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Kicking goals, new kids, reverence and fresh eyes

step 1: rem on top of the world
step 2: taking shape
step 3. wonderful & watertight!
roomier than they look
view of the mezzanine level
detail of the construction work

It's been a couple of months of goal kicking, from every angle and by everyone. Rem and the construction boys have done an awesome job with the new education block; the slab is down and the roof is up and rainy-season-worthy. Meanwhile the Gecko boys have made some weatherproof constructions of their own - all the lunch huts now have mezzanine floor sleeping quarters! Constructed from planks of wood, bamboo, old whiteboards, bottoms of go carts, mats - you name it they are resourceful and creative to say the least!

Academically, the kids did really well in their Khmer school exams and excelled in their English classes at ACE. We are talking marks of up to 96%, top-of-the-class awards, merit awards and, most important to us, excellence in motivation and participation. 11 new high-achieving Geckos have been enrolled into ACE this week; excitement is at a fever pitch! Claire kicked off our Gecko child sponsorship program, dear friends put on awesome fundraisers in Australia and we have received some humbling and bighearted donations to bring the Geckos' education and facilities to the next level.

award winners!
94 percenters!
all passed to next level

Yes, even though we said it wouldn't happen - and many of you suspected it would - it has our Gecko family has expanded, by just two. We have a new little one-year-old girl, her mother a victim of severe domestic violence rendering her incapable of taking care of her baby. Very cute, our youngest Gecko hangs out with the gang all day, being squeezed and squished and smothered with love and boisterous Khmer affection. The other, a little 10 year old boy was brought to our attention through a child protection agency. To be honest when the request came, both Rem and I had mixed feelings, a baby was one thing, but as for an older child - fresh from the streets and all that that entails - we hadn't had any new additions to the family for 2 years now. Rem and I agreed instantly that it was not our decision to make. We sat down with all the kids and explained the situation, we told them that we hadn't given the agency an answer yet as this decision was theirs. After all Gecko was their home, their school and their family. Bringing in a new member was a big thing that needed thorough consideration. We asked them to think of possible problems and then suggest possible solutions. "Well, he won't be able to speak English but we could translate for him and help him with his homework, he won't know about the Gecko rules and about our chore's but we could teach him, he might feel shy about being in kindergarten but we can make him feel comfortable about that by saying we started in kindergarten too, he might feel left ou't but we can welcome him and invite him to sleep in our mosquito ne't" The problems and solutions kept flowing, nothing seemed insurmountable. It was time to vote, the decision was unanimous and one that filled my heart with awe and my eyes with tears. "The streets are dangerous, we need to get him off the streets, we welcome him to Green Gecko, tell them yes, he can come today." Could we be any prouder? No, we think not. A month on, our latest Gecko has adapted like a duck to water. Today he wrote the complete alphabet for the first time and read it out loud at assembly. The rest of the kids roared with an encouraging round of applause.

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On a sad note, a close friend of mine and a son of one of our beloved volunteers died prematurely of a perforated ulcer. The eldest of the Gecko kids insisted they join the cremation ceremony to show their respect and support. They made a goodbye banner, dozens of sympathy cards and beautiful posies of flowers. They wore the traditional Cambodian white cloth headbands for the boys and over the shoulder for girls and they even made one for my friends mum. They prayed and they held incense and when the cremation began they sat quietly in front and sang in a whisper, the Beatles song, "You say goodbye, I say hello". Here are some words from my friend's mum upon her return to England: "Having the kids from Green Gecko at my son's ceremony meant so much to us, their support and love was abounding - they were absolutely marvellous, a truly fantastic example of what you have given them. One little boy in particular was absolutely amazing, he showed me so much love - wiping my eyes and staying close most of the time and then after the cremation saying "no more crying". 'thank you again for all you did that day, we will never forget it."

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A few months ago when I was in Australia, I had a friend visit Cambodia and Gecko, a friend that had also visited us two years before. She sent me a simple text to say,"If I could wish one thing for you, it would be for you to see this with fresh eyes". Like anything, when you see it daily, changes are gradual and they often go unnoticed or unacknowledged. This month we have been blessed with the presence of one of our original Gecko volunteers, after almost 2 years she has returned. In the words of her own blog, here is what she sees through her fresh eyes ?

