fan’s mail. And I couldn’t miss my chance to meet Angelina while she was still on the island. Maybe if I could deliver the letter to her, she would watch the DVD, and give me 15 min of her time. So I called Mrs S., the CEO of Six Senses and told her I just saw Brad Pitt at the airport and asked him if I could deliver a letter to Angelina, and he said “yes”. Because nobody was supposed to know Brad Pitt was leaving the island that day, she knew I was not bluffing. So she said OK, told me to come over and deliver the letter at the reception.

I waited the next day, November 15th and had no answer from her. Each minute seemed like an hour. I was holding my phone, waiting for it to ring at any moment. Like when you are waiting for your new date to send you the 3 day-rule text message. Well actually, it was worse than that. So I called Mrs S., she said that she had given the letter to the relevant people, so probably Angelina’s assistant. I had no idea if she saw my letter, so I decided to try to meet her on the 16th at the airport, to hand the letter to her directly.

That’s what I did. I went to the airport in the early morning on the 16th. Once again, there was quite a few paparazzi. A few minutes later, a lot of staff from Six Senses arrived with tons of luggage. They checked them in one by one, I saw Mrs S., so I knew Angelina Jolie and her kids would be here very soon. I had my letter ready to hand to her. I would do the same thing that I did with Brad. When she arrived at the airport, I would just call her name and give her the letter. But it didn’t happen this way. Angelina arrived with her kids and bodyguards in a bus, and the bus went straight to the plane. It was funny to see all the paparazzi running after the bus, trying to take pictures. On my side, I just stayed in the airport, watching her from far away boarding her kids on the plane. But then, she took the time to come back with Pax, her Vietnamese adopted son, in the airport to talk to the press. She said a few ordinary things about her enjoyable stay on the island and that she loved the Vietnamese people. I could have talked to her at that time, but I thought it wasn’t a good moment. She was talking to the journalists and I didn’t feel like interrupting her. I felt a lot of respect for her, knowing all she does with the UNHCR. And she still took the time to come back and talk to the press, even if these same journalists made her stay on the island a nightmare, chasing her everywhere she went. I felt blessed to be able to see that woman. Not for all the movies she did, but for the hope and humanity that she shares with the world. I profoundly admire her.

I stayed in the airport for a few minutes after she left. I still couldn’t believe I eventually did manage to see her.

Part 5/5: You can decide the ending of this story

It’s been 2 months now since I gave Angelina Jolie the letter. She must have seen the painting we sent her. But we haven’t had any news yet. Because we can’t be waiting forever and I already did all I could, I have decided to release the video. The initial idea was to contact Angelina Jolie, so that she could help us make this video go viral on the web. But the ultimate goal was to give back to the kids from the Learning Foundation. I know that they have listed a few items that they need on their website. I also know that they just built a library and need some computers. I would love to help them finance all this.

But there’s another thing I noticed while I was over there. None of the kids wear glasses. I really doubt all of them have perfect vision. I would love to go back to Cambodia and buy a pair of glasses for everyone that is in need of vision correction. Living with less than $1 per day, glasses are a luxury kids can only dream of. I have no idea how hard it would be to organize this, whether I can find a good optician in Siem Reap, Cambodia or not. But I’ll give it a try. Life is beautiful and everybody deserves to see the magic of it. After all, they are the ones who opened my eyes. How symbolic would that be if I could give back to them?

If you’d like to help me achieve this goal, you can contribute by:

  1. making a donation by Paypal. 100% of your donation will go straight to them. I won’t take any cut on it, I will be completely transparent about all donations. Contribute as much as you can. Even 5 USD. If you can fund a whole pair of glasses (50 USD), I’ll make sure you receive a picture and a thank-you note from the kid you have enlighten the life. I will also make a video of the kids with their new glasses, giving you the satisfaction of helping. And each of you will have your name listed as a donor on this website. Better, we will make a giant billboard of all the donors picture and we will hang it at the Krasang Roleung Primary School. And you’ll see yourself there next time you visit Cambodia. How awesome would it be? I found that a pair of glasses for kids start at 39 EUR (around 50 USD). Considering there are maybe half of the kids on the 300 who will need glasses, our target goal is 6000 EUR (around 8000 USD). If there are less kids in need than expected or if we don’t complete our target goal, the available money will be used to buy classroom materials (computers, notebooks, pens…)
  2. if you can’t afford to make a donation, you can still spread awareness about that story and the lipdub. Share the story on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, by email. Show your friends the video. Be my Angelina Jolie and help me ensure the video goes viral

