We know Cambodia to be one of the poorest countries in the world, but unbeknown to many, the country’s economy is one of the fastest growing globally. And while the average economy growth rate has remained at a high average of 7.7% between 1995 and 2018, the poverty rate has dropped drastically, from 52.2% in 2004 to only 13.5% in 2014. Although this is good news, much of the population are still vulnerable. According to Poverty Analyst of the World Bank in Cambodia, Neak Samsen, roughly three million Cambodians would fall below the poverty line if there was a loss of $0.30 of income a day, bringing the rate of poverty back up to 40%.
There are a number of factors being targeted to reduce poverty in the country, including improving and broadening education. One such organisation based in Siem Reap uses a holistic approach to education. The Green Gecko Project is a grassroots NGO that not only gets beggar children off of the street, but also sets them up to create better lives for themselves and their community, free from poverty. The organisation has been operating since 2005 and has already seen several of their children graduate and successfully go on to work in a variety of disciplines, including medicine, physiotherapy, social care, national sports and within UNESCO. The goal of the organisation is to create sustainable, positive change within the community; a ripple effect created by the children.
The Green Gecko Project is made up of different facets that give the children a well-rounded education, which adheres to their specific needs. For example, in addition to the traditional subjects like Maths and English, the students attend lessons in life skills and values. The aim is to provide them with an awareness and perception of things that affect them in ways they might not understand, ranging from personal hygiene and nutrition to domestic violence. The project makes sure to instill a strong sense of community within the children, as well as consideration for the environment, which they do by leading activities like clean-up days in the local areas.
Extending their care further, the Green Gecko Outreach program also helps the parents of the kids to break out of the poverty cycle with literacy lessons, vocational training, micro-business development and last but not least, parenting skills. Again, the goal is to empower these families to create better lives for themselves, in terms of employment, health and communication between parents, children and the wider community. Finally, the organisation has branched out to create other projects that provide additional enrichment for the local society. These projects include upcycling trash, offering therapy and wellness programs and organic farming.
The Green Gecko Project is not the only local NGO striving to make a difference to the lives of the local community, and hopefully with the increase of these initiatives, the poverty level in Cambodia will continue to drop.
To find out more about the Green Gecko Project and donate or volunteer to help, click here.
Image copyright belongs to Green Gecko Project.