THE tragic death of her cousin Tarsha nearly five years ago was the catalyst that forged a new path for Kim Ellings - a path which has led her to being nominated for this year's Rotary NSW Inspirational Woman of the Year Award.
Ms Ellings, who has lived in Wagga for the past 13 years, knew she wanted to honour her cousin's memory, but she wasn't sure how she would go about it.
It wasn't until a trip to Cambodia with her family that she got the idea to build a school and, after much fund-raising, Tarsha's Legacy Centre was opened a year later, offering an education to children born into slums.
"I knew I couldn't let anyone forget her name," Ms Ellings said.
"And I wanted to create something with integrity; a school that would offer an education to children who would otherwise go without one."
The experience made her acutely aware of the poverty endured by millions of Cambodians, prompting her to found charity Creating Hope in Cambodia.
The relief organisation aims to provide shelter, education, access to safe drinking water and sanitation services to slum dwellers.
Ms Ellings said while she was humbled by the nomination, she believed it was shared by the community and the charity's 10 committee members.
"It's great to be recognised, but I share this with everyone who has donated to us and the committee members who work tirelessly for the charity," Ms Ellings said.
Through fund-raising efforts, the charity has recently built 24 homes for families who were living in a slum under an abattoir.
Its latest project is building two medical centres, which will offer Cambodians free healthcare services.
As part of her work, Ms Ellings doesn't draw an income from the charity, saying she believed it would compromise its values, preferring to ensure donors know their money is going directly to the people of Cambodia.
Ms Ellings was nominated by the Sunrise Rotary Club of Wagga and will make her way to Sydney for the awards dinner on March 8.
Ms Ellings said it was a quote she found in Tarsha's bible that motivated her through any challenges she's faced.
"The quote said 'life's too short not to live for something bigger'," Ms Ellings said.