Celebrity News

Doing it for dad: Nadia Lim’s heartfelt mission

Inspired by her late father, the chef turns to charity.
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When the Weekly calls to chat to celebrity chef Nadia Lim, she’s a little preoccupied.

Who could blame her – after all, she is juggling a heck of a lot these days, from the launch of lifestyle magazine Nadia, the incredibly successful home delivery food service My Food Bag, various ambassadorships and charity endeavours, and of course, being mum to her seven-month-old son, Bodhi.

“Sorry, I’m just finishing my breakfast,” she says through a mouthful of scrambled eggs, basil, beetroot and spinach. “

I’m not too tired at the moment, actually, but last night Bodhi woke up twice, so today I’m a little jaded!”

While it’s true her schedule has never been busier, family is still at the heart everything the healthy eating advocate and new magazine editor does. When her beloved father Ken passed away two years ago, Nadia’s entire world was rocked.

One of the saddest parts about losing her dad was that she knew he hadn’t managed to fulfil one of his life’s greatest wishes. So, she’s doing it for him.

“He always wanted to do some charitable work in Cambodia,” she explains.

“He wasn’t Cambodian, he grew up in Malaysia, but he was really poor when he was growing up. He got out of poverty through a good education, and he was incredibly lucky to have done that. Some of his other siblings were only eight when they had to leave school.”

When Ken and Nadia’s mum Julie visited Cambodia, they saw just how bad the situation was for the children of the war-torn country, and resolved to do something about it.

“The kids were in dire straits,” Nadia (30) explains. “Because of [dictator] Pol Pot, there was no school system. He hated education and didn’t want Cambodians educated – he wanted them to be peasants. He killed teachers and burnt down schools. There’s a whole generation of Cambodians who have never been to school.”

Knowing first-hand the power of education, Ken, a civil engineer, thought he could help build schools in Cambodia but passed away before he got the chance.

Seeing the students so excited to learn made Nadia feel grateful that her bub Bodhi will get a good education.

Now, his daughter is doing her bit to help the young women of the south-east Asian nation, through a new campaign with the Cambodian Charitable Trust, for which she’s an ambassador.

Days for Girls is an initiative to provide young ladies with 100 per cent reusable menstrual shields and liners. While it’s not immediately obvious how feminine hygiene products help education, Nadia says the problem – and solution – is heartbreakingly simple.

“The families are poor, they have to get their food and shelter before they do anything else,” she says.

“They have to use whatever they have – newspaper or rags – and what ends up happening is they have to stay at home. A young woman could miss more than 200 days of school, so it’s very significant, and it’s a bit of a taboo topic anyway.”

The former MasterChef winner is an ambassador of the Cambodian Charitable Trust. She’s pictured with her business partner and patron of the trust, Theresa Gattung.

Nadia is quick to point out that she’s not actually sewing any of the kits – that, she laughs, would be no good for anyone.

“I can’t sew to save myself… I’m terrible, I’d sew my finger. In fact, I tried to use a sewing machine once, and I did!”

But thanks to her media presence, Nadia is happy to use her profile to raise awareness for the cause, and last year, before she had Bodhi, travelled to Cambodia with her mum to see the impact the charity’s endeavours were having.

“It was incredible,” she says. “We just saw all of these kids having the most amazing time at school. They’re so happy and keen to be there, it’s actually the highlight of their day. School is like Christmas for them, and it really does make you see what we take for granted, and make you go, ‘Wow… how lucky am I to be born in New Zealand?’ and how thankful I am Bodhi will get free, good education.”

Raising her wee son, however, is Nadia’s first priority, so any return visits to Cambodia are a year or two away.

Though he’s only seven months old, Nadia’s happy to report her boy is already a massive foodie – even skipping the purée stage, going straight from milk to solids. He’s even developing a palate!

“He’s absolutely obsessed!” she exclaims. “It’s ridiculous, I was so surprised – I didn’t realise babies that young could be obsessed with food. He loves steak and goes crazy for venison. He’d eat avocado every day if he could and he loves cauliflower, broccoli and salmon.

“The only thing he’s spat out is asparagus, go figure!”

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