Over the last 15 years the 'epicenter' of our project was Gecko Central, where you would find the Geckos involved in activities, classes and daily assemblies. At our noisy - but very productive - hub all of our kids and young adults learned skills such as Bokator and cooking or took extra classes to support their very important Year 9 and 12 National Exams. You would have found the older Geckos providing homework help to the younger ones or it was just plain fun and games, with them all embracing their inner child. Nutritious meals were served to make sure their tummies and brains were ready to learn.
During 2020-2021 all schools closed throughout Cambodia, and these activities moved to online classes and workshops. The Geckos have been resilient and hardworking, but now they have a lot to catch up on with many of them attending their Khmer school for a full day of classes. Our Gecko Central is now a place for night classes, whether it be English, our Young Adult Program or one off workshops.
We all know how important fresh, clean drinking water and a good meal is for the brain and body before heading off to study. As part of our Community Living Scholarship, Green Gecko provides a budget that ensures our students can provide themselves with healthy and nutritious meals full of protein, vegetables, fruit and of course rice, because no meal in Cambodia is complete without a big bowl of rice. Fresh, clean water is available from our corner farm for all of our families to take home.
This traditional Khmer martial art was an integral part of Green Gecko's program for over 15 years. Originally it was brought into the centre to help our Geckos form self-discipline and self-protection, as well as much-needed way to burn through all of their excess energy, but today it is a strong part of their culture and tradition. However, in a wonderful break from tradition, the Gecko girls were some of the first females to ever learn and perform the sport and we were one of the very first teams in the country to perform our own live music alongside every performance. We now have over 15 Geckos who have successfully gained their 'Black Kroma', the final stage of the martial arts and many more independently training to further their skills and advance in the sport they love.
It has always been important that we support all of our Geckos with their studies and this includes their homework. It is reality that none of our parents completed any education; in fact, many of them were illiterate in Khmer until recent years when Gecko offered literacy classes for our mothers. Even though our parents have now developed some wonderful parenting skills, assistance in the area of homework and study is a definite struggle at home. In the past Gecko conducted homework sessions for all of our students, where Khmer staff and some of our older students were there to help out and sign off where necessary. Now all of our families have strong older siblings who are there for their younger brothers and sisters. Or you will find a group of Geckos working together at Gecko Central offering each other peer support. For our Year 9s and 12s we offer additional tuition with a trained teacher to help them through the difficult National Certificate Exams … you should see the whiteboard at the end of a maths lesson (hint: no calculators allowed!).
Traditional subjects such as maths and history are not the only important tools for life, everyday living values and challenges we face and how to find a solution are equally, if not more important. We have had regular teachers (Khmer and English) coming in weekly to share knowledge about the world covering subjects such as honesty, anti-bullying, consent and being kind. We also bring in specialists such as the Women's Resource Centre and Penhjet Counselling Services to hold workshops on drugs & alcohol, domestic violence, gender issues etc to holistically create a well-rounded Gecko.
Like any school and family daily/weekly catch ups are important and we held a quick daily assembly at the end of classes to share news, things that are happening and any issues that need solving. Our kids were in charge of running the daily assembly in Khmer and English with each of them taking turns to be Captain Gecko for the day. Every assembly would start off with a group breathing exercise to get focused, and then move to our Captain Gecko to talk about and share the news from staff and other kids. We would finish off with a big cheer or even a hug if they wanted to, to get on with the day. These days our â€˜assembliesâ€™ are online through a special page for Geckos only. Here we continue to share all of our special news, events, photos and celebrations. Once a month we all come together to celebrate birthdays, special moments and just to catch up … like all families do.
Kids will be kids and making sure that they grow up with the skills to manage a household, to understand financial literacy and to contribute positively to their community are important lifelong skills. Whether it is doing their dishes, sweeping, making a monthly budget on needs and wants or simply having a shower every day and understanding the importance of hygiene, the Geckos' daily lives are full of these everyday life skills.
Not only is it important that we have a clean home, it is also so very important that we have a clean community and that we are positive role models to our neighbours, village, commune and town. The Geckos volunteer in regular town clean up days and also when they see a big problem that work on fixing it by cleaning up the rubbish. We also make sure that our 'front yard' and street is kept clean and have even seen the neighbours improve their part of the road! It is a win win for everyone! On top of that we are plastic free at Gecko … and you will know about it if you try to walk in with a plastic bag or a yummy ice coffee in a plastic cup!
Problem solving and solution finding are so important, but sometimes it can be serious and at other times boring… so we have always made it fun at Gecko! Through interesting lessons using stories and real-life situations to play games or by working on puzzles that make us think, logic is always being used at Gecko. In fact, it is our answer to any problem that is brought to us … "Switch your logic on, what do you think the best solution is?". As our students graduate and move onto university or employment, their lecturers or bosses are letting us know how well our Geckos think â€˜out of the boxâ€™ or follow through on solving a problem by offering a range of solutions.