I hope you have been keeping safe and staying at home during this global pandemic. Some of us may even have had the chance to celebrate Easter over the long weekend though I think many would be dreading the Monday blues and jumping on yet another video conference while working from home. However, the plight of a Cambodian NGO Smiling Gecko Cambodia (SGC) keeps me up at night and I feel strongly compelled to try and do something to help.
On 23rd March 2020, I had a long and depressing phone call with Hannes Schmid, one of the co-founders of Smiling Gecko. (If you have not heard of Smiling Gecko, here’s a talk we did in July 2018 to help promote the cause. For something more recent, check out my sister Roz Pho’s Instagram highlights here.)
Medical Situation Continues To Deteriorate
Around the villages near Smiling Gecko, 27 people (mostly elderly) have died. The families do not know what to do, and do not even know what a virus is. Since the pandemic, only 1 hospital could test for COVID, and only recently in April, a few more hospitals can test for the virus. The borders have been closed and food cannot be imported. About 10,000 people are relying on Smiling Gecko and everyone is badly affected. Hannes has decided to stay in Smiling Gecko and not return to Switzerland and in his own words, “the captain cannot abandon the ship”.
Schools Are Closed - School Kids Are Starving
The Cambodian government has forced all schools to shut, thus the Smiling Gecko school has also closed. Yet, many kids still show up at the school anyway because they do not have food to eat at home and they have been relying on Smiling Gecko to feed them. Smiling Gecko tries their best to feed as many people as possible. Fortunately, Smiling Gecko produces their own high quality bio-organic food and they are able to feed the community, and also able to sell their farm produce in the city to earn some income.
Barbara the school principal is also still there with Hannes. They went to visit the families who do not even have drinking water and so they went to deliver the water. One of the boys they visited was bitten badly by a dog because the dog was so hungry. Barbara is crying the whole day as she says all “her children” are dying and she’s devastated that they cannot even get checked for rabies when they are bitten.
Businesses Are Closed - Villagers Have Little Or No Income
All Cambodian factories and hotels are closed, and the workers have no more income. Smiling Gecko also had to close the workshop and their farmhouse hotel because all bookings till December are cancelled. Smiling Gecko staff are still being paid 50% of their salaries so that they have at least some income and not starve to death.
Please Join Us To Help Support Smiling Gecko
While the world is facing one of the greatest economic and medical crises, I am very grateful that I am here in Singapore sheltered in safety, with access to basic necessities, and able to write this email so that you may read it.
RPRE will be helping raise funds to be sent directly to Smiling Gecko Cambodia. Every dollar counts and can immediately help save lives. More information can be found at: https://www.smilinggecko.ch/en/smiling-gecko-in-the-corona-crisis-2020/
If you’d like to donate directly, you can send your donation directly to:
Account Name : SMILING GECKO CAMBODIA (S. G. C) Account No : 0010002748296 Bank : CANADIA BANK PLC. Address : 315, Ang Duong St. (Corner of Monivong Blvd), Phnom Penh Cambodia SWIFT : CADIKHPP
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation through Switzerland, Germany or the USA, you can also do so here. If you would like to donate through us, we can help assist too. 100% of proceeds go to Smiling Gecko.
Helping Smiling Gecko Install Solar
As if things were not tough enough, drought season is coming again soon. Since Cambodia is powered primarily by hydropower (and coal), the dry weather will cause 6 hour power blackouts for weeks and months. This will be similar to what happened in 2019 and many had to panic buy dirty diesel to run the pollutive and expensive generators. To mitigate against this, Smiling Gecko is hoping to install a 230kWp solar PV system on site. Some of you may recall that we were trying to help by arranging for financing and raising donations. Smiling Gecko has managed to get some monetary donations, and 1000 pieces of solar panels donated. They still need cash or financing support for the structures, inverters, cables, construction and electrical equipment etc.
The children and families in Phnom Penh, Cambodia urgently need our assistance. While it is fortunate to have Smiling Gecko’s help, funds are still urgently needed. We thank you in advance for your kind generosity and empathy.
Meantime, Stay Home. Stay Safe.
& the RPRE Team
Updated as of 5 May 2020
Total donations received: SGD $10,500.00
(Funds transferred: 21 April 2020)
Date Name Amount (SGD)
13 Apr C*S 100 13 Apr A*x 1,500
13 Apr S*V 500
13 Apr M*Y 500
14 Apr RW* 50
14 Apr SH* 50
16 Apr G*H 2,000
16 Apr K*W 1,000
16 Apr J*X 100
17 Apr *in 1,000
18 Apr K** 200
19 Apr Ro* 500
19 Apr H*L 500
19 Apr R*P 2,000
20 Apr H** 500