Green Gecko Project - Ursula Zindel Hilti Foundation

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green gecko project where kids can be kids and dreams can come true

From street kids to school kids thanks to the Ursula Zindel Hilti Foundation

education report 2014-15

2013 goals achieved Did we do it? Yes we did! Reflecting on our goals for the past year is an important part of monitoring and evaluation at Green Gecko, to make sure we are heading in the right direction and achieving what we set out to do. Here is our checklist of major goals (from last year’s annual report) along with an update on where we are at with them and what we have achieved so far…

Connect more with our Gecko Guardians Gecko Guardians are our valued ongoing monthly supporters, the ones who give us the peace of mind to commit to long term programs. We wanted to have more regular and personalised communication with our Guardians and we have. There is still some room for improvement but we have been emailing newsletters and having a good ‘chinwag’ with our Guardians, sharing the good and not so great news and we thank you for your commitment to us.

Young Adult Program (YAP) Coordinator The Geckos are getting older and further education and careers are on their minds. With a multitude of tertiary education and work experience options looming, Mum needs advice and support. We were looking for an experienced and enthusiastic professional to come on board and we found her… in a past 2012 volunteer and secondary school teacher, Kate. Universities are being researched, programs are happening and kids’ dreams and goals are being discovered… and mum is a little saner.

Young Adult Apprenticeships Now that we have our YAP Coordinator, we have begun exploring different workplace apprentices. We want to provide Geckos – especially the ones who are much older than their peers – the chance to continue both high school and also gain experience in a field of that they are interested in. Two of our Geckos are now involved in a workplace apprenticeship – Srey Nao as a jewelry designer and Sottoum in all things music!

Kids Stepping Up It is important for us at Gecko that our kids are involved in our decision making processes and directions. We have our Governors. Who meet weekly to discuss problems and solutions, but we have encouraged more of our young adults to be involved in the future of Gecko. More and more Gecko family meetings have been happening, with the problem given to the group and a solution brought back to the Administration Team to consider. The biggest project taken on has been the task of encouraging our families to become financially independent. Talks have started and ideas are forming. We can’t wait to see what the Geckos come up with!

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Financial Literacy for Mothers Budgeting, saving, making goals amongst other things are difficult for the most of is and it is not different for families in Cambodia. Most of our mothers are focused on the short term, getting from one meal to the next, and it was our goal to improve their knowledge and understanding of financial literacy. Partnering with Siem Reap’s Women’s’ Resource Centre, we sent 15 mothers and their daughters (or proxy Gecko daughter, if their own daughters were too young), and female staff to a six week ‘Budgeting and Life Skills’ course. What a success! Our mothers and young Gecko women are now focused on setting financial goals, budgeting and saving for that ‘rainy day’.

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our projects Growing as our kids do... Moving with the times and meeting needs as they arise has always been one of Gecko’s greatest attributes. Over the years, we found as our kids grew, we needed to grow with them too. We now have nine projects of varying size and commitment under our Gecko paw! From little kids, big kids and young adults to healthy food, families, humanitarian youth groups and social enterprises… we’re doing our best to share the Gecko love.

Gecko Central When most people think of Gecko, they’re thinking of Gecko Central… it’s where most of the action happens. It’s the place where our Geckos live, laugh and learn, where Mum Gecko answers her emails and where all our delicious meals are cooked. It is our school, our office and our home. It’s where the kids can be kids and their dreams can come true!

Young Adults Program Our kids are growing up faster than we can keep up! High school graduations, vocational training, resume writing, work experience; it’s all happening for our eldest Geckos. Year 12 is moving too quickly, uni applications are being filled out, and boarding options in cities further away are being explored.

Tiger Club day centre ROARS… of laughter and screams of delight, that is what you will hear around corner from Gecko Central. The reason… Tiger Club – our new day centre for the little sisters and brothers of our Geckos. Showers, food, naps and classes all happen in a busy afternoon and the best thing of all… the gigantic smiles on their faces when you walk through the gate.


Gecko Action - our humanitarian youth group Inspired by Rotary’s youth group, Rotaract, the older Geckos decided that it was time to help others in their community. Together they have created Gecko Action and every week you will find them gathered, buzzing with their new ideas for fundraising and assisting. So far sausages have sizzled, temples tidied, students supplied and families fed. What a great start!

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Footprints Farm Our land of coconut trees and tropical plants is now a flourishing farm of vegetables, fruits and roaming animals. Big bowls of lettuce and tomatoes have caused oohs and aahs in our lunch huts. Not only that, it’s a fabulous way for the kids to stay grounded and learn how to grow food without nasty chemicals!

