So­cial Jus­tice

Crush­ing poverty and hu­man traf­fick­ing are ev­ery­day re­al­i­ties for vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in de­vel­op­ing na­tions. Meet the New Zealand lawyer help­ing to change the course of thou­sands of lives in Cam­bo­dia for the bet­ter.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Natalie Cyra. Pho­tog­ra­phy Stacey Simp­kin

Help­ing school chil­dren in Cam­bo­dia

A suc­cess­ful lawyer set­tled in New Zealand, you wouldn’t blame Denise Arnold for feel­ing con­tent with her cir­cum­stances. But af­ter the birth of her daugh­ters, her sen­si­tiv­ity to the plight of more vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren be­gan to grow.

“Some chil­dren whose fam­i­lies are very poor are vul­ner­a­ble to tra ick­ing or even just be­ing used as labour units,” she says.


Arnold be­gan vol­un­teer­ing for an or­gan­i­sa­tion that worked to pre­vent the tra ick­ing and pornog­ra­phy of chil­dren, as well as child pros­ti­tu­tion. It was there that one par­tic­u­lar case shook her to her core.

“I heard there was a man go­ing over to an Asian coun­try, prob­a­bly with the pur­pose of hav­ing sex with chil­dren. I had [enough] to iden­tify him, track him and fol­low him. When I re­ported him, I was told it was ‘too hard’ to get in­volved,” says Arnold. “I had a bit of a per­sonal cri­sis over it. What was the point of me spend­ing all of these years writ­ing poli­cies and re­view­ing laws if we couldn’t nail him?” At the same time, Arnold’s el­dest daugh­ter, then in in­ter­me­di­ate school, came skip­ping home ex­cited about the o er of a school trip to Asia.

This sent Arnold into a state of panic. “I be­came over­whelmed with the thought of what the world was like for some kids. In the end, I agreed that she could go – but it was when she came home that I felt like I was called out a bit. My daugh­ter came home. But these other kids didn’t. I thought, I’m part of the prob­lem if I’m not fix­ing this. I re­ally wanted to be part of the so­lu­tion.”

In 2006, Arnold be­gan re­search­ing all things Cam­bo­dia, and vis­ited the coun­try to see it first­hand the fol­low­ing year.

Ed­u­ca­tion is key

Re­turn­ing to New Zealand, Arnold re­alised she could help by sup­port­ing ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems. “Ed­u­ca­tion in­ter­rupts in­jus­tice,” she says. ”It pro­tects chil­dren and sets them up for a bright fu­ture.”

She launched the Cam­bo­dia Char­i­ta­ble Trust (CCT) within two schools, to help with all as­pects of ed­u­ca­tion, from teacher train­ing to build­ing toi­let blocks – cru­cial to pre­vent­ing girls from stop­ping school as they start pu­berty. Spe­cific needs such as bi­cy­cles and uni­forms are catered for, and CCT also helps with the whole en­vi­ron­ment, mak­ing sure the schools have drink­ing wa­ter and ed­u­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als.

CCT now sup­ports 12 pri­mary and four sec­ondary schools with more than 4700 chil­dren, and two teacher train­ing col­leges with 400 trainee teach­ers.

Change through ac­tion

Arnold says CCT has given her back her san­ity. “I’m driven by the need to act and to see re­sults from my ac­tions. This gives me strength, I feel as though I’m do­ing some­thing mean­ing­ful,” she says.

“I re­alised I don’t have to solve it all, you just have to do your thing. It’s so easy for us to cop out with, ‘it’s too hard, too big, too far away’ – it’s not at all.”

“I’m driven by the need to act and to see re­sults from my ac­tions.”

Grow­ing young minds The Cam­bo­dia Char­i­ta­ble Trust em­pha­sises the im­por­tance of qual­ity teach­ing. Both cur­rent and trainee teach­ers come to­gether for a monthly work­shop to im­prove their ed­u­ca­tion. For more on the Cam­bo­dia Char­i­ta­ble Trust and the full im­age gallery head to­cial-jus­tice

Help­ing hands Hav­ing started in two schools, the Cam­bo­dia Char­i­ta­ble Trust sup­ports nu­mer­ous com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes, and spon­sors 331 chil­dren.

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