Green Gecko Project Siem Reap
The Green Gecko Project
(Visiting by Appointment only)
Green Gecko is an initiative founded to benefit the lives of street children in Siem Reap, Cambodia. A recently emerging town located in the north-west of the country, it is home to the world’s largest religious site ‘Angkor Wat’ and consequently, a hastily growing tourism industry. In the past, any tourist strolling along the streets of Siem Reap would have come across these children. While most would have certainly been hassled by their begging, not many would have had the pleasure of getting to know the kids themselves – their humour, tenacity, resourcefulness, hope, trust and friendship. The project began when one Australian tourist, Tania Palmer took the time to do this, during 2005.
The sad reality then was that these children, as young as 5 years old, were often the primary breadwinners for their families. Their living conditions were often desperate, either living in very poor housing or no housing at all. Some of the children slept unaccompanied on the pavement, defenceless to abduction, abuse and disease.
Thankfully, today we can describe these terrible conditions in past tense, at least for the children we have been able to reach out to. The project now supports children that are ex-beggars! 97% of the children are off the street and all children of school age are now attending accredited Khmer school.
Green Gecko is about empowering these children with skills, education, care and support to enable them to break the begging cycle and live to their highest potential. It also provides shelter, care and stability for those physically battered or psychologically in need. Tania pointing out to me over 80% of the children have been physically or sexually abused within their family unit or extended family.
At the centre the children can eat a hot lunch, attend an English class, feel secure, play, get a hug, put their pictures up on the wall, have a shower, get their hair combed, nails cut, brush their teeth and recAt receive medical attention. They can attend fun excursions and receive the chance to expand their interests and knowledge of new subjects, by participating (somewhat enthusiastically) in dance, art and craft, drama, photography, gymnastics and performance classes.
One of the most difficult tasks was, and still is, convincing the children’s parents that education and recreation for their child is a worthwhile investment. The children could be out making money and the parents are either hungry or have addiction problems and little concept of a future beyond their immediate needs. Experience has already proved that supporting and connecting with these families is essential to the success of such a project. Green Gecko is steadily gaining parent approval and some now are even actively encouraging their children to attend. This truly demonstrates Tania’s strength as a human being. Orphanage Directors only have the children’s problems to deal with but Tania must also deal with the children’s parents and create balance against overwhelming odds. What Tania has accepted as her role in life carries with it huge responsibilities, physical demands, emotional demands & bargaining skills.
To arrange an appointment to visit Green Gecko please contact Carry For Kids or Green Gecko at least four weeks prior to departure. You need to be planned well in advance as the standards of communication are extremely poor in Cambodia. Tania may be able to reply to one email in the time you could reply to forty emails. It is slower than dial up in Australia. If you receive no reply ensure you re-send and be patient for a reply. Green Gecko do accept volunteers for a period of 2 months or more. Please ensure you have a current police clearance (same year), CV, travel insurance and you can cover all your own living expenses. Please do not consider to volunteer if you just want to come an play with the children. The children need people who are qualified to educate them, provide medical care or bring other skills to the project.
Green Gekco is a 15 minute taxi ride or Tut Tut ride out of central Siem Reap.