Grace Gecko Vocational Centre for Women Joining forces with Grace House Community Centre, Grace Gecko is giving hope and skills to vulnerable women. Our mothers are beautiful women, who with support can provide for their family. Alongside Grace House mums, our Gecko mums are learning the latest weaving techniques and creating everything from bags to hammocks, using the best natural materials and under fair working conditions.

Silk Screen Printing Lab social enterprise A collaboration between three amazing ventures… Green Gecko Project, Route 6 Cambodia and the Silk Screen Lab, the Silk Screen Printing Lab is Green Gecko’s latest social enterprise. Not only are we producing quality t-shirts for Siem Reap and abroad, we are delivering fun and creative one-off workshops for local Khmer children, visitors and expats.

Outreach and family support We’re not just busy inside Gecko Central; it is just as busy outside, too! Supporting 32 families, Gecko Outreach helps our mums and dads break the cycle of poverty through microbusinesses, vocational training programs and holistic social support, as well as providing weekly nutrition packs of fresh meat, veggies and rice and essential medical care.

Gecko Gift Shop Need a gift? Look no further than our onsite and online Gecko Gift Shop. From cookbooks to t-shirts (printed of course by our Silk Screen Printing Lab), gift certificates to locally made kramas and recycled key rings to wooden sculptures (both made by our parents), you will always find a wonderful gift or memento at our Gecko Gift Shop.

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broadening horizons Gecko activities In addition to Khmer school and English classes, the Gecko kids expand their awareness of the world around them and enrich their educational experiences through our Gecko activities. Activity classes are based around creative and educational themes, which create connections between the skills, experience and knowledge of our Khmer teaching staff, our Western volunteers and the children. Some of our Gecko Activities include Khmer Literacy, English Reading and Reporting, Computers, Me and My Planet, Expressive Arts, Khmer Library, Logic and Creative Fridays e.g. cooking, sewing, Bokator Martial Arts and music.

‘Me and My Planet’ Themes for 2014 included:

Laughter Yoga



Pali Language

First Aid and CPR

Khmer Law

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Girls in Engineering & Science Once again Possibilities World held another fabulous workshop for young Khmer women, with the focus being on Girls in Science and Engineering. The group task for the day was to design and construct a bridge‌ with the goal being the building a bridge that could hold the most weight. Our girls certainly came back inspired and there just may be an engineer amongst them.

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activities & events Short Film Project Green Gecko PREMIERED its first short film, comedy “Life’s a Remote”, written, directed, acted and produced by the Green Gecko kids – with a little help from long time volunteer Lee. The process involved storyboard writing, filming, editing and special effects! Sitting in their PJs, all the kids watch the story of a young boy who was bored, unlike his brothers and sisters, and the only thing he found interesting was the TV. He found a magic remote control and went on dreamlike journey! Moral of the story – there are lots of wonderful experiences to have everyday… if you are not sitting front of the TV!

Installation Art @ Shinta Mani The GM of the fabulous community minded hotel, Shinta Mani, approached us at Green Gecko to commission an original piece of art work… a larger-than-life light installation for the resort’s new lobby! Drawing on the Puppet Parade experience that they have gained over the years, the kids led the way on the project from start to finish… from concept design to execution and final installation. After deciding that the puppet should have some meaning, the kids researched and chose to showcase the Slow Loris, an endangered animal in Cambodia, which is believed to have special powers that can ward off evil spirits and cure wounds. We think they have done a five star job for a five star hotel… make sure you include it on your itinerary on your next visit to Siem Reap!

Aussie Radio Stars Last year’s Annual Report told you all about the amazing ‘Big Heart, Small House’ song written by our Gecko kids. Well it was time to TUNE IN! The Geckos made their Australian radio debut, being broadcasted on the Noosa radio show MUSICOLOGY by recent – and very impressed - visitor Mick Draper. Not only did we listen in all the way over in Siem Reap, the Geckos also received a very special message of encouragement from Cambodian Space Project’s singer, Chanthy!

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Helping out Kei Saving lives was a key theme for Gecko activities, with regular volunteer Dr Betsy back to teach the kids all kinds of things from CPR, first aid, malaria, dengue fever, as well as a blood condition called Thalassemia. The Gecko young adults regularly donate blood to a local hospital and it was a ‘no brainer’ when a call out was made to find blood for a young man called Kei, who has Thalassemia Major. Our kids were quick to put their hand up… or more like put their arms out and volunteer for the task. Soon after Kei was healthy enough to visit Green Gecko and explain what it was like to live with this disease and showing us how important it is for others to donate blood so that he, and others, can live healthy lives!

Puppet Parade The Gecko kids have long been involved in the annual Siem Reap Puppet Parade. They started off making puppets, moved to Bokator performances and NOW coordinate the security and crowd control! Two past volunteers joined the crew this year and had such wonderful things to say… “… super impressed with the older kids who took care of the security … enthusiasm, confidence, dedication and energy … it’s to their credit that everything went so well … not easy as the crowd was so huge … also looked after the kids walking in the parade … enough to drink and felt safe and stayed with the group … thanks for letting us be a part of it!”.

