We always seem to be beginning our yearly reflection with a ‘Wow what a year it has been’ … and again 2017 was no different. Our lives just seem to be getting busier and busier, with so many wonderful achievements, exciting changes and just the fun of day to day life.
2017 saw more of our ‘big kids’ move to the big smoke of Phnom Penh to continue on with their tertiary education… we now have seven of them living down there in their own ‘Gecko’ apartment. Having them move away meant some readjusting in our kinship care models as they were all responsible for their younger siblings. We have had Aunties move in, mothers becoming more responsible and understanding the pressure that they have been putting on their own children to look after each other and study at the same time, and adult geckos with no ‘blood’ siblings becoming guardians with permission from extended family.
One thing we can always say about Gecko is that it is NOISY! Well not so much anymore… Over 30 of our primary school students are now in full time schooling, with our extra Gecko classes in the afternoon no longer required. Walking around Gecko Central after 1.30pm is still a big change that we are getting used to… it is sooooo quiet.
We had our first big floods since 2011… roads were knee deep, Gecko was full of cement bags full of sand for stepping stones, housing was sandbagged and our farms were ruined… but like any challenge at Gecko … ‘the bigger the problem the bigger the gift’ and we have come up with better farming techniques.
Our projects and social enterprises are charging ahead and they are keeping us on our toes. A new shop, more dental appointments for NGOs, stunning banners printed, all male female hygiene workshops and beautiful, yummy fresh veggies keeping us healthy and full.
There have been many proud and happy tears shed in the last year and we hope you too will feel proud after reading this 2017 Annual Report.
12 years ago, when we came up with the tag line, ‘where kids can be kids and dreams can come true’ not even we imagined how real that would end up being.
As you can see, 2017 was a particularly inspiring year, with so much to be grateful for. It is with pleasure and heartfelt pride that we present this Annual Report to you highlighting some of our most special moments, major achievements and milestones as well as our financial reports.
There is no better way to wrap up a sensational year of exciting achievements than by sharing this wonderful video of the Geckos’ progress with you. What started as a Year 12 school project for Tania’s young cousin, turned into an informative and much needed update on Green Gecko’s milestones and achievements during these past nine years. We asked the kids what was important to them and what they wanted to share with our Gecko Extended Family… you, our supporters. Working together on their scripts and ideas, they have definitely impressed us with their all-kid production.
We hope you recognise some familiar faces and enjoy seeing how far they have come.
Since the making of this video many of the dreams that they spoke about are already becoming a reality:
SOTTOUM was accepted to study Law at the Royal University of Law and Economics
KIM SUAN graduated TOP in her school for Grade 12 AND won a scholarship for Community Development at The Royal University of Phnom Penh
BORAM received his Degree in Business Administration and is now living his dream of giving back to his Gecko family, holding the position of Operations Manager at the NGO he grew up in.
SOKUN was not only accepted into Dentistry, she was awarded a 7 Year Medical Scholarship for her integrity, character and community focus!
SREY NEANG was awarded "Outstanding Student of the Year" for Social Work!
The Green Gecko Project is an umbrella organisation that provides long-term health, education and training initiatives for 100+ children and their 32 families, and the broader community. Moving with the times and meeting needs as they arise has always been one of Gecko’s greatest attributes.
When most people think of Gecko, they’re thinking of ‘Gecko Central’… the hub of the Green Gecko Project and the place where we spend the most hours and have the most activity. Fundamentally, it is a fun and loving extracurricular school for children and young adults with a strong focus on compassion, humanities and family. It is also a place that provides security, education, love and opportunities for them through their formative years and into their adult lives. They receive a range of activities including Living Values, Me and My Planet, Bokator (traditional Khmer martial art), Computer, English and
Library, Traditional Music, Art and Dance, and Khmer Literacy and Media, as well as care and support, and a sense of belonging, empowering them to achieve their full potential.
