Thanks to being nominated employee of the year at PN Sydney (I’ll pay everyone back), last week I was both honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to visit Siem Reap in Cambodia – home to the world famous temples of Angkor and most importantly the Green Gecko Project.
The Green Gecko Project was originally set up by Australian-born Tania Palmer in 2004, who read a touching article during a Virgin in-flight magazine about an orphanage in need in Siem Reap. Tania walked off the plane and straight into a travel agency to book a flight. Several years of perseverance and tireless dedication towards making a difference for beggar children resulted in the birth of Green Gecko.
Now a home, school and family for 70 children who previously lived and begged on the streets of Siem Reap, Green Gecko provides security, education, love and opportunities to these children.
Through their younger years into adult lives, it empowers each and every child to achieve their full potential. Not only this, the project also supports the children’s families and the broader community through long term health, education and training initiatives.
Since its inception, Green Gecko unashamedly acknowledges that out of seemingly nowhere came the abundance of advice, support and brilliant ideas –all from simply from doing the right thing.
At Green Gecko, the children’s days are filled with a wide-ranging timetable, from English and Khmer lessons to living values, computers and the ancient Khmer martial art of Bokator. As well as this, there’s a schedule of specialised activities through volunteers – I was lucky enough to meet the pretty impressive pink-haired hoop lady, Jules, who was preparing the children for a hooping hip-hop performance for friends and family. I didn’t realise you could do so much with a hoop!
During my week there, I was taken aback by how much it really did feel like one big family. Every child has suffered a great deal, yet from the small children, right through to young adults – there’s so much laughter, love, smiles and support for one another and the wider community.
Green Gecko describes the children as having ‘boundless potential’ and this is no fabrication. I walked through the Green Gecko gates feeling horrified at the thought of each child’s past and how much they have suffered, but I left wearing a smile, feeling moved. In Tania’s own words ‘the kids are such incredible human beings. They inspire us daily with their strength, courage and their innate ability to roll with the punches and come up with a beaming smile’.
Thank you to the Green Gecko crew and children for such a memorable week and to Porter Novelli Sydney for giving me this opportunity.