We all love stories with happy endings so I thank you in advance for anything that you do to contribute. I hope we will all be part of a moment of WOWness. My only wish now is to come back to Cambodia with a nice surprise for them. Until then, you take care and have fun!


Thanks to everybody who made this project possible and especially:
Winfield Glascock for co-directing the lipdub
Sambo, Sharky, Amum, On, Soksan for helping assist in the project and being so good friends
The 300 Cambodian kids for being such wonderful actors
Sophanit Prin and the other’s school principal for allowing the kids to participate to the project
Annie Wang from the Smile of Angkor show for offering the complimentary tickets
Stefan Mucchielli (his facebook fan page) for making the painting for Angelina Jolie
Frédérique Réal for reviewing this blog post
The Learning Foundation for offering a future to these kids
Flo Rida for making good music (song used “Club Can’t Handle Me Now”)

Project Glasses for Cambodian Kids

2520 EUR funded (42%) | 6000 EUR pledged | 74 donors
64 pairs of glasses on 150 funded so far !

Each donation counts ! Even the smallest !
If each viewer gave 3 USD, we would have reached our goal already !

They gave
Léopold Serdet 01.28.2012
David Tran 01.28.2012
Nils Arrigo 01.28.2012
Julien Long 01.28.2012
Camille Sécher 01.28.2012
Cyril Schwartz 01.29.2012
Laurent Nguyen 01.30.2012
Morgane Muriset 01.30.2012
Piotr Kroczak 01.30.2012
Yvan Lefranc-Morin 01.30.2012
Eric Dreano 01.30.2012
Brian Dewangga 01.30.2012
Jessica Wong 01.30.2012
Max Engel 01.30.2012
Pascal Benetruy 01.30.2012
Benoit Mathieu 01.30.2012
Julien Marcialis 01.30.2012
Ludovic Hubler 01.30.2012
Elias Ben Amar 01.30.2012
Lisa Letessier 01.31.2012
Thomas Lamey 02.01.2012
Corentin Kerisit 02.01.2012
Gaelle Lacour 02.01.2012
Maxime Contour 02.02.2012
Marie-France Rousseau 02.02.2012
William Gonne 02.02.2012
Romain Corraze 02.02.2012
Chamrong Chuun 02.03.2012
Coralie Fayolle 02.03.2012
Luc Mandret 02.03.2012
Romain Niolet 02.03.2012
Anonymous donor 02.03.2012
Marc Belmont 02.04.2012
Stephanie Galaitsis 02.04.2012
Diane Bergel 02.04.2012
Dara Pou 02.04.2012
Ardavan Dehghan 02.04.2012
Barbara Nguyen 02.04.2012
Van Lai Nguyen 02.04.2012
Gauthier Tang 02.05.2012
Julien Nguyen Duy 02.05.2012
Laure Pereira 02.05.2012
Pagnavuth Tan 02.06.2012
Simon Morel 02.06.2012
Louis Lam 02.07.2012
Ximizu Huynh 02.09.2012
Khou-Francois Renault 02.09.2012
Michael Tran 02.12.2012
Julien Barbier 02.13.2012
Vincent Lieffroy 02.13.2012
Caroline Rosin 02.13.2012
Elsa Barraut 02.13.2012
Frédérique Réal 02.13.2012
Marie Perrotin 02.13.2012
Julien Zaug 02.13.2012
Julie Guérout 02.13.2012
Julia Barrault 02.14.2012
Katherine Moore 02.19.2012
Dawn Imparato 02.19.2012
Guillaume Paties 02.23.2012
Jonathan Koet 02.24.2012
Jenny Diab 02.25.2012
Stéphanie Heav 02.26.2012
Stéphanie Da Forno Cavieres 03.05.2012
Nassim Ghandour 03.09.2012
Nathanaël Leprette 03.18.2012
Loubna Sahli 03.18.2012
Queenie Cao 03.18.2012
Mohamed Arafat Jaziri 03.19.2012
Mathieu Pinchon 03.21.2012
Eric Muselle 03.23.2012
Mélissa Giraco 04.11.2012
Jérémy Uzan 04.24.2012
Guanjie Zhao 05.03.2012