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academic recognition Over the past year so many of our magnificent Geckos have achieved wonderful academic achievements from class awards, to jumping a whole grade, to passing Year 9 and Year 12 National Certificate exams, and to starting university. The school year is always full of ceremonies and celebrations recognising the successes of Green Geckos’ education.

Academic Excellence Awards At the end of each semester at Western International School class awards are given to the top three students of every class, and each year the stage is full of Geckos. The past academic year was no different! Over 40 Geckos achieved a top 3 placing, proudly receiving their award with all their families cheering on. A very special mention has to be made about one of our younger Geckos, Mein, who has struggled for many years to experience success at school. This year Mien won her very first Class Award; you couldn’t wipe the smile off her face!

Jumping Grades At Western International School, there is the opportunity to jump a grade if you have had an extraordinary academic report. For every year, for the past five years, we have had at least one student skip a grade. In this academic year we had four students achieve this recognition. Three of our boys, Lar, Meng Houy and Kim Hong, and one of our girls Mien who has struggled for many years to even pass.

Family First – Young Women Reaching & Achieving Year 9 National Certificate The Khmer National Curriculum has two sets of National Exams, one at the end of Year 9 and another set at the end of Year 12. This year we had four amazing young women, Kim Suan, Kunthea, Thou and Ni Preab successfully complete their Year 9 Certificate. These four young adults all began their formal schooling later in life and are in their early 20s. Each one of them works so hard to be the best they can be, and are wonderful role models for the rest of their siblings, as they are the first in their family to attend high school and receive their Year 9 Certificate. 10 | Green Gecko Project

Family First – Young Women Reaching & Achieving Grade 9 Year 12 National Certificate and Graduation During 2014 the Cambodian Government did a blitz on all corruption happening in Year 12 exams. It was commonly known that a student could pass their exams by either paying a supervisor to turn a blind eye to cheating, or by actually buying the exam papers beforehand, or through paying an exam marker money to give them pass. August 2014 was the first time that the corruption and cheating was made illegal, and the students who did pass, purely did so on merit. Only 26% of ALL Cambodian Year 12 students passed their final National Certificate… and two of those were Boram and Srey Neang! This is such a massive achievement in a country where cheating and corruption are considered the norm. After a few visits to different Phnom Penh universities, both Geckos have moved to the ‘big smoke’ and are now living and studying in Phnom Penh. Boram has begun a Business Administration degree, and after only a few weeks he was moved from Foundation Year to 1st Year because of his extraordinary level of high school education! Srey Neang has begun her Foundation Year in an Arts degree at a university where all her classes are delivered in ENGLISH! Her education leading up to this milestone has allowed her to choose a university with much higher standards and expectations.

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spreading their wings

'Gecko Graduation' 2014 saw our second 'Gecko Graduation' with us giving a teary blessing to Srey Lai, Sokoun, Vun, Boram, Srey Neang and Sottoum as they began the next stage of their life. With Vun, Sokoun and Srey Lai all gaining employment in wonderful and reputable establishments, they have began their careers in the hospitality and services industry. Both Boram and Srey Neang have moved to the 'big smoke' to begin their tertiary education at university and Sottoum moved even further to the eye opening wonders of Dubai to complete a one year work placement at the amazing Centre of Musical Arts. Their future awaits them and we can't wait to see what they find!

Srey Nao The Geckos have a jeweler in the family! Our Young Adult Program is not just about education and careers after school, but also about finding apprenticeships and work experience whilst still finishing their Secondary schooling. Srey Nao has always had a passion for art and design and we are so lucky that she has been taken under the wing of Madeline Green, designing and making jewelry out of sterling silver and recycled brass bullets for AMMO. Four mornings a week, Srey Nao cycles to AMMO’s workshop and is taught by Madeline on all aspects of design and creation. We have even been told that a new GECKO jewelry collection is in the making and we can’t wait to see it! Coming soon to a Gecko Visitor Hut near you!

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first Gecko class

high school



Boram and Srey Neang 2014 was the first year that the Cambodian Government did a blitz on all corruption in Year 12 exams and for the first time in recent history all the students who passed did so purely on merit. Only 26% of Year 12 students passed their final National Certificate… and two of those were Boram and Srey Neang! After s few visits to Phnom Penh and looking at different universities, both Geckos have moved to the ‘big smoke’ and are now living and studying in Phnom Penh. Boram is studying Business Administration and within a few weeks was moved from Foundation Year to 1st Year because of his level of education! Srey Neang is following in Mum’s footsteps and has begun an Interior Design Course and has even completed a few short courses in Art Therapy!