"The Green Gecko Project is where I volunteered for much of my previous stay in Cambodia in 2005-2006. The founders, Tania and Rem, created a safe place for Siem Reap's street kids to come and learn and play and get away from the negative begging environment. I just glossed over a whole lot of issues there in the interest of space, but trust me when I say the kids were in a bad place. All the kids are now in Khmer and English school (and earning top marks and awards), some of the parents have been given jobs at the center, and on this visit I have seen a HUGE difference in the kids' behaviour. I keep saying,my god, they're just not the same kids. I mean, they are, their personalities are as strong and beautiful as ever, but their behaviour is so much healthier than when they were begging. It's an incredible transformation.? What strikes me the most is how much they act like a cohesive family. They look out for each other, they share (!), and they encourage each other.? I think their street life was so unstable and unpredictable that they never really invested in each other, and certainly not in themselves. Now, that sense of identity and self-worth that we worked so hard to instill in the beginning has really taken root.? Not only are they invested in themselves, they're investing in their own FUTURE.

We went to an end of term party at the kids' Khmer school, where they cranked up the speakers and had dancing and singing contests and raffle prizes. The school is an "International School", meaning it's a private Khmer school with high educational standards, and there are 50+ Gecko kids enrolled there. During one dancing contest, 3 of the 4 kids competing were Gecko kids. They got the music going and our kids started flailing their arms and gettin' down with their bad selves. They were a huge crowd pleaser, with everybody screaming and laughing. Tania turned to me and said, tongue in cheek and smirk on face, "You know, we really must teach these kids some self-confidence". Needless to say they won first and second place by popular vote.


get down and boogie
get down even further
get down & get the winners prize!
big crowd to please
brothers dressed to impress
gecko wins the bicycle raffle too!

At a party for some donors who were visiting, the Geckos had a quick assembly to say hello and thank you.? We all sat inside an open-air concrete and thatch roof structure- the new school building and sleeping quarters before its walls have been installed. In the beginning of the assembly, Tania sat with the kids while they meditated silently for five minutes. And I mean the children were completely silent.? I felt myself getting very emotional, tears welling up. I looked over each of these children and thought of how many times I had seen each of them in the streets at 2 am, or worse, at 8am after having been in the streets all night; how their eyes had looked so old, their hair ratted, their clothes filthy, their faces unreal and plastic as they learned what emotional expression would bring in the most money; the home life where their parents encouraged them to take part in a lifestyle filled with disease, heartache, and hopelessness rather than one with opportunity and achievement.? And now these kids, they were about to sit down at real desks, in real classrooms, in their classrooms and with their own books, and you know what- I think for the first time ever these children have the sense that they DESERVE it.

It's been a huge pleasure to come back and see the program so successful, as evidenced by these amazing children and their ability to make something so productive and inspiring out of something so dark".

Through fresh eyes that was written, and through my welled eyes it was read. These children ARE absolutely awesome and we are most proud and grateful to know and love them. As always there are so many wonderful people who have made remarkable contributions to Green Gecko; without you these opportunities and results would not exist. You know who you are and we hope you know how appreciated you are.

playing house
mini furniture made from mud
more beaks to feed


pipe-cleaner art
new swing in action!
gecko sisters


Puppeteers
group effort
home made speakers!


the fabulous fundraising family
biggest Gecko event ever
mumma tania


:: HANDY LINKS BY POPULAR DEMAND????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Sponsor a child: For those of you who have been waiting endlessly for child sponsorship information? it has finally arrived! Thank you for your patience. www.greengeckoproject.org/flex/the_green_gecko_project_sponsorship/109/1?

Donations: www.justgiving.com/greengeckoproject

Gecko Wish List: www.greengeckoproject.org/flex/green_gecko_wish_list/203/1

Green Gecko Gift Shop: http://www.greengeckoproject.org/shopping/green_gecko_gifts/92/1

Until next time,

Much love and gratitude,

Tania, Rem and the whole Gecko Gang.




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