They talk about the project


The lipdub with the 300 Cambodian Kids from the Learning Foundation:

Why this lipdub? What happened after the shooting? How did the kids react when they saw it?

More behind the scenes

These kids are students from the Learning Foundation. What is the Learning Foundation?

One day at the Learning Foundation


See this post in / Voir cet article en: French

  • Aquarius

    If I may, I have a few questions:

    You are asking for donations to be made to your personal accounts. What guarantees can you offer that the money will go towards buying glasses ?

    You claim to be willing to do charity work. Why are you not founder, or member, of a nonprofit organization ? If you are, why not link to the donation pages of said nonprofit ?

    You have, by your own admittance, no clear plan regarding this glasses project. What makes you think that you are qualified or that your effort will be efficient and impactful ?

    You are quoting a price of 39 EUR per pair of glasses. Where does that figure come from ? Does it include consultation for the child ?
    Are you aware that other charity initiatives have quoted full-inclusive prices of 10 USD per glasses, compared to your 39 EUR ? (

    How do you plan to pay for your own expenses ? How exactly is the money that you receive going to be spent ?

    • Jean-Luc

      Aquarius, your questions are legitimate. As you mention it, there are no “legal “guarantees that the money will go towards buying glasses. I’m an individual who has been travelling around the world and happened to have done some volunteer work. I’m trying to help these kids, but the only guarantee you have is my word. I have published this video on my personal blog, with my name, my face, and more than 20 other videos that requires a lot of work. If I wanted to set up a scam, I guess I would be really bad at it, and there are probably easier and better ways to do it.
      I actually had a project in mind, about starting a non profit: that requires some web development, but have been putting that project on hold as I have other projects going on too. Starting a non profit requires full commitment, and I can’t made that step right now as I need to make a living first. Also, you might know that in France, the CEO of a non-profit can not have a salary and must be doing it on a total volunteer basis. You can still donate straight to that organization through their donation page But then I don’t know how much money I have been able to fund, and I’m not sure the money will be allocated to buying glasses to the kids. They can use it for whatever they need. Also my idea was to come back to Cambodia with a surprise.
      I believe I am qualified to find an optician and buy glasses. I have managed much more complex project in the past. We will find somebody in Siem Reap if possible, or fly an optician from France or Thailand if we need to. I believe we can probably find an optician who will even volunteer for that task.
      The price I quoted is the one I found on that website:
      I haven’t digged much honestly, but I’m sure we can find cheaper, and especially if we buy 150 of them. The idea was just to give a goal to achieve. If we get more money than accepted, then we can always use it for other purchase.
      I wasn’t aware of the 10 USD per glass, but thanks for the information.
      About my own expenses, I will take care of it by myself. As my blog readers know, I have started to travel around the world a year ago, and will still be for 2 or 3 years.
      Believe me, I have spent a lot of my own money on that project. I wouldn’t blacklist my name forever for a few thousand dollars. I’m just a guy who’s trying to do good.
      As I mentioned in my blog post, all the money that I received will be spent towards buying glasses for the kids if this is something they want to (maybe they don’t want to wear glasses). If they don’t, we can still buy the items they listed on their website (computers for the new library for example)

  • Aquarius

    Thank you for taking the time to reply. I should clarify that these inquiries were not meant as accusations, and I apologize for my perhaps blunt wording.

