Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Surprising Gift From The Kids To Support Andy’s Running

Exotic Voyages’ have just received a very special gift from our beloved Green Gecko Kids for our “soon-to-be-hero” Andy Carroll, who is training very hard to attend the Angkor Half Marathon in Siem Reap this December to raise money for Green Gecko Project. Andy was really surprised when he saw these touching images from the kids. Showing how much they care for this event as well.

This is a big surprise for him and the whole Exotic Voyages team; the kids are so cute to encourage our English man Andy. So creative are the kids! Their sweet idea has just brought Andy the biggest motivation ever. Now the only thing he expects is that he would not be alone in this way to raise money for the children. Supporters have begun to contact us for encouragement and donations, that’s excellent and we deeply appreciate this.

It is very hot and rainy in Hanoi these days, however our Andy practice running before going to work every day, he looks tired from the heat and humidity sometimes, but never stops determining to fulfill his plan. There are 4 months to go to the Angkor Half Marathon, with the great motivation from the kids; he will try his best to be a “professional runner” and have chance to meet the kids in Siem Reap. It’s hard but a worthycause.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Visit Green Gecko’s Home

Let’s visit the beloved house of the Green Gecko Family in Siem Reap, Cambodia through some pictures that Exotic Voyages are provided by Green Gecko Team.

Since the very first days with numerous obstacles, "There was no running water, there was nowhere to for them to bathe, feed them properly, brush their teeth or receive medical treatment... or even a place to just hang out and play" Green Gecko Kids have a decent schoolhouse now.

Now the Green Gecko House is home to more than 70 kids, they play and learn together and live the life of real kids as the motto of Green Gecko: “Where Kids are Kids.” After 8 years, the rustic house is really a lovely shelter to the disadvantaged kids, where they find their smiles back. Although there are many difficulties and lack of necessity, the kids and Green Gecko Team determine to build their house more beautiful and comfortable

A Green Gecko Kid is cleaning her house

Class for Green Gecko Kids

The Kids plant vegetables in their own garden to feed themselves. They call this "Mother cucumber"

Let's see how neat our kids are

Some corn plants in the garden

Place for chickens family  
Well-decorated Green Gecko House in 7th Birthday

With a lot of dedication to organize relevant places for the kids to sleep, play and learn, Green Gecko team has to maintain it decent enough for the kids’ growth. This is not an equipped house, a modern school or a very interesting playground but it’s the paradise for the kids. Exotic Voyages desire to support Green Gecko to develop this place as long as possible to keep the innocent happiness of the kids. 

Green Gecko House in the flood 2011

Water is everywhere
Kids have to move to higher place

Let's share the story of Green Gecko Project to donate for their better future! 

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

First running week for the children

"It has now been one week since I decided to take on the challenge of running in the Angkor Wat half marathon for the Green Gecko charity. When deciding to do this I knew it was going to be extremely tough, but hopefully life changing for the children and for me also." 

I hadn't envisaged how tough this was going to be though, the distance is one thing I was expecting to challenge me, but the heat is well that is just cruel! After, only a few meters you can feel the heat sapping your energy, you start to sweat losing valuable body fluids and you have only just begun I feel this will simply be my biggest ever challenge and one I hope I can manage.

My first run on Wednesday morning 2.8km time 22:51 minutes was a little soul destroying and the realization if I needed one how dedicated I need to be to do this. I had to stop numerous times gasping for breath and water. 

My latest run was much better running 4.14km in just 28 minutes I can already see progress from following a regime of running 5 days out of 7 to increase my stamina and speed slowly!

So seven days in, I can safely say this is not going to be an enjoyable event to train for and my motivation is solely for the Green Gecko's, knowing what they have been through makes my complaining seem irrelevant and nonsense. Helping their lives a little will make this all worthwhile. 

Just a few dollars make such a difference, $12 buys a child some much needed and will be very much loved shoes - without shoes they are not allowed to go school. $12 is what many will spend on a few drinks. But to the children this money will mean comfy footwear and education.

$20 will buy a Gecko family some eggs and chickens; this will enable them to eat healthily, but also the ability to sell the chickens and begin to support themselves for the future. $20 is less than what you would spend on a family meal at KFC, but to the Gecko's it will be chicken dinners for the future not just one snack.