Sokoun Our gorgeous girl worked so hard and took her studies seriously, graduating from the Shinta Mani Foundation course in October. Before graduation day had even arrived, Sokoun had gained jobs in her chosen fields, she found an amazing position at a brand new restaurant with five star food and service and she has definitely served Mum and friends on more than one occasion! Not content with just one qualification, Sokoun decided to go back to High School to complete her secondary education as well.

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spreading their wings Sottoum Each year we have an amazing group of musicians from CMA (Centre of Musical Arts) come to volunteer, teaching our Geckos and Tigers their passion for music. Over the years Sottoum has stood put with his enthusiasm and dedication, so much so that Tala (CMA Founder and Director) and her team broached the idea of having our first ever Gecko studying abroad! As you can imagine there were many discussions and deliberations over a period of time, but we were finally convinced. The timing and placement were right. Over the year placement Sottoum will be immersed in the everyday operations of CMA, from instrument maintenance to staff schedules; from studio design to student enrollments. We can’t wait for Sottoum to come back and put all of that newfound knowledge and skills into making Green Gecko and Cambodia a better place!

Before Gecko

During Gecko

After Gecko

Vun Vun’s dream has come true! After a very successful year at Paul Dubrule School, Vun began the search for a job in a reputable establishment… and what a job he found! Vun is now working at the ‘runner up of the Community Category Travel + Leisure 2014 Global Vision Awards’ and in the Top 25 Hotels of Asia, Shinta Mani Club and Resort. A hotel that follows Gecko’s own vision of community spirit by providing a Development Centre, Hospitality Program, Permaculture Farm and a Microfinance Arm, we are very proud that such a hotel sought after Vun’s skills and personality! 14 | Green Gecko Project

Our young leaders—Humanitarian Youth Leadership Symposium It was an exciting time when 3 of our young ladies were accepted to attend The 5 th Humanitarian Affairs University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Phnom Penh. The event brought together six hundred and eighty aspiring global leaders to share their innovative and sustainable ideas on: “Using education as a means to break free from poverty” and “Creating a sustainable community programme to end poverty”... and our three beautiful girls were among them. Despite being the only delegates still in high school and completely surrounded by University scholars, graduates, PHD students and specialist in the humanitarian field... Kim Suan, Nott and Kunthea held their own. They looked the part, they were confident and although they knew they didn’t have the formal education of their peers, they had something much more... they were LIVING EXAMPLES of the very solutions the Symposium seeks. As the girls sparked up a conversation with other delegates, Rem and I slipped away and left them to it. We sat watching from a far, in awe. “They really look like they match” Rem said, meaning you couldn’t tell our girls apart from the other young international professionals. It was this moment, this very special moment that we realised they had ‘arrived’, arrived from their very long and hard and courageous journey to a place where their wildest dreams just became their reality. Tears of joy and pride filled both our eyes. Annual Report 2014 | 15

our goals for 2015-16 Making our families independent Green Gecko as we know it will one day transform and not be functioning as an onsite NGO. After talking with our young adult morning classes, Mum discovered that they were also thinking the same as her‌ we need to help and encourage our families to become financially independent. With 12 families already independent, we want them to show the other parents, that with hard work and commitment, it is possible. Mum wants to spend some activity time with the older Geckos to come up with a long term plan that will see all 32 families sustainable before 2020!

Employment opportunities for our mothers To help our families become financially independent, we need to look for opportunities to allow our mothers to learn and earn in a safe and reliable environment. The majority of our mothers have never held down long term employment in a job that we would consider suitable and positive. But with them being more financially literate we need to support them in finding a way to earn the money to budget and save with. Gecko will look for social enterprise opportunities, including our already established projects such as Silk Screen Printing Lab, to allow our mothers to become self-supporting in a genuine, safe and caring setting.

Leadership Skills With our Geckos stepping up and becoming more involved in the decision-making process and problem solving, we want them to have the attributes to be leaders now and in the future. Skills such as team work, positive interactions, goal setting, cooperation, amongst others need to be a focus and we hope to find either an excellent and local Youth leadership program or use activity time to teach our Geckos and prepare for the wonderful opportunities that strong leadership skills can provide them.

More Permaculture Education Footprints Farm is growing every day and with some great backing from our supporters, more and more is being achieved. Our Gecko son Yoeurt is working so hard at making it a success, but we know he and our farm staff still have a lot of valuable learning to do. We want to make 2015 a year where we can offer them permaculture courses relevant to managing a farm and its many challenges in Cambodia.

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With much gratitude, Gecko’s founding directors, Rem Poum and Tania Palmer, and all the Green Gecko kids, their families and crew.

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