    My sole intention was to bring up to the attention of the reader (and potential donor) the obvious vagueness and *latent* shadiness surrounding your project, all good intentions aside. The main issue here being, as for so many charities, inefficiency.
    I’m glad that you have already considered carrying out your philanthropic effort through a legally recognized organization, this is definitely the way to go. In the meantime, I’m sure contributors will appreciate financial transparency.

    Regarding the glasses: I understand that you are in the early stage, but this is precisely my point: don’t you think kicking off the fundraising that early into a project is premature?
    Now, my apologies if I am overstepping here, but the way I see it you have two major assets: a rich blog, and a decent talent for film making. Why not work on your initial idea, blog about the progress, maybe make a short documentary? *Then*, only when you have something substantial, start a fund raising (have you thought about indiegogo?).

    Or not. In any case, best of luck to you.

  • Jean-luc NGUYEN

    Thanks for your contribution Aquarius, you definitely gave me some good insight.

    I thought about using some crowdfunding platform like kickstarter ( but as they don’t have a “charity” category and you need to be American to post your project on their platform, it was not possible in my case.

    Then I thought about using our French version of it, Ulule (, but when I saw the average cost of the projects funded, around 1000 EUR, 2000 EUR for the most, I was a bit disappointed. Also these platforms usually take a cut on the donations so I thought maybe I could try do to it on my own. In the end, using a platform like this or not, there’s no guarantee the money will be spent towards what is advertized as well. So I’d better fundraise myself. The main advantage of using these websites is the publicity that we would get, as they draw a lot of traffic. But Ulule seems a bit young and I’m not sure if that would be worth it.
    I didn’t know about indiegogo, I will definitely check it out. The problem I guess is they usually ask the fundraiser to fundraise for a registered charity, which I’m not.

    I’m very new to this world of fundraising, so I admit I might not be doing it the best way. Do you think you can develop a bit on the process I should follow? What do you mean by “work on the initial idea, blog about the progress, and make a short documentary”?

  • David

    I guess these were questions to be asked.

    But, for some point, do we really need to be qualified for making good ?
    I’m sure being in non-profit organization didn’t prevent having idea of making more by yourself.
    World would be better if more people carry out projects by their own as Jean-Luc does.

    So congrats Jean-Luc, I’m proud to help these kids and participate to your process development .

  • Lizzie H

    Jean-luc, Really touched with your story and experience in Cambodia. I believe that groups of individuals can really help and make a difference to communities in the world we live in. Volunteering is a wonderful experience and benefits both the volunteers as well as the people that we help; actually it’s the other way around – we volunteers get more out of this worthwhile experience than anyone else. We all need to have a little faith in others sometimes. Nay-Sayers and skeptics can speak for themselves’ if they have even remotely delved into the subject of non-profit they will realise how time consuming and ‘shady’ a lot of ‘registered’ non profits can be. So you know who you are and what you are trying to achieve; keep doing it and what a wonderful thing it is.

    All the very best. May you find the time to enjoy the work that you do and lots of progress to you my friend.

    PS: We are just beginning to work with a few non-profits in the beautiful Himalayas so nice to hear stories like this. Bonne chance!

  • Katherine

    Excellent work Jean-luc! I am very proud of the production you have created as well as the work you have taken part in. Please keep up the good work as it will provide inspiration for all who come in contact with it.

    I am a very proud supporter of what you are doing and hope that you contact me at any time when you think my skills would be an asset to you.

    Good Luck!

  • Khmerization

    I’m touched by your works and commitments to help these kids. You are an inspiration and please don’t be deterred by negative comments. No one is perfect and not everyone can do what you have done, so please remember in mind that with one negative comment there might be thousands of positive comments about your works. Wish you success in all your projects.
    For your info, I have posted your videos here Ki-Media: and at Khmerization at:
    Ki-Media has about 4000-10,000 visitors a day and Khmerization has about 1000-2000 visitors day.

  • jeanlucnguyen

    Message de test