The Exotic Voyages team, have been doing what they can to support me, with lots of vocal support and most importantly lots of extra food! I hadn't realised how much was required to eat and luckily the team have taken this as part of their mission to help out. I am now fully stocked with bananas and other daily fresh fruit and every lunch is being handpicked to ensure I can eat enough. Let's hope it continues, as weight is something I cannot afford to lose.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Great News of the first donation!

Great news from Exotic Voyages’ Charity campaign for the Green Gecko Project! The first donation has just been made by a warm-hearted American man named Shariff Mohmoud. Big thanks to him for his appreciated help.

The amount of 20 pounds will help the children and Gecko families much more than he expected. With 20 pounds, Green Gecko Project will help a Gecko family to start a little family of chickens – a great way to boost a family’s nutrition and income. This will make a long term contribution to the family in the future. They not only have eggs for their children to eat immediately but also can raise the chickens in long term and feed them daily from the money of selling chickens.

The Green Gecko team is going to advise and support their farm to make sure it will create benefit. Having a small chicken farm is a dream of Gecko kids; it’s easy now when they have 20 pounds, about 120,000 Cambodian Riel, can buy 8 -10 chickens. When they have got a little farm, many things will be changed. They will feed the chicken and work daily, and much more meaningfully, they have something to hope and make effort. They are happy every morning when collecting some eggs and looking forward to seeing baby chicken grow up, saving the money from selling them to renovate their roof for this rainy season. 20 pounds will make a different soon!

Monday, 15 July 2013

The inspiring story of Green Gecko Kids

This is amongst the most emotional stories I have ever heard in my life. The story of admirable people who founded Green Gecko Project and the extraordinary effort of the former beggar kids forced me to do something for them. It’s not the most miserable story in the world as there are a lot of unhappy and unlucky people outside but this is the most meaningful story to me. It’s the story of compassion and eternal vitality of human beings.

A touching video of a story narated by a Green Gecko Kid

The story begins from the paradox between the luxury travel city of Siem Reap, home to renowned Angkor temples and truly sumptuous hotels and resorts versus the agony of the poor living and earning on the streets. There are hundreds of families with small children living in extreme poverty or homelessness due to war injury and social evils. The innocent kids have to beg on the streets to earn money for their families, some are even hit and abused by their own parents in the distress of hunger. 

Green Gecko Kids before being helped by Tania

The images of the tiny beggars holding in their arms a smaller sibling crying bitter tears or being faint for the hunger deeply touched the warm heart of Tania Palmer, an Australian-born lady who went to Cambodia after her inside calling for the children. Tania wanted to help. She wanted to give the kids something that could not be taken away from them. The simplest solution was to feed them.

Poor beggar kids on Siem Reap's streets
Helped by a nice Cambodian guy Rem Poum, Tania determined on bringing a practical support to the poor kids. Tania is an angel in the innocent eyes of the kids, they thought that she would comeback her country soon, however she and Rem got married and the story of the Green Gecko Project was officially narrated. Since the day Tania and Rem decided to take care over the kids, they know that they have to face a lot of difficulties and be under a great burden of responsibility for the kids’ future. They had promised that they would never let them go.

On very first days, it was very hard to find a place for the kids to eat, sleep and learn. Green Gecko Project actually started as a single table of six on the pavement at a local restaurant, this grew to many tables being joined together to feed sometimes more than 30 street children. 

On the first days, beggar kids were fed in local street restaurant
Having been refused by a local English school for the reason that the kids were dirty, stinky and noisy and that the parents of "normal" children would not like it if they were in the same class, Tania and Rem are much more decisive to create a safe “home” for the kids, they hired one room and one teacher for one hour per day. 
Beggar kids began smiling when they were taken care by Tania
"We didn't have high expectations initially but the kids proved us wrong. We expected about 12 to come, but 25 did. We expected the numbers to fall but instead they grew, sometimes up to 42 per day! It was evident after the first week that we needed to split the class in two" – Tania said.

The first class of Green Gecko Project
The kids who used to beg and live on the streets turned out to have great passion of learning and proving themselves. They have been striving for their better future when someone gives them a chance to change their lives. However, the more successful it became, the more evident the limitations became. "There was no running water, there was nowhere to for them to bathe, feed them properly, brush their teeth or receive medical treatment... or even a place to just hang out and play" Tania said. Green Gecko members have to stand together to build their better place and run their program.  

