Weekend Sun   

Learning changes lives

Denise Arnold discusses her education strategy with local education providers in a Cambodian village.

Tauranga lawyer and philanthropist, Denise Arnold, has been named a finalist in this year’s Women of Influence Awards.

Denise was named as one of seven finalists in the ‘global’ category of the annual awards for her work to set up the Cambodia Charitable Trust. The organisation seeks to put an end to poverty, child trafficking and slavery in Cambodia.

“I’m delighted to be a finalist; hundreds of hours have been poured into the Trust by myself and our amazing volunteers, so it’s a wonderful recognition for us all,” she says.

CCT was established 12 years ago after an article struck Denise so deeply it changed her life forever.

“The article – about the horrific level of poverty, child sex trafficking and slavery in Cambodia – spurred a year of research into ways I could help, resulting in the establishment of CCT,” she says.

“Since then we’ve seen some extraordinary results, with more than 40 girls who would previously have dropped out of primary school going to university, thousands of children attending school regularly and a significant improvement in the quality of teaching and teacher training.”

Denise believes the best and most effective way to put an end to poverty, child trafficking and slavery in Cambodia is to re-establish quality, accessible education for children (especially young girls) in Cambodia.

Punching well above its weight in terms of size and impact, CCT is considered the ‘go-to’ NGO for education initiatives by Cambodian officials. CCT works closely with the Ministry of Education and the Secretary of State in Cambodia to implement change across multiple tiers of the education system.

The impact of COVID-19 has made it a challenging year for the charity, with Denise and her team having to adapt quickly to the needs on the ground, which has meant ensuring the families supported by CCT (and others) have had enough rice to eat.

Denise has also supported the Ministry of Education in Cambodia to implement a digital literacy strategy in response to COVID-19, to allow students in Cambodia to learn remotely. Denise was an integral part of the development of the strategy, providing New Zealand’s experiences of learning during lockdown.

The Women of Influence 2020 winners will be announced at the Awards Dinner at the Aotea Centre in Auckland on November 17.

For more information about the awards, visit: www.womenofinfluence.co.nz

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