Inside our centre we work on the traditional Khmer kinship care model where older adult siblings look after their younger siblings; they are divided into smaller groups of 10-11 and operate as a small family within one big one. They eat together, do chores together, help each other get ready for school, love and support each other. They have a very strong family-like connection and absolutely consider themselves siblings.
You only need to look at our Facebook page to see the great milestones and achievements these children/young adults are making on a weekly basis; they are not merely surviving, they are absolutely thriving. Often they are acknowledged for their compassion, confidence, strong sense of self-esteem and individualism. Simply put, our model – for these kids - is working.
The Ripple Effect begins
From begging on the streets more than 12 years ago, Srey Neang has been accepted into the highly competitive and only Social Work course in Cambodia:: more
The 3 Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
It is not just the 3 Rs of Writing, Reading and Arithmetic at Gecko… we all know that looking after the environment is more than just important… it is essential! :: more
Highlight of the WIS school year - SCHOOL FAIR DAY
Visiting the WIS Annual School Fair is always an eye opener for us... we get to see what the future generation of the Khmer work force are planning… and there are always a few ‘WOW’ moments::more
Financial Literacy; learning how to earn, budget and save
Financial literacy is something that is really needed in Cambodia, where many receive a monthly income and spend it all in the first week. The concept of ‘saving for a rainy day’ and for future expenses such as education and health is rare :: more
Our babies are now leaders!
Over the last few years we have worked closely with local organisation Possibilities World, to help create the leaders that Cambodia needs for its future. Well this year we couldn’t believe that it was actually our babies heading off to the Youth Leadership course… where have the years gone? ::more
Strong female, young and Khmer - an amazing role model for our Geckos
Author Thavry Thon is an amazing role model for our Geckos and we are so lucky to have received a donation of her very popular and excellent look at gender roles in Khmer culture, her novel A Proper Woman::more
Goodbye Liz, we LOVE you!
After an amazing and eventful 7 years, it was time to say goodbye to our volunteer extraordinaire. As the kids move into full time school and our young adult programs, Liz moves into new adventures of her own. Two things for sure are that Gecko wouldn't be what it is today without her, and we will all miss her terribly. Can't wait to see you again soon:: more
New school AND it is ALL DAY!
New to Siem Reap is WESTGATE; a new school for our Grade 1-6s to go to ALL DAY. It has meant big changes to Gecko in the afternoon …it is verrrry quiet! :: more
Year 9s done and dusted for another year
Amazing results for our amazing Year 9 students:: more
We have come full circle... from begging child to University Graduate and Operations Manager!
Our very own Gecko, Boram, has finished university with a degree in Business Administration, and where did he want his first job to be? Back at Gecko… now our very own Operations Manager! ::more
Education Workshops on very important life skills
We believe that it is so important to continue to upskill our Geckos… and this time it was in the areas of Domestic Violence, Sexual Abuse, Drug and Alcohol Awareness, Gender Equity and even Hygiene and Nutrition for some of our younger Geckos :: more
Finally we can share our best kept secret!
Yes… the Geckos have been in a Hollywood movie. Based on the book First They Killed My Father, our kids were selected for their Bokator skills and talents to not only shoot a small Bokator scene, BUT to then be chosen to join the spectacular stunts team! It was an amazing honour to be able to join the cast and crew at the red carpet premier at Angkor Wat :: more
A bit of creative fun… joining in the world mannequin craze
Seeing how popular the new mannequin craze was… long time Gecko friend Lee decided that we could create our very own video right here at Gecko Central. We think we did a pretty good job… don’t you? ::more
With over half of our Geckos now young adults, it is important that Green Gecko provides skills and opportunities for them to transition into the ‘real world’. Our Young Adult Program focuses on job skills such as CV writing, interview techniques and career counselling, explores different tertiary education options from apprenticeships (both school and non-school based), vocational training and university courses; and identifies non-paid/paid work experience options for others.
2017 saw our biggest numbers yet graduating from Year 12 and entering university… we are now covering a range of future professions … from Law to Community Development; Dentistry to Business Management and Public Administration. In addition to their amazing results, two of our students received full scholarships.
