The 'epicenter' of our project, Gecko Central, is where you will find the Geckos involved in activities, classes and daily assemblies. At our noisy - but very productive - hub you will find all of our kids and young adults learning skills such as Bokator and cooking or taking extra classes to support their very important Year 9 and 12 National Exams. Or maybe providing homework help or possibly having just plain fun and games, embracing their inner child. A nutritious meal is served before everyone heads off to Khmer school for their formal National Curriculum studies
From Monday to Saturday, Gecko Central is open for all of our kids to come and participate in a range of activities. Whether it is learning English, solving some crazy difficult logic problem (you will often hear our Gecko's saying "Use your logic!"), enjoying our computer lab, learning how to make a yummy meal or just relaxing and enjoying our library, it is non-stop action. Every day finds something different, but the one constant, you will always find us laughing and having fun whilst learning.
We all know how important fresh, clean drinking water and a good meal is for the brain and body before heading off to study. Six days a week, Gecko Central provides a healthy and nutritious meal full of protein, vegetables (from our very own Footprints Farm) and of course rice, because no meal in Cambodia is complete without a big bowl of rice. A healthy snack of fruit is given before heading off to school with full tummies and a focused brain.
This traditional Khmer martial art is an integral part of Green Gecko's program. Originally brought into the centre to help our Geckos form self-discipline and a much-needed way to burn through all of that excess energy, the martial arts is now a strong part of their culture and traditions. But in a wonderful break from tradition, the Gecko girls were some of the first females to ever learn and perform the sport. Our Bokator team is one if the very few teams in the country to perform its own live music alongside every live performance. We have over 15 Geckos who have reached the final stage of the 'Black Kroma', an impressive result in the time they have been learning this discipline.
It is important that we support all of our Geckos with their studies and included in that is 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. Gecko conducts homework sessions Monday-Saturday for all of our students, where Khmer staff and some of our older students help out and sign off where necessary. 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 regular teachers (Khmer and English) coming in weekly to share knowledge about the world covering subjects such as honesty, 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 hold a quick daily assembly at the end of classes to share news, things that are happening and any issues that need solving. We have passed the baton onto our kids and they now run the daily assembly in Khmer and English with each of them taking turns to be Captain Gecko for the day. Starting off with a group breathing exercise to get focused, our Captain Gecko goes on to talk about and share the news from staff and other kids and finishes off with a big cheer or even a hug if they want to, to get on with the day.
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 make it fun at Gecko! Through interesting lessons using stories and real-life situations to play games or 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 … "Use your logic, what do you think the best solution is?".
Once a week the Geckos get to have a fun movie night with our staff. Choosing a movie and settling down for a couple of hours of fun, excitement and a glimpse into another world is the highlight of the week for many Geckos. And if they are extra lucky, they may find a cup of popcorn or a home baked goodie made by one of our older Geckos who love to cook, in their hands.