After 8 years of foundation and development, Green Gecko is the real house for more than 70 former street kids. It’s so meaningful and encouraging that they have changed their lives totally at least till today. From the images of poor dirty children with sad eyes and scared face on the streets, they are now Green Gecko Kids who are being taught English and vocational training program. They are aware of that they were late for school for several years; some kids will have finished their learning program when they are 23, 29 or even 32 years old, but they believe a bright future is waiting for them after the age. Green Gecko with its hard mission will help them to realize their dreams. This is just the beginning of the Gecko story and they need a bright end for all the kids, which need help from many supporters from outside. That’s why Exotic Voyages is running with this program for Green Gecko Project. 
Much change has been made in the lives of the kids
A huge difference achieved by Green Gecko Project

Although the kids began to be happy now under the caring of Green Gecko project, to achieve the better life today, that big family with more than 70 children and only several supporters has made a huge and tireless attempt, overcome a lot of difficulties such as lack of food, clothes, teachers, classes, etc and they are still facing with the big daily question how they can maintain a decent living for the disadvantaged kids. 
Green Gecko Kids are reparing their own table for studying
The kids are such incredible human beings. They inspire the Green Gecko members daily with their strength, courage and their innate ability to roll with the punches and come up with a beaming smile. Everybody would like to maintain their smile together, not to let them come back to the scary past. To do so, Exotic Voyages will stand by them as much as possible to help them fulfill their daily wish list, from simply shampoo or toothpaste for a month to the bicycle helmets for them to go to school. Let’s donate to help continue the great story of Green Gecko Project for the future of the kids.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Our idea of running For Green Gecko Project

"Exotic Voyages has started to realize a very special idea : running for Green Gecko Project - a project helping more than 70 street children in Siem Reap, Cambodia in feeding, education, health care, vocational training. On behalf of our Exotic Voyages Team, I'm going to join the Angkor Half Marathon this December! We hope to receive much support for the great project for the former street children" 

Having spent two years living in Southeast Asia and enjoying all the area has to offer and being fortunate to see some wondrous sights and meet incredible people all over, I became aware how truly lucky I am and that I should not take this for granted and it was then I decided in someway I should give something back, to help those less fortunate who really need support.

Being lucky enough to work at a caring company ExoticVoyages who continually  work to support local communities, families and charities throughout Vietnam, with such great programs such as building schools, sponsoring a family on Halong Bay along with taking warm clothes each winter to the mountain villages just being a few of these. So, with these great ideas in mind, we decided to look to another one of our countries we work with to see if we can help. It was at this point I remembered how just two years ago our friends at The Heritage Suites work with a number of local charities, had helped with a program taking rice and other necessities to people affected by the terrible floods which many have forgotten already.  It wasn’t long before I was on the phone to Jam Nsouli from the hotel asking for her advices and indeed who this charity was! Soon after, I was introduced to the website of  The Green Gecko Project. The Green Gecko Project supports over 70 children who previously lived and begged on the streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia. They provide security, education, love and opportunities to these children through their formative years and into their adult lives, empowering them to achieve their full potential. After some initial research, Tania Palmer, the founder of the charity and a real inspiration to many, soon answered the phone. We agreed that we would do all we can to help and bring the attention to their great cause.

Tania Palmer and her children when she decided to run Green Gecko Project

The first class on the very first day 
The former street children helped by Green Gecko Project have time to "play as a kid " now
We had decided that whatever we choose to do, this had to be a challenge and to be a real effort on our behalf, although a simple donation would be greatly welcomed no matter what the size! We wanted to do something much more and to really give back to a country that has given me so much.
With this in mind, I took myself out of my comfort zone and found myself accepting my biggest ever challenge and signing up to take part in the Angkor Wat half marathon in Siem Reap, home to the Green Gecko’s. So, in around twenty weeks time I have to train myself and be able to complete the twenty-two Kilometers within three hours, which in a runner may be very straightforward. However, if you consider I have never run this far and indeed had little exercise in 20 years this really is a colossal challenge and not merely about the run on the first December, it is about changing my daily life to try and help another’s life change daily.

What we are hoping to do is raise awareness of the great work by the Green Gecko project along with hopefully bringing some financial reward to help them continue their great work. Any support would be welcomed whether just vocally or financially we welcome all.

Exotic Voyages are planning many events to help promote the half marathon and the charity project. We are also creating a unique tour of which a portion of the money will be given to the charity. This will give travellers a great way to support a charity whilst taking their own luxury trip to Asia. Hopefully this will include time helping local people to see the day to day running in accordance with the Green Gecko’s rules.

By Andy Carroll