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A helping hands for kids

 

A helping hands for kids

The one thing that wide-eyed newbies and bleary-eyed old hands in Cambodia often hold in common is the question "what exactly are all these NGOs doing for the kids in Siem Reap?"

One positive example is the Green Gecko Project. It was incredible to witness just how their work has impacted the lives of 70 former street children who have been with the project since its launch in 2005.

As part of an environmental education programme, the kids went on a recent day trip to the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary organised by the Sam Veasna Centre. Including ten dangerously undercaffeinated adults, the group left the project site in trucks at about 6.30am. While the adults shuffled and mumbled about the ungodly hour, the kids were having a whale of a time, running, playing, laughing, excited about the day to come and ready for any adventure.

To describe all the ways those kids amazed me during that day would take pages. Their manners, unbroken English, the way they picked up any rubbish around them whether it was theirs or not, and their kindness, wild curiosity and awareness reminded me of all the infinite possibilities childhood held, and how such possibilities are being opened up for these sassy kids. Possibilities that no one could have dreamed of when they were working the streets of Siem Reap five years ago.

As we glided over the treetops of the floating forest at Prek Toal, the guides pointed out different birds. The kids listened avidly, letting out a shout of excitement each time that they saw one of the hundreds of species that make their home there (Note to twitchers: we were quite far away, not disturbing the birds, honest).

The kids were intrigued, asking a hundred questions, and answering them too. "Are there any sharks here?" asked a youngster nervously. "No," replied one of the older boys, Vit. "They're saltwater animals, you won't find them here." Now, ask yourself honestly, would you have said that? At 16?

Tania Palmer, the Australian founder of Green Gecko, her husband and her team, have been working hard to teach the kids respect for themselves and for others. From that respect flows everything else. They've built a beautiful, quiet space in which to do it.

So, in answer to the question of what NGOs are doing for Cambodia's kids, the answer should be, "for some of them, quite a lot."

Nicky McGavin | AsiaLIFE magazine (Issue 54, June 2011)


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