The Green Gecko Project... where kids can be kids and dreams can come true.

A grateful tribute to Jarvis Ford and Ford Australia

Green Gecko Project owes much gratitude to many individuals and businesses for their ideas, encouragement, donations and unwavering support. And of those, there are a few major players fundamental to our existence and successes who are affectionately named our Green Star Donors.

Today, we would like to share with you the journey of how Richard and Joanna Collins from Jarvis Ford became our staunchest Green Star Donors of all.

how Jarvis Ford changed the lives of 100 street kids and their families

It all started with Ford Australia.

In 2009, Ford Australia - a leading automobile company – arranged a trip to Siem Reap to thank special members of their company for Service Excellence. Breaking the mould of regular corporate trips, Ford Australia chose to provide an experience beyond luxury hotels and tourist attractions. They arranged a holistic tour that immersed their delegates in the local community and provided the opportunity to learn more about the needs of Cambodia’s most vulnerable.

Arranging a lunch at a local restaurant, Ford invited us - the Green Gecko Project - to share our story with them. After years of negative and degrading attention, an invitation like this was out of their world. They practised hard and were very excited to perform their ‘Green Gecko Concert’ for their visitors from Ford.

Written and presented by the kids themselves, their little concert was colourful, energetic, and at times, quite emotional. Kim Suan (14) was the compere. The Kindy kids belted out their favourite songs with Sarm (6) on lead vocals. The middle kids performed a rap song they wrote about themselves, their past, present, and future. And, Srey Neang (14) revealed an honest and heartfelt story of her life.

The performers and audience were enthusiastic alike, albeit some a little misty-eyed.

After the show, our older Geckos were invited to join the group for lunch. They were understandably nervous, but everyone was kind, friendly and impressed with their behaviour and confidence. They mingled, they spoke, they listened. Sokoun (15) was sitting at one table when one of the guests kindly offered her $10 as a gift. What she said next floored us all; she politely declined, “No, thank you, please give it to Rem - for all the kids”. No one knew how significant this was, but for us, it was life-changing. You see, for years, these children begged on the streets till dawn for as little as $1 per day; now, turning down ten times that much to share it with the others was quite astounding. Astounding AND reaffirming… that all the hard work we had been doing was working.

It was a wonderful day had by all. Unbeknown to us, this day also marked the beginning of a long and prosperous bond that would create effective and sustainable positive change in the years to come.

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the Ford Australia ripple effect

Not long after our special day together, we realised we were not forgotten by the Ford Australia delegates. 

The following month we received a generous donation from Geoff O’Connell from Kinghorn Ford, NSW. Then a few months after that, a phone call from Richard and Joanna Collins from Jarvis Ford, SA. By March 2010, Richard and Joanna had become Green Gecko’s major sponsors. Later that year, Jarvis Ford donated a much-needed, much-appreciated Ford Ranger from our local Ford distributor. Over the years, our trusty ute faired us well. It has ferried endless children to school, hospitals and cultural events; got us and many others out of the mud, rescued people in the floods, delivered countless bags of rice, warm clothing and relief packs to those most in need. It even took one of our mums to the maternity ward 20 minutes after unexpectably delivering her baby on the Gecko breakfast table!  

In April 2013, Joanna and Richard visited Green Gecko to see how the children had blossomed with their support. Above and beyond their generous monthly contribution - Jarvis Ford and Joanna’s business A Touch of Beauty – also funded an entire computer lab so our children could learn IT and computer skills. They founded the Jarvis Ford Kickstarter Grant, which helps our University Graduates set themselves up for success after they Graduate. And, just this last month, they helped us upgrade our old Ranger for a newer automatic model, which has made driving much more manageable, especially when we hit the capital city traffic for university visits and ministry appointments. But most of all, they have provided us with the friendship, moral support and belief that gave us the courage and secutity to keep aiming high.

Like Ford Australia and Jarvis Ford, Richard and Joanna believe in improving people’s lives and making their world a better place. They believe in long-term sustainable outcomes and have the tenacity and generosity to see their projects come to fruition, and dreams become a reality. You only need to see the lives of the Green Gecko kids to know how true this is.

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from begging to brilliance

Thanks to Ford Australia’s progressive initiative, Richard and Joanna Collins became Green Gecko’s longest-standing, most substantial and stable donor to date. Their emotional and financial support has helped us successfully and sustainably remove 32 families and over 100 children from the streets and into safe housing in their local community. The children are now healthy, well balanced and educated individuals giving back to their communities and creating a ripple effect of positive change throughout society.

