Saturday, March 24, 2012

Michelle Chia: Woman on a mission

SINGAPORE: As an actress, Michelle Chia has appeared on countless charity shows, and programs like "Stars for a Cause" to help the less fortunate.

Away from the cameras and off the stage, Chia's strong desire to help people had recently turned her into a woman on a mission.

Lately, she has been quietly attempting to raise S$50,000 for Cambodian IT Trainer Bou Leng, the victim of a vicious acid attack.



Bou Leng, who was working with a non-governmental organisation in Cambodia at the time, suffered chemical burns and injuries to his eyes when his assailant splashed acid right onto his face.

Chia met Bou Leng by chance while shooting "Stars for a Cause" and working with acid attack survivors in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in May last year.

She left an impression on Bou Leng, and he later contacted her for help, when he found out that doctors in Singapore could perform a procedure to repair the damage done to one of his eyes by the acid.

She then took it upon herself to arrange for Bou Leng's treatment here, accompanied Bou Leng to the hospital for medical examinations, and began to raise funds to pay for his medical costs as well as follow-up treatments.

"It has been an amazing journey," said Chia, who had spent nine hours per day for four days this week, accompanying Bou Leng as he underwent pre-operation medical tests at a hospital in Singapore.

"I have done voluntary work before but this is the first time I am doing something of this scale. He is so young, he is only 25. He has got a long, long time ahead of him.

"I have to help him. Otherwise his future will look so dim and cause him to lose hope," said Chia in a phone interview on Thursday.

Philanthropy not publicity

Chia went on to reveal that she had been keeping the whole matter under wraps, until someone at the hospital she was visiting with Bou Leng, tipped off the media and attracted media attention to her project.

Even then, she was reluctant to speak about the matter.

"This is something that I took up personally and I did not want any publicity," explained Chia.

"I was actually struggling a little over whether I wanted to do any interviews."

Chia expressed that she was very worried people would misinterpret her actions as an attempt to garner publicity for herself, as all being just an act.

However, she decided to put aside her concerns about how she would look in the eyes of the public and engage the media, so more people would know about Bou Leng's situation and possibly offer to help him.

"I don't want something that is borne of goodness, to turn out looking negative. I didn't want that," said Chia.

"But after discussing with the doctors, knowing what is going on ? what we had to do in the future, I thought maybe it will be good for him (Bou Leng).

"If we can raise funds, I can be more certain that he will get help in the future," said Chia, pointing out that it would pave the way for her to continue raising funds, in order to help more acid attack survivors.

Transparent dealings

So far, Chia has managed to make some progress towards her S$50,000 goal.

The owner of a well-known Bak Kut Teh stall had made a S$10,000 donation, and another man had stepped forward to sponsor Bou Leng's lodging in Singapore.

A number of people have since approached her as well, and have expressed interest in donating money to help Bou Leng, though she had not yet accepted funds from them.

"I will have to speak to them again because I thought it is better to show them the invoice [for Bou Leng's medical treatments] before I start accepting money," said Chia, adding that she wanted things to be as transparent as possible.

Chia indicated that Bou Leng is the first person she had worked so hard to help, but said he would not be the last.

"That trip to Cambodia really touched my heart in some special way," said Chia, who also has plans to help a young Cambodian girl that got injured when someone carried out an acid attack on her mother.

"I feel a lot for them (Cambodian acid attack survivors) so I am trying to help them bit by bit."

-CNA/ha

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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