Visit Report of the Chairman

Smiling Gecko visit report, Christian Zwicky, July 2-5, 2017

Dear friends of Smiling Gecko,

I would like to provide a short update on my recent trip to Cambodia visiting our team at the farm and at the office.

My ‘findings’:

  • The teams (Cambodians) work independently, without instructions and start their work in the morning without ‘supervisor instructions’ – very capable, proud and motivated employees and 3rd party workers.
  • English classes take place for all employees every day (including workers with no permanent contract)
  • Hygienic aspect: the kitchen shows highest hygienic standards (even in the fridge everything is packed separately, dated and labeled). Over the whole farm area hundreds of trash cans are installed and the garbage is recycled centrally.
  • The soil was made fertile and plants are growing well – the micro mash tents help holding insects back but allow air and water to enter. Animals (pigs, chicken) look very healthy and egg fertility raised over 90%.
  • Children nursery and school classes are joyfully attended.
  • Our farms monthly money support has been reduced strongly as they are able to sell their live-stock and vegetable on the local market – by end of 2017 they should be 100% independent. We still transfer know-how on how to grow and how to sell/market to them. It remains our responsibility to do ‘sounding’ sessions with them to make sure that they will be able to be ‘independent of SGC’ as the agriculture output is depending very much on ‘natures will’. After 2.5 years we are probably further than Switzerland with its never-ending farmer subsidation practice…..
  • Our ‘benevol’ experts from Switzerland (Tobias, 2x Lukas, Stefanie; Gilles) do an excellent job on site and provided very positive feedback about their experience and the working conditions
  • The school project Phase 1 is set up, teachers in training now; first children will start kindergarten and 1st grade in November, 2017 (each following year a new grade will be added and construction phase 2 will follow 2018)
  • >45 Smiling Gecko Tuk-Tuks cruise on PP streets. The drivers pay us 1$ per month back but have to show up for a monthly inspection to prove that they maintain the Tuk-Tuk well and properly. Additionally, for 50% of the Tuk-Tuk a GPS monitoring system is in place.
  • The kitchen team cooks tremendously and presents the dishes in a beautiful manner.
  • The pool: beautifully set up using local dark-shiny stone, XXL size, framed by a wooden floor – more than an eye-catcher and refreshing in the evening after the volley-ball game in soft sand from the Cambodia seaside.
  • The carpentry is in production of frames for the school projects using local Cambodian wood; the wooden constructions for the new beautiful, air-conditioned and huge houses have been constructed by our carpentry and also the furniture was provided by them; an apprentice ship program for several youngsters has been started by Lukas.
  • SGC has more than 100 permanent contracts with employees running, provide fair salaries above local average, including health and accident insurance (not common locally); indirectly more than 1000 persons profit of work/SGC income and in-indirectly more than 4000 persons profit in the region of our efforts
  • The staff in our office in PP increased and is working very concentrated on their tasks (finance, HR, PR, Project Manager School, teacher education, Tuk-Tuk Manager……)
  • In the morning hearing the employees sing and work, smiling when running or passing by, cheerfully returning a ‘hello’ and waving their hand….provides a good feeling.
  • Trip on the ‘Draisine’ (Laufmaschine; chart with diesel motor on oldest train tracks (1930) was quite an adventure
    ….passing an old bridge which was partially blown up by the Pol-Pot regime
    …in an old train station we found different German books and handwriting theory, hand notes and pictures of a beautiful female from East-Germany (Andrea Puhle, Neustadt, 1967) which seemed to have a relationship in the 80ies with a local Cambodian
    …I felt like Indiana Jones removing the cobweb
    …and am committed finding her back in Germany trying to understand her story
    …anyhow – who has more than 300 km railway tracks in front of a farm which is practically unused? At least not many NGOs 😉 …..
  • Many new ideas are popping up, are started to be discussed and ‘fermented’ before the proper planning will take place.
  • I could probably continue this way over many pages
    …best thing to do for you: come on site, enjoy the atmosphere, culture and the achievements…and be inspired…

Summarized: the progress since my last visit end of 2015: just amazing….difficult to describe in words and most impressive what has been achieved in this short timeframe.

 

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Children learning eagerly; being washed in nursery when parents work; fun after school

 

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Trash can assembly; trash separation; separation on farm and reuse of disposal

 

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Carpentry construction copied for school buildings; independent workers

 

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Plants growing quickly

 

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Smiling Gecko Team on farm (Gilles ‘Bene-vol’ from Hotelfachschule Luzern, photo left, person to the right) and at office; joint lunch with active exchange and fun

 

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Swiss ‘Benevol’ Support: Architect Lukas 1; Carpenter Lukas 2 with team; English teachers Stefanie

 

Enjoy the pool…..what an experience – relax and do a yoga lesson in our shala!

 

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Wonderful new guest houses…..

 

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Quite an