The GREEN GECKO project 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 GREEN GECKO project began when one tourist 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 GREEN GECKO Project now supports children that are ex-beggars! 97% of our kids are off the street and all kids of school age are now attending accredited Khmer school.
The GREEN GECKO project 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.
At GREEN GECKO, 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 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 kids' 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 the project. GREEN GECKO is steadily gaining parent approval and some now are even actively encouraging their children to attend.
The November 2006 government crackdown on begging in Siem Reap had varied effects for Green Gecko. We shared the same aim, to get the kids off the street but unfortunately it also left the families without any source of income at all. Trying to ward off even less desirable ways of surviving, the GREEN GECKO project sponsored (with the help of their friends) the development of micro businesses for many of the families. Book stalls, noodle stands and fruit carts are some of the businesses already up and running. One family is doing so well that they have extended their cart so they could stock more books!
Although the GREEN GECKO project is still in early stages of development, we have been overwhelmed by the support and the results already received and achieved. In July 2007, the GREEN GECKO Project became a registered NGO in Cambodia and on the 16th August 2007, we signed a 15 year lease on 1¼ acres of land. So while we are very proud of how far the kids have come, we are even more excited about the potential of their future. With continued support – moral, physical and financial - we are very confident that the future for these children and their families looks promising.
Thank you for being interested in becoming a Green Gecko Volunteer. As you may have guessed by now, spending time with the Green Gecko children can be as full on as it is rewarding. While we love having volunteers to hang out with, there is much more to it than that.
GGP is a Cambodian NGO, all of our employees are Khmer. It is our goal to make our project sustainable by strengthening the skills of our Cambodian team. The volunteers that are of greatest value to the project are people who have skills, ideas or experience that they are willing to impart to the Khmer Staff… so the ball keeps rolling long after they depart.
Of course anyone with a teaching, performing arts, creative, music or sports background has a definite advantage, anyone in natural therapies (especially acupuncture), medical and social work fields are also highly sort after. Even people with computer or accounting skills could make a difference by passing on their knowledge.
While the time a volunteer stays varies greatly, we have found 3 months is the ideal time to maximise the benefits for the children and your own experience. Anything less you are gone before you get to know them.
Successful applicants will need to provide a scanned image of their passport, relevant references, a police check from their country of residence and to abide by our strict Child Protection Policy. The reasons for this - we are sure - are obvious. South East Asia is sadly a breeding ground for child sex-crime and pedophilia and protecting our children is our highest priority.
If you only have a few days or hours and would still like to visit - no problem - please contact us and let us know. (please see our contact us page for details).
:: AVAILABLE DATES
Thanks to an abundance of generous beings volunteering their time and energy, our next available volunteering dates are from Mid December 2010!
Anyone that has experience in building data bases in Microsoft Office Access or other data programs, we have an Immediate position available for you. :-)
If you would like to volunteer before this date, please check out GLOBALTEER for volunteer opportunities in Cambodia and worldwide.
:: VOLUNTEERING… WHAT’S NEXT?
Volunteering at Gecko is certainly not for the faint-hearted, and before we go any further, we would like to ‘lay it all on the table’ to avoid any surprises on arrival. The more prepared you are for the children and the highly probable culture shock – the more fulfilling your visit will be for you and the children.
We recommend that you download and read the following documents thoroughly. After you have done this then please email your application or any enquiries to the email provided in the forms.
1. volunteers handbook.pdf
2. child protection policy.pdf
3. volunteer application form.doc
If on the other hand - after reading all this - you decide that Green Gecko may sound a tad too full-on or isn’t quite what you are looking for, there are MANY other wonderful NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) in Cambodia that need your support and time and as much as we do. If you are interested in learning more about them please go to www.globalteer.org.
:: FAQ'S ABOUT VOLUNTEERING
What hours will be working?
Although the kids are at Gecko are up at the crack of dawn we don't expect you to be there at that time, phew! Basically volunteers are responsible for 'Gecko Activities' and they occur between 8:30am and 4:15pm (Monday to Friday) with some time out for lunch and rest time. There are a few things on Saturday to get involved in, but it's not every Saturday and it doesn't involved lesson planning!
