frequently asked questions
While all emails sent to Green Gecko are appreciated and eventually read, they almost certainly won't be as promptly replied to as one would expect in the western world.
Internet connections and even electricity are unreliable here in Cambodia and, coupled with the trials and tribulations of caring for 70 former street kids and their families, emails sometimes come off second best.
Here are some of our most frequently asked questions, and we hope your enquiry is answered here. If not, please drop us a line... and thanks in advance for your patience and understanding! :)
How did you pick the children for the Green Gecko Project?
Truth be told, we didn't pick the children... the children picked us! The children at Green Gecko have all been involved in the project since the early days. Some began eating rice at local food stalls with us long before we even became a formal organisation. Many more came along when we opened our first centre. Most have a history together that stretches back before Green Gecko began, begging and collecting recyclables on the same streets, and sleeping on those streets or in the ghetto near the Siem Reap river. All of the Geckos have had to struggle for their right to receive an education, and have maintained this commitment and drive over the years.
Are you taking more children into your program?
We recognise that there are limits to our funds, space, and the scope of the work that we do, and are unfortunately unable to take on more children into our program for this reason. We also know that providing a stable and safe environment has been crucial to overcoming some of the psychological and behavioural issues present amongst the children we work with, and that constantly introducing new children with very recent experiences of trauma and abuse would be counterproductive and disruption to this safe environment. By working closely over the long term with the 32 families we support, we believe we can best effect sustainable change and achieve our goal of breaking the begging cycle for good.
Do the children have to leave at a certain age?
At Gecko, we think of ourselves as one big extended family. Like any family, this means supporting our kids for as long as it takes for them to finish their education and step out independently in their adult lives. Because many of the Gecko kids started school so late, many of them will not finish school until they are in their 20s, or even thirty. We don't have a cut-off age, as we believe an individual approach that takes into account each child's needs, abilities and interests will best help us reach our ultimate goal... to empower these children with the skills they need to break the begging cycle, for good.
Are you a religious organisation?
We're not a religious organisation, although we respect the children's Buddhist beliefs as an integral part of Cambodian culture. We encourage the children's connections with culture and belief through various aspects of our program, including daily meditation and participation in Khmer Buddhist celebrations and ceremonies on major holidays, both with their families and as a part of our activities program.
I'm in Siem Reap for a short stay. Can I volunteer for a couple of days or weeks?
While the time a volunteer stays varies greatly, we have found three months is the ideal time to maximise the benefits for both the children and your own experience. Constantly introducing short term volunteers means we end up focusing more on the needs of the volunteer as opposed to the children. We also try to avoid shorter term volunteers as supervision, induction and child protection orientation all take time and energy, which takes our staff away from their other duties. Find out more about volunteering at Green Gecko here.
My school, university, religious or service group is coming to Siem Reap. Can we volunteer for a couple of weeks?
Unfortunately we have very few opportunities to accommodate volunteer groups at Green Gecko. We are already established in terms of buildings, and we employ permanent local staff to take care of maintenance and administration tasks wherever possible. We also have an ongoing volunteer program which incorporates a small number of teaching volunteers for three month stays, which we have found maximises the benefits for both the children and the volunteer.
So, me or my group can't volunteer for a couple of days... what else can we do?
If you're only in Siem Reap for a short stay, we welcome you to visit Green Gecko during our visiting hour to learn more about our project. Volunteering doesn't just have to be on the ground either... if you can't commit to a three month stay at Green Gecko, there are many ways you can support our work once you return home, including holding a fundraiser, sponsoring our programs or raising awareness amongst your friends and family. We also recommend you check out responsible tourism opportunities such as those at ConCERT Cambodia or Stay Another Day, as sometimes you can make the biggest impact during a short stay by spending your tourist dollars in sustainable ways.