We also found many more opportunities for our work experience students to improve their work ethics and communication skills, and to show them how they can make an impact within their own community.
Here are some of the proud moments we've posted on our Facebook page lately... just in case you aren't a frequent Facebooker.
From Street Kid to University Scholar - Dr Sokun here we come!
Cambodian education really stresses the importance of academic results, with all university scholarships being awarded to those with the best grades. Now for the first time ever, there is a university in PP recognising the importance of student values, work ethic and commitment to their community... in 2017 our very own Sokun was one such Scholar, landing herself a 7 year medical scholarship for Dentistry ::more
Education is always the answer, even when it comes to animal welfare!
The amazing organisation World Vets has been visiting Siem Reap for the last few years and we took the opportunity to provide our work experience students with the chance to volunteer and help change the lives of the many poorly looked after cats and dogs in the Siem Reap community :: more
New students, new dreams and new businesses - our 2017 Work Experience Program starts again!
Every year our Grade 10 students begin a year long work experience program. The first 3 months are about learning skills such as CV writing and interviewing. Next comes the start of 3 x 3 month placements; one in a service industry; then community support; and then one in a career of their current dreams. This year local café Brother Bong has jumped on board our work experience ship :: more
Internships - plumbing and electrics - on the job learning is always best
Two of our students studying in PP have had the chance to work hands on in their fields of Plumbing and Electrics. We are so grateful that there are vocational educational opportunities for our students… it is the practical way to learn::more
Green Gecko has always worked with the families of the children… from providing workshops on better parenting to covering medical costs to assisting with a safe housing allowance. We have always known that to be able to reintegrate the Geckos back into a safe family environment meant a lot of work breaking the welfare cycle and caring about the post-traumatic stress disorders that many of our parents suffer from, whether it be addictions or extreme poverty, these issues needed to be addressed first. Our families needed long term solutions… not quick fixes... and we provided just that.
We are now so proud to be able to say that after 10 years of hard work, so many ups and downs, and great achievements, that 100% of our Geckos have all been reintegrated into safe community living arrangements over the last two years. It took supervised family fun days, weekly visits, counselling, micro business loans, vocational training, educational workshops on health & hygiene, positive parenting, domestic violence, marriage laws, financial literacy and much much more to get to the stage where our team felt confident that the Geckos would be SAFE and that we were not being negligent.
100% of our Geckos now live within the community
• 63% live at home with their families (with parents or in kinship care/older siblings or Aunts)
• 5% live in foster care in the community
• 1% lives on University campus
• 31% are adults living in independent housing
Rehash Trash – our female empowerment & environmental care social enterprise – continues to go from strength to strength, and in 2017 we employed our 24th staff member! Ensuring that the mothers and older sisters of our Geckos, along with women in the local community, are employed in a safe, friendly and respecful environment, Rehash Trash is helping guide many families towards a secure and viable future.
With our team growing, production booming and our ladies creating more and more beautiful products, not only is our social impact increasing, but our eco reach is as well, and we are now recycling a staggering 5000 bags each week. We really are Recycling more and more Rubbish, and Renewing more and more Lives!
2017 was our best year yet, and here are some of our highlights …
Kicking off 2017 with a fabulous collaboration… fit for a princess!
When we were approached with a collaboration for the Siem Reap Giant Puppet Parade, we jumped at the chance! The result was this stunning ball gown created from thousands of plastic bags. The whole project was so much fun, and it was wonderful to see our ladies enjoying themselves on the night, beaming with pride to be part of Rehash Trash :: more
“Let your imagination run free!”
A commission with a difference for our ladies from a visiting US art collector who asked them to all imagine & create a unique piece of their own. At first some of our ladies were hesitant, doubting they could come up with their own designs, but - wow – did they do it! One look at these smiles says it all, and just shows how fostering initiative and creativity can yield great empowerment :: more
Baskets of Hope… and Rehash Trash going international!