There are opportunities or events that sometimes fall outside these hours like excursions or football matches... which are optional and generally a hoot. As with everything, these hours may change as our programs develop.
What kind of backgrounds do the children have?
All of the Green Gecko children are former street kids who in their past have lacked order, discipline, and been abused. Most have had little or no parental care. Although they have improved in leaps and bounds it is important to keep in mind where they have come from and aware of the scars that they may be concealing, both physically and emotionally.
Do you offer accommodation for volunteers?
All our volunteers come to Cambodia independently or through an Independent Volunteer Program. Each volunteer is completely responsible for themselves (as our hands are pretty full already :-) There are many budget guest houses available that are clean, neat and safe, some very close to town and our centre, a volunteer favourite is the www.thesiemreaphostel.com. They also offer great discounts for Gecko volunteers so be sure to let them know why you are in town! Siem Reap is a very touristy town with many westerners and western food shops etc so if you come alone, you need never feel alone.
What clothing is appropriate in Cambodia?
On arrival in Cambodia you will instantly notice that they are very modest people, even the men. Bare shoulders in front of a monk, at the temples or in a pagoda are considered offensive. Also considered a no-no in Buddhist society is our ever-popular short t-shirts/singlets and low cut/hipster trousers or skirts that show your belly button or, even worse, your underwear! Short shorts or skirts are definitely frowned upon. It of course is not a rule, but it is a sign of a respectful, informed and conscious traveller.
What do we wear when volunteering?
All our volunteers are issued with "gecko crew" t-shirts that can be warn with your own long shorts, jeans, pants or long skirts.
What will my role be?
There are many roles and responsibilities a volunteer can take on depending on their skills, experience and interests but the main role of any Volunteer is to broaden the children's horizons by leading fun filled and informative Gecko Activities including: Me and My Planet, Movie Club, Logic, Library, Expressive Arts and a whole lot more.
Do we need prepare anything before we arrive?
The more preparation you do beforehand, the better equipped you will be to 'handle' the kids before they 'handle' you. Please try and remember your childhood games or activities and bring them along to share. Keep in mind most will need to be adapted to overcome language and developmental barriers. The simpler the better! Interactive lessons and games involving props, drama and fun are especially good. Initiative is our most needed resource! Please come prepared to think on your feet and give it your all.
Do any of the children have HIV?
Due to the UN's child's right to privacy we are unable to find out or disclose ac child's medical status or history. For this reason we take the same precautions with every child with the use of rubber gloves.
Do I need health insurance?
It is our strongest recommendation that you take our comprehensive medical insurance to protect yourself against accidents or serious illness. Good medical treatment is at a minimum and can cost the earth. Make sure your insurance has evacuation cover if ever the unmentionable happened.
Do I need to insure my valuables?
Understandably, the Green Gecko Project is not in a position to be responsible for personal loss or injury. While we trust the children wholeheartedly, please don't risk carrying anything valuable unnecessarily to the centre … or for that matter when out and about at night. The dangers are no different to that of any main city. Walking home alone at night in dark areas is not recommended, nor is carrying your bag in the front basket of your bicycle without tying to the handlebars.
Do you follow a code of ethic?
We follow the Early Childhood Australia's Code of Ethic for working with each other and with the children. Please go into their web site and read the Code of Ethics. www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au
Do I need to fundraise for Green Gecko?
While it is not by any means compulsory, many of our volunteers manage to do some fundraising before they arrive, and of course we greatly appreciate and always need financial contributions. Please feel free to use our website in any way you can to spread the news about the Green Gecko Project to friends and family who may wish to support your volunteering spirit without being able to join you in person. What you do with any money raised is completely up to you. It may be as simple as paying the centre's rent, or as detailed as actually developing a micro business for a family. We welcome project ideas, plans for how to execute them, and the funding to get them up and running, and we aim to get you as much involved as possible to make the most of your experience here. Ultimately, we hope you will return home inspired to continue your association with, and support for, the Green Gecko kids.
Does Green Gecko charge a fee to volunteer?
No we don't, but we don't provide any accommodation or travel assistance either. All Gecko volunteers come to us as either independent travellers (who find their own way here and around) or connect with a volunteer organisation who will help them along their way.
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