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Micro Businesses

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While micro-business' have always been a long term plan of the Project's, we had no idea it would or could come to fruition so quickly. The November 2006 government crackdown left the begging (and Gecko) community in dire straits. None of them were allowed on the streets without a legitimate business. It was an incredibly intense time; detention centres, family relocations, hunger and desperation.

Rem worked in overdrive liaising with the families; determining what business would suit them best and what was needed. Almost overnight, they were working in their own businesses. For most, it was for the first time in their lives. Carts were welded and painted, tarps, lights and batteries were installed and shelves were stocked. It was the busiest time we ever had in Gecko land, but at the same time, the most fruitful. All families signed contracts with the Green Gecko Project - agreeing that in return for these businesses - all their children must attend both English and Khmer school, beatings are to stop and stock is to be constantly replenished.

While we know great change takes time and are prepared for the occasional hiccup, we do remain confident that empowering these families is certainly a step in the right direction. Our fingers are crossed.

Here are some of the success stories so far:
:: BOOKSTALL FOR MOEUN FAMILY (geckos: Saron 14, Reit 7, Tar 3)
Saron
Saron begging with her baby sister
Proud as punch
Proud as punch
swinging time
Tar sleeping on the job

By far the most outstanding micro-business award goes to the Moeun family. They received the first the micro-businesses (starting a few days before the begging crackdown) for a different reason. The day I arrived back from Australia in October 06, I saw Saron standing outside a restaurant with her 18mnth old sister in a sling. Expecting huge smiles and outstretched arms, I was instead greeted with eyes glued to the ground and her face paralysed with melancholy, she hadn't been to school in two months. She was a mere shell of the delightful and bright child we knew and loved and it was obvious something had to happen ASAP. We called an emergency meeting with the parents (father a landmine victim). What would it take to allow her to stop begging? A book stall. We obliged immediately on the proviso that she never begged again and could return to school. It was agreed and within 36 hours they were out there working proudly in their business. 72 hours later, business was booming and they extended their cart so they could carry more stock. They haven't looked back since and are the model micro-business family. Saron hasn't missed a day of school.

:: FRUIT STALL FOR MAO FAMILY (geckos: NiPreab 13, Larn 9, Mong 6 and Me-an 3)
Larn
Larn in the old day's
Ni Preab and Larn
Ni Preab and Larn
Larn and Mum
Larn with mum and baby sister
They say you can't have favorites (out loud), so just let's say, seeing this family in a business brought the most joy. The Mao kids are original gecko's and use to sleep on the pavement during the night and hang our on the river bank by day. Their story is one of the worse, this family has featured in many a gecko newsletter. Larn had an operation on his groin, Mong was abducted, the father use to be a glue-sniffing addict and domestic violence was incredibly high. Now they are housed, all the Children of school age attend both English and Khmer school AND they have their own business! The Mao Family chose a fruit stall.

:: BOOK STALL FOR LANG FAMILY (geckos: Srey Neang 14, Boram 13, Srey Nich 7 and Srey Net 3)
Srey Neang begging
Srey Neang begging befo're
Lang family
The Lang family
Srey Neang
Srey Neang now
The Lang children are also original geckos and have the highest rate of attendance. Although the family has suffered some alcohol and gambling issues (like many of the families), they uniquely place a high value on education. Srey Neang and Boram are always the top of their class both in Khmer school and in English and they enjoy learning immensely. The father is a landmine amputee and although he begged as well, Srey Neang was definitely the main breadwinner - begging for hours on end. She absolutely detested the indignity of it and started to significantly loose her beautiful spirit. Now with the book stall, the whole family can take turns in earning a living.

:: BOOKSTALL MO'S FAMILY (geckos: Mo 11)
Mo's family business
Mo's family busines's
Mo
Mo
dance moves
Having a dance
Mo comes from a family with very violent older sibling history. Nov 06, Mo's leg was sliced by a carving knife by her adult sister in anger. The wound was 3 inches long and an inch deep. As a direct result of this we approached the mother and asked what was needed to stop the violence, again it boiled down to desperation lack of education and income to survive. Since the incident and sponsorship of the book stall, we have been able to keep a very close eye on the family. They now have a decent income to support themselves, but they know it is conditional.

:: FRUIT STALL THE CHAN FAMILY (geckos: Tee14, Nang 11, Not 9, Nit 6)
Tee begging
Tee in his begging day's
Not
Not
Nang
Nang
Yet another sad story, their father died before the last baby was born, leaving mum with seven children unable to support herself. The eldest daughter Nang has epilepsy, eldest son Tee is at a precarious stage of his adolescence (like most teenagers). All children use to beg til early hours of the morning. School attendance was low and erratic and the Nang was particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. As a condition of their business venture, the children now attend school, they no longer beg and funny enough -Nang's epileptic seizures have significantly reduced. Their mum works very hard, sometimes til dawn and Tee sleeps at Green Gecko to keep him from going astray

:: BOOK STALL THE MOEUNG FAMILY (geckos: Tou 12 and Chhai 10)
Lovely Mum
Lovely mum
Chhai
Scally way Chhai
Tou
Tou
Tou and Chhai have one of the loveliest gecko mums. Tou is a quiet girl, deaf in one ear from an unattended infection and Chhai is a lovable scallyway. Both are gorgeous kids and have been with us since day one. Their dad plays music for handicapped buskers. They use to be hard core beggars, now they don't beg at all. They have started a book stall and their beautiful dignified mum couldn't be happier.

On behalf of these families we would like to THANK all the generous people that have sponsored these projects. You have not only provided a small business, but you have given gifts beyond their dream's dignity, self-respect, freedom for education and HOPE. There are more in the pipeline, each business costs around $180-$200 US to set up - so, if you are interested in sponsoring a micro-businyess (in part or in full), please getinvolved@greengeckoproject.org. While we may not celebrate Christmas in Cambodia, it may bring extra meaning to someone's wherever you are. smiley

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