2017 also brought our first international commission, all the way from New York! 200 of these beautiful ‘hat box’ baskets were cleverly designed to fit snugly inside one another, crocheted and then despatched half-way around the world to fill a very special order for our friends and long-term supporters on the occasion of their daughter’s Bat Mitzvah :: more
Rehash Trash in our beautiful new home…
The biggest & most exciting news of all was the opening of our stunning new showroom & workshop. Designed & built by Gecko dad Rem, who created this PERFECT & very important space for us ... it gives our mums increased confidence to see their products being sold, and a sense of ownership as they now welcome visitors daily from all corners of the world to learn to crochet in our workshops :: more
A dedicated crèche for our little ones…
With the opening of our showroom, it was time to create a separate crèche for the Rehash kids, recognising the right of our ladies to be able to earn an essential income, while also ensuring their young children are taken care of in a safe and stimulating environment.
Galvinising the community to care for the environment
In 2017, Rehash Trash, with partners Plastic Free Cambodia, launched a monthly Community Eco Fair, aimed at raising awareness of and educating the local population about the environmental issues facing Siem Reap & Cambodia, while showcasing & supporting like-minded socially-responsible projects such as our own :: more
Recycling more & more rubbish with our new range!
Exciting news as we unveiled a new range of products, designed & developed with the aim of working with more recyclable materials - so not only are we adding new loveliness to expand our range, we are doing even more to keep our environment clean and giving new life to even more discarded trash :: more
Praise for our work in the regional & international press…
Rehash Trash was mentioned in several articles throughout the year and included in write ups about all the great social and environmental projects in and around Siem Reap. Our bumper year culminated in a whole feature dedicated to our work! :: more
In many countries around the world, women have the option to provide their children with safe, play based, interactive and loving childcare so that they can continue to work, whether it is to focus on their career or to bring in much needed extra money to help their family survive. In Cambodia, the usual option for women is to either work from home growing vegetables or catching fish/frogs/spiders to sell to local neighbours; leave their children with aging family or have the eldest girl leave school to look after her younger siblings; or simply just not beable to work and keep their child safe at the same time.
We didn’t want this to be a problem for our amazing Rehash Trash staff, so we have created our very own Gecko/Rehash Trash Crèche run by our fantastic staff member, Nary and supported by 2 of our Gecko students Somanang and Mien, who are looking at becoming qualified childcare workers in the future. Thanks to Tree House Nursery, Nary did some observation and training onsite with them. She is an absolute natural, initiating play based learning and really focusing the first few months on hygiene and manners.
Purple Mango Wellness Centre is a Green Gecko non-profit social enterprise that provides treatment spaces for visiting and local practitioners from all forms of holistic therapies. Services provided are primarily offered to the expat community using an affordable fee structure, which then enables us to offer treatments to the Khmer community on a donations basis, depending on what the individual can afford. Included in those treatments is a weekly dental clinic, offering fundamental dental care, not only to the Gecko family but also to our extended Khmer community through our partner NGO network.
In 2017, our beautiful Purple Mango Wellness Centre moved even deeper in its mission of supporting and serving our local Khmer community through essential collaborations with like-minded NGOs, and working with talented therapists & healers to offer comprehensive social & holistic care. It truly is becoming an essential community centre and it is wonderful to see its beautiful spaces being used to their full potential.
Here are some of the wonderful achievements we made in 2017:
Heading Providing essential counselling & social work services
Since opening Purple Mango Wellness Centre we have been on the look out for a qualified social worker and counselor who can work with our Khmer community, and we are so blessed to have found Jason who not only speaks fluent Khmer, but has a deep understanding of Khmer culture. He is achieving wonderful results not only with our Green Gecko kids & families, but with the broader community too.
Community collaboration at its finest!
