Do you take this helping hand?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 June, 2011, 12:00am

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Faith, hope and charity all played a part in bringing together Nathan Chan, 35, a Montreal-born former Silicon Valley software consultant, and Priscilla Wong, 30, a Sydneysider who worked as a banking and finance lawyer in Hong Kong.

The couple tied the knot on Sokha Beach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, in front of 100 guests on February 25.

Priscilla met Nathan in December 2009 when she was on a trip to Cambodia with her church, visiting organisations that work to combat human trafficking.

Nathan, who had been laid off when the dotcom bubble burst, had gone on a volunteer trip to Cambodia in 2007. He moved there in April 2009 to become general manager of a social enterprise in Phnom Penh that helps victims of sexual abuse. Priscilla was invited to a lunch at the centre.

'I was really attracted to his dedication to the women who'd been sexually exploited,' Priscilla says. 'I'd never met anyone who had exactly the same thoughts and passion as I have.'

Nathan was equally drawn to Priscilla. 'When you are single and in a developing country, it's not really attractive to a girl,' Nathan says.

'Priscilla started asking questions about my personal journey. She said she felt for Cambodia and wanted to be here.

'Nobody comes to Cambodia to make it big, but then this girl, who's really hot and performs really well in her area, was willing to sacrifice and give up everything to come to a country that has nothing. Seriously, that makes her even hotter.'

They exchanged e-mail and Facebook contacts before Priscilla left for Angkor that afternoon, but neither expected to see each other again. The next morning, however, before Priscilla flew back to Hong Kong, she ran into Nathan at a church service. 'I was completely shocked. There were like a thousand people there,' Priscilla recalls.

When Priscilla returned to Hong Kong, the two kept in touch through Google chat and e-mail.

Last May, Priscilla quit her job and travelled to Phnom Penh again to undertake leadership training for churches in Cambodian villages. During her three-week stay, Priscilla spent more time with Nathan and by the time she left for another volunteer trip to Africa, they had fallen for each other.

'Spending time with him, serving together in the slums and washing children together, I really got to see his heart. It again confirmed that we were connected to each other,' Priscilla says.

Despite having spent such a short time together, Nathan already had no doubt that Priscilla was the one.

Last September, only days after Priscilla came back from Africa, Nathan took her out on a date that had been months in the planning.

'He had kept telling me the story of Sambo. It's the only elephant in Phnom Penh, and because of this its owner could afford to send all his kids to school,' Priscilla says.

'It was a beautiful story, but I didn't think about it much until he took me to the park where Sambo is taken. I was like, we are not going to ride Sambo, are we?'

And that's what they did. Sambo took the couple to the river nearby, where a boat was waiting. After a four-course candlelit dinner, Nathan got down on one knee, and she said yes.

For their wedding, the couple arranged volunteer opportunities for their friends and family.

'We went to the slums, cooked meals for the children, tended their wounds and washed their hair.

'We wanted to show our friends and family why we were here, what the needs are and that they could also be a part of it,' Priscilla says.

The couple are still living in Cambodia. Nathan has moved on to a job helping slum-dwellers in Phnom Penh, and Priscilla is working as a human rights lawyer.