We know, that without Richard and Joanna Collins, Jarvis Ford and Ford Australia, we would not have had the courage or resources to achieve these phenomenal results.

Richard once said, “I have always been a firm believer that it is the responsibility of a business to get behind charities like the amazing team at Green Gecko. The difference they have made, and are making to the lives of underprivileged children is amazing and inspirational. I receive great personal satisfaction knowing that we are helping to give these children true quality of life and a future to look forward to. This would not be possible without the loving and caring team at Green Gecko who we can trust and rely upon.”

For us, the feeling is mutual.

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just look at them now

Before you go, we would like to share with you what those little street kids who performed their hearts out for their Ford Australia friends at lunch are doing now.

KIM SUAN (the concert compere) is a UNESCO delegate currently in her 3rd Year of International Relations, with a passion and focus on Human Rights in the International forum.

SREY NEANG (who shared her story) won Social Worker Student of the year and graduated from university with a Bachelor of Social Work and is now working full time at an NGO for street kids in the capital city. 

SOKUN (who politely declined the $10) is a 5th Year Dental Scholar and Community Officer with the newly formed Phnom Penh Central Rotary Club and a wonderful role model to her seven younger siblings, who are all still at school.

and,there's more...

BORAM graduated first place in his Business and Administration Degree and is now working in an International NGO after dedicating 12 months to running Green Gecko. LA became National Football star, who recently represented Cambodia in Japan and has just completed Grade 12 after two years of online study. SREY graduated Medical Science University as a Physiotherapist, placing in the top three in her year and gaining a position in a leading disabilities NGO. NOTT is working for one of the best Education and Health Care NGOs in Siem Reap as a Child Interventionist, working with a team of Physios, Speech Therapists and Nurses to assess and create plans for families to support their disabled children. LARN and RATHANAK are in their 3rd Year of Civil Engineering alongside their Gecko brother HUA who is enrolled and winning awards in Architecture. KUNTHEA has completed her course in Mental Health Counselling – the first of its kind in Cambodia and a resource desperately needed by its people.

We have the next generation of mothers who are the first in their families to enrol their children in school. We have graduates employed in some amazing jobs in top businesses, NGOs, hotels and schools throughout Siem Reap, from Tourism to Teaching, Counselling to Chauffeuring and many more careers in between. And in the making in 2022, we currently have 13 university students studying a range of courses including Dentistry, Architecture, Engineering, Nursing Information Technology, Business and Economics, International Relations and Physiotherapy; five students waiting to find out their Grade 12 results; five students studying Grade 12 and seven students studying the Year 9 National Certificate.

And, the next generation is hot on their heels.

59 of them in fact!

Thanks to Jarvis Ford funding, and Richard and Joanna's belief and long-term support you can see our young adults - former street kids who used to beg on the street - are now living and loving life. They are doing themselves, us and their families proud... we hope they make you proud too.  

We can't wait to see what unfolds in the next five years for the rest of them.

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from Ford Lunch to the Red Carpet

Oops, we almost forgot one… remember the little six-year-old lead vocalist at the Ford lunch concert?

Well, it turns out singing wasn’t his only performing talent. Sarm became a lead actor at the age of 14. He won the Best Actor Award at Macao Film Festival - and travelled to Film Festivals worldwide - for his role in the critically acclaimed feature film BUOYANCY.

Ten years on - almost to the day - Joanna and Richard flew to the Melbourne International Film Festival to watch Sarm perform again... this time on the big screen. They joined Sarm on the red carpet as his special guests, and as cameras clicked, it struck me… how far we had actually come with Richard and Joanna by our sides.

From little things, big things grow.

Photo: Richard and Joanna Collins from Jarvis Ford on the Red Carpet with Award Winning Actor and Green Gecko kid, Sarm Heng at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2019. 

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thank you

Thank you, Ford Australia, Jarvis Ford, Richard Collins, Joanna Collins, for being a fundamental part of the Green Gecko journey and all of our successes.

Our work continues. So too - we hope - the life-changing developments of these extraordinary kids who had the courage and determination to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and all that it entails.

With enormous Green Gecko Gratitude, we salute you and all that you do in the world, not just for us, but for so many.

On behalf the of our kids, crew and families,

Tania and Rem

Co Founding Directors of the Green Gecko Project, and proud bonus parents of these awesome humans!

To learn more about their incredible journey: please visit to our website, facebook and watch videos of them in the begginning and on their way, for where they are headed next... watch this space! ;)  

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