There are several things that Lars Larsen is passionate about: family, doing business in an ethical and sustainable way, and giving back.
These meld well together in supporting Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) over the last seven years on a personal and professional basis.
His family business, Larsen Jewellery, donates 10% of all profits to charity annually, and CCF is one of four causes chosen as beneficiaries. “We believe in creating a brighter future, for both human beings and for the environment,” is how the Larsen company puts it on its website.
They also donate an item of jewellery to be raffled off at CCF’s annual fundraising Gala in Australia. This year was a beautiful diamond necklace for the inaugural CCF Melbourne Gala on 20 October, specially designed for CCF.
On top of this, Lars and his wife, Susie, sponsor a CCF child, Nisa, giving her the opportunity of an education and a better life.
“We feel very connected to CCF. Right from the go, we thought it was such a wonderful charity and wanted to get involved,” says Lars.
We feel very connected to CCF
Lars, originally from Denmark, first heard about CCF after watching an ABC Australian Story documentary featuring the story of Scott Neeson, the founder of CCF, and his transition from Hollywood to the Steung Meanchey landfill, which was first screened in 2012.
As a former investment banker, Lars was struck by one man’s decision to give up a successful career and move to one of the most deprived parts of Cambodia and start a charity.
“I was really inspired by Scott’s story, his personal journey, just how he changed his life,” he says.
Lars had given up his own career to start the jewellery business in Sydney with his wife in 2006. Their business ethos perfectly aligns with CCF’s philosophy of sustainability and strong ethics, being socially and environmentally responsible.
“It’s something that comes from Susie and me, we want the business to reflect our values. We are still a small business, a family business, and this is really an extension of us in a way. I always wanted to use the business in a way I would be proud of,” says Lars.
Giving to charitable causes is the heart of the business, in the brand DNA.
Their decision on which charities to support was influenced, Lars explains, by a book in which the core tenet was to “support causes where your money can really make a more meaningful impact.”
Lars has seen firsthand how their support can make an immediate difference on the ground to the children and families living in some of the most impoverished parts of Cambodia after visiting CCF in 2017.
Keen to be hands-on, Lars helped build new World Housing homes in CCF communities, painted, and made classroom visits.
“It was less confronting than I almost expected, especially when you’ve seen the Australian Story; it was no longer kids running around on the rubbish tip. CCF had already made such progress that it was so much better. While there is still a lot of work to be done, I thought it was encouraging to see how well-run it was,” he says.
The next trip will be a family visit with Lars, Susie, and their two children, aged 15 and 17.
It will be an opportunity for his own children to meet Nisa, the CCF girl they have been sponsoring since March 2016. Nisa is now 16.
“I met Nisa when I went to Cambodia, and we spent some time together,” says Lars. “We enjoy being part of her life, knowing what her progress is, supporting and encouraging her. It’s a lovely way of connecting to what CCF is all about.”
We’re very happy to be part of, and supportive of, CFF and hope that continues for many years to come
Lars says his staff feel connected to CCF and the other causes they support through their charity work.
“It’s something that we care deeply about, and also it’s something that our staff like and feel involved in, partly by making jewellery for the charities but also sometimes participating in the events,” says Lars.
This year’s donated piece of jewellery for the CCF Gala was a stunning aquamarine and diamond pendant inspired by the principles of the Cambodian Children's Fund, which nurtures each individual child and allows them to grow and transform into the leaders of tomorrow. The centre aquamarine represented a child, who is cradled in the curve of the diamonds. The diamond line is inspired by a child's unique journey through life, and the graduating diamonds represent all the different lessons learned and experiences gained.
It was created by one of the experts at Larsen Jewellery, which has studios in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, working with clients from all over Australia.
Lars and his wife are back office, running the business behind the scenes, handling everything from accounting to marketing.
It’s their passion - along with giving back through charitable organizations like CCF, helping transform lives and make the world a better place.
“We’re very happy to be part of, supportive of, CFF and hope that continues for many years to come,” says Lars.