Look up 'fame' in a dictionary, and you will often find amid the lofty notions of 'celebrity' and 'reputation', a quote from poet John Milton: 'The field where thou art famed To have wrought such wonders.'
The 17th-century English bard's musings apply neatly to Anne Rosenberg. The 31-year-old Frenchwoman is no budding starlet: she is humble, shy and prefers anonymity (the thought of having her picture in the newspaper made her tremble with fear). However, in the muddy fields and impoverished streets of Cambodia she is working wonders. Despite her demanding job in Hong Kong's financial sector, by night she is changing the lives of orphaned children in Phnom Penh and Pailin. How? By throwing parties in Hong Kong clubs.
Born in the picturesque volcanic mountains of France's Auvergne region (as seen plastered on Volvic water bottles), Rosenberg moved to Paris at the age of 17 to study at the distinguished university, Sciences Po. After graduation she moved into jobs in finance, but spent her spare time driving around Paris with a truck full of food.
'I helped with [French comedian Coluche's charity] Camions Du Coeur. We would go with a truck, put a table in the street and give food to homeless people,' she says excitedly. 'Since I was very young I have always wanted to do things like this. I think it's because my family travelled a lot when I was a child, it opens your mind.'
When she was posted to Hong Kong two years ago as the finance and administration director for Hermes (Greater China), she was inspired by the entrepreneurial energy of the city. It dawned on her that this was a place where young people could achieve anything, especially for charity.
'It was strange how the connection with Cambodia began,' she remembers. 'I had been thinking of helping with charities in China when one night I had a call from a friend in Hong Kong who said: 'I'm going to Cambodia for the weekend, do you want to come?' It was too last-minute so I said no. That evening, I saw another friend and she had just come back from a trip there. She told me that Cambodia is much worse than China, especially with its orphans.'
That week, the coincidences continued. Through another acquaintance she heard about the French charity for orphans, the Association De Parrainage d'Enfants Au Cambodge. Convinced that fate was handing her a mission, she booked a holiday and flew to the country. There she met the director of the charity and was shown around the large, stilted wooden homes where the lives of countless children have been transformed.
'In Phnom Penh you see kids living in terrible places. They are forced to sell old scraps in the streets and there is the problem of Aids with the rising levels of prostitution,' she says.
Shocked and alarmed, she boarded her return flight with a plan to raise some hasty funds.
Within just seven days, Rosenberg had organised a party. On September 22, 2001, 500 people dressed in ethnic costumes paraded to the former Hollywood Road club, Bl.ush. Amazingly, one night's worth of drinking raised $120,000 - enough to build six houses in Pailin in northern Cambodia and in the shantytown in Samaki in Phnom Penh, creating homes for 50 children.
'It just shows that anyone can do it,' says Rosenberg. 'It's very surprising. When you really believe in something and are motivated, things will just start to happen all around you.'
After meeting the children whose homes have risen from the hangovers of Hong Kong party-goers, Rosenberg returns with a second fund-raising bash tonight. The theme is 'When James Bond Meets Austin Powers', and the party takes place at Club Ing. Apart from an entertaining evening of costumes and frivolity to the sounds of two French DJs, there will be a photography exhibition of the work being carried out in Cambodia, and also the chance for people to sign up as 'godparents' of Cambodian orphans (by paying $160 a month to fund a child's life).
Tickets are $250 in advance or $320 on the door which includes four free drinks and a chance to win Hermes prizes, a night for themselves and 25 friends at a Meli-Melo Art Jam and two return air tickets to Paris. Advance tickets are available from Meli-Melo Living Arts Cafe, 123 Wellington Street, Central, or e-mail email@example.com.
When James Bond Meets Austin Powers. Tonight, 9.30pm till late. Club Ing, 4/F Convention Plaza, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai. Inquiries: 9125 0320