In 2017, we were proud to host the very first community meeting for កន្លែងដែលឣ្នកឣាចជាខ្លួនឯង - A Place To Be Yourself - APTBY – a new & much-needed LGBT+ NGO in Siem Reap. Since then, we are thrilled that APTBY has made Purple Mango its home, running its brilliant drop-in information centre from our beautiful upstairs space, offering advice, a listening ear, or just a place to be… :: more
Sparkling smiles at our dental clinic
Throughout 2017, our wonderful dentist Dr Hor has continued to treat patients from our partner NGOs, and we have received visits from volunteer dental professionals as well, helping to maintain our facilities and meaning we have kept approximately another 1000 beaming Khmer smiles sparkling away :: more
Inspired by Rotary’s youth group, Rotaract, the older Geckos decided four years ago that they wanted to do the same, they wanted to give back to their community. Together they have created Gecko Action. With their three main goals being the elderly, the youth and the environment, Gecko Action work together to make their community a better place
"Like the roots of a tree make a tree strong, we feel that Gecko is what has made us strong, so we have put our Gecko print as our roots and the arrows are like the branches of a tree going out into the world. We chose arrows because they look like action and we want to make action in all directions."
Here are some of the proud moments we've posted on our facebook page lately... just in case you aren't a frequent Facebooker.
Chilly Cambodian Winters
You may be surprised to know that it can get quite cold in Cambodia… and many do not have suitable clothing to keep warm. Introducing our next generation of the Gecko Action crew::more
Keeping our town clean helps keeps us healthy and safe
We love how there are more and more local initiatives to keep our town clean, and that we get to share these opportunities with our friends :: more
Meet Sopheap… our Gecko Action Scholarship recipient
One of our three areas of focus is youth and we have been sponsoring Sopheap to attend the same school that we do. We are so proud of her, she received many Academic Awards and passed her Year 12 exams ::more
Lending a hand to Full Belly Farm
When we get the chance to help other great organisations we say YES! Full Belly Farm is providing three families with disabilities to have a home and a job. We were asked to help to clear the land so that they could begin making the space liveable ::more
10 000 Trees and Gecko Action
The environment needs more trees and we have been helping a project called Ten Thousand Trees::more
Keeping our neighbourhood river clean
Plastic and Styrofoam are a very big problem in Cambodia. Both of these things get stuck in our rivers and then all pile up. We ride over this bridge every day so we had to do something about it::more
Teeth, hair and hands … teaching Taross Hut kids good hygiene
Many kids don’t get taught how to brush their teeth, wash their hair or scrub their hands… and we love to visit countryside schools to show them how to stay healthy ::more
Healthy minds… healthy bodies
Through our leadership courses we have been learning ways to bring our communities together through fun events and to raise money at the same time. We thought that sharing our yoga skills would be a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon ::more
Footprints Farm is a flourishing permaculture farm of various vegetables, fruits and roaming animals. Not only does the farm deliver fresh, chemical-free food for Gecko, it also provides an outdoor classroom for all of our students, and employment and training opportunities for the local community and our young adults.
Mushrooms, mushrooms everywhere
Our farmers are always thinking of ways to bring variety to our daily menus and to their nutrition. This year our Gecko Dad and farmer Lat learned from some mushroom professionals on how to set up our own mushroom house. It was an experiement, but it turned into a big success and our first harvest yielded over 100 kilos... at this rate we will be able to both eat AND sell them in the future :: more
Raising our game by raising our garden beds
With only having two seasons in Cambodia... DRY AND WET we need to be able to grow vegetables in all kinds of weather. Although every year the wet season impacts our farms, 2017 was particularly damaging. Our whole area flooded and we lost so much produce and hard work. A solution was needed… and our Gecko Dad came up with it. Building raised beds that would bring the gardens a metre off the ground with three layers; bamboo tray, dirt layer and soil layer. Now we can continue to grow during floods. BIG thanks to our clever Gecko Dad :: more
Green Gecko Project has teamed up with like-minded allies Hearts to Harmony for a project inspired by – and in support of – Days for Girls International, an organisation that empowers days of education, health, safety and dignity for girls and women all over the world no matter what time of the month. TNAI SAMRAP SREY literally translates from Khmer into DAYS FOR GIRLS and like their tag line, it is for EVERY GIRL. EVERYWHERE. PERIOD.
Fortunately, the girls at Green Gecko and beneficiaries of Hearts to Harmony have access to feminine hygiene products, but there are many girls and women throughout Cambodia who, without these essential products, are experiencing too many days without school, days without income, days without leaving the house. Working together, Tnai Samrap Srey has distributed over 1650 feminine hygiene kits through our peer education program and continues to raise awareness of female hygiene issues in Cambodia since we began in 2014.
Here are some of the proud moments we've posted on our facebook page lately... just in case you aren't a frequent Facebooker.
Our first MALE ONLY workshop… changing the culture in Cambodia
Like many other cultures, periods are not spoken about in public and especially not with males… but this fantastic team of social workers went to their leader, saying “How can we help our girls if we don’t know anything about what they are going through?” :: more
Gecko Graduates sharing their knowledge in PP
Graduating from Year 12 and starting her Community Development Degree is enabling Kim Suan to share her knowledge and our kits with smaller rural communities outside of PP. As part of her group’s community development program, Kim Suan is encouraging her peers to understand the importance of TSS :: more
Education is always the answer … sharing our knowledge with new trainers
There are so many organisations that want to share the knowledge of TSS and distribute kits… and we just can’t get to them all.. so let’s start training new trainers! :: more
Our dream… working with the Women’s Resource Centre
Siem Reap is so lucky to have the amazing team at the Women’s Resource Centre and now we are so lucky to be working with them. We can’t wait to see where this relationship takes us :: more
We are not a one woman team!
We are so grateful to the many, many DFGs chapters around Australia that support us by donating hundreds of kits to distribute!::more
Now well established, the Silk Screen Printing Lab cemented its reputation for high quality and customer service in 2017 by continuing to produce garments for the local and export market.
At the same time, we provided free, creative workshops for the underprivileged, and valuable work experience and employment for the Green Gecko Project’s young (and not so young) adults.
Do you know your t-shirt’s history?
We all studied history at school, but do you know the history of your clothes? What working conditions were they made under? What chemicals were used to dye them? …to print them?
As well as teaching the art of screen printing at our “Print Your Own” workshops, we love to open up the debate on ethical garment manufacturing and printing::more
Do we really need so much plastic?
We booked ourselves in for a plastic free workshop in July. At the start of the project we made a point of banning Potassium Dichromate emulsion as it's carcinogenic and began importing a much safer alternative. We also import phthalate-free inks. We changed our attitude towards chemicals so why not do the same for plastic!:: more
Can we print gold onto 2 metre silk banners for a world class shopping centre? Well, yes!
When DFS asked us if it was possibe to print silk banners for their store we jumped at the challenge. Definitely one of the more interesting projects we've taken on::more
T-shirts as swimwear! Why not
Drowning is the leading cause of death among children in Cambodia. It is estimated that over 1,900 children die from drowning every single year. Safe Waters Cambodia is an organisation set up to teach underprivilidged children the life saving skill of swimming. We were more than happy to help them out when they needed shirts :: more
At Green Gecko we are proud of our transparent accounting practices and take our accountability seriously. We are accountable not only to our donors, but also to the children and families we seek to help, to ensure our work has the greatest impact and creates the most sustainable solutions.
2017 expense distribution - by category (all projects combined)
100% of general donations go directly to GG projects
Unless specifically stated by our donors, ALL contributions are considered general donations. Our low admin charges are due to the fact that no foreigner is paid from general donations, and most fees and charges are deducted before donations are received into our account here in Cambodia.
Green Gecko... where kids can be kids and dreams can come true. greengeckoproject.org | former street kids | siem reap | cambodia
You're receiving this email because you are a friend and supporter of Green Gecko:
either you have requested a copy of our annual report or because you have asked us to keep you in the loop via our website, by email or while visiting us in Siem Reap.