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~ Denise Arnold
CCT Founder & Director

“It is a real pleasure and an honour to have Nadia Lim as our CCT Ambassador. Her warm smile, culinary talent, and commitment to wellness are well known to Kiwis. What is less well known is the personal connection she has with Cambodia. Her Malaysian father, Ken, had a real heart for Cambodia and planned to do some volunteering there when he retired. Tragically, he passed away before that could happen. Nadia and her mother, Julie, connected with CCT as a way of living out Ken’s vision. My team and I are so grateful for their compassion, support and involvement. Nadia is a wonderful ambassador and is always willing to help. Julie is now a key part of our CCT team and works hard alongside us on the ground in Cambodia.”

– Denise Arnold | CCT Founder and Director

Nadia, where did your Dad’s interest in Cambodia come from?

Growing up poor in Malaysia, my Dad really believed in the power of education – it’s how he got out of poverty and managed to be given the opportunity to study engineering at university in New Zealand. A lot of his peers and siblings weren’t so lucky.

He had visited Cambodia several times and learnt about the devastating effect the Pol Pot regime had on their education system. He thought, if he could help some of the kids there get a good education, that would give them opportunities and maybe open the door to a life like he had enjoyed. Dad wanted to do some charitable work in Cambodia when he retired, but he passed away before just before his retirement.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and I guess one of the positives that came out of his passing was our connection with the Cambodia Charitable Trust. Theresa Gattung asked me if I wanted to be involved and it sounded like something Dad would have wanted to support, hence my mum and I became involved. Mum travels there a couple of times a year now and is really involved with the CCT team.

What are some of your lasting impressions from your trip to Cambodia with CCT?

I found everyone incredibly friendly and positive, however I could sense that there is  a deep sadness behind some of the locals’ smiles. I don’t think any of us will ever be able to imagine how devastating the Pol Pot regime was for anyone who lived through it. The effects still run deep and wide. It baffled me how people who have been through so much devastation could still be so open, warm and inviting, and that was truly moving and inspirational. The children in the schools we visited are incredibly bright and so eager to learn – they loved going to school!

On our trip, I met one of the girls we sponsor and her family. They don’t have a house, just a wooden/bamboo slat with a makeshift roof that they all sleep under. When we arrived to meet her, her mum had just bought a bag of crickets for the family to eat from the markets. You don’t need many ’things’ to be happy, however you do need the basics – food, water, clothes, access to basic medical care, sanitation – all the stuff we take for granted.

Giving them access to the basics of life doesn’t cost us much at all but it makes all the difference for them.

How would you describe the impact that CCT is having in Cambodia?

It has literally, single handedly, changed the lives of thousands of children. Many would be on the streets begging, in brothels, or in very low paid, low-skilled jobs right now if it weren’t for CCT. But instead, they’re in school with other kids their age, eagerly learning and expanding their minds and hopefully starting on a path to making a positive difference in their country themselves. It’s creating a ripple effect.


How has becoming a mother influenced the way you think about supporting children living in poverty?

It makes me realise even more how lucky Bodhi is to be born in New Zealand. It makes me so sad thinking that other innocent, loving, precious children don’t have the same opportunities and support that he will have growing up. It’s a bit heart breaking because every child deserves the chance to learn and grow.

What do you respect about Denise Arnold and the work that she does?

Denise Arnold is one of those people that I can put my hand on my heart and say that she was born into this World to help the people of Cambodia. She saw a problem and took the bull by the horns and has put her life into this. Her ‘job’ is not pretty at the best of times and I have huge admiration and respect for her courage, stamina and determination to make a real difference. I also respect and love the way she doesn’t impose her ideals on the locals, but rather helps them to help themselves and find solutions to better their community.


All of our volunteers donate their own travel and accommodation costs when working in Cambodia or in New Zealand and donate their time and expertise. Neither Denise Arnold, nor any of the Trustees or volunteers draw a salary from CCT or take money from the charity for their expenses. They all believe passionately in what CCT is doing.

Where CCT does have administration costs, these are covered by donations, by the volunteers or by Lyon O’Neale Arnold, lawyers in Tauranga, of which CCT founder Denise Arnold is a Director. What costs CCT cannot avoid (bank fees and Xero costs) are covered by specific donations by individuals.

Every dollar donated goes to a specified purpose if the donor has one or the projects in Cambodia where it is carefully spent to get the maximum impact. Where possible supplies are purchased in Cambodia to support the local economy and to make our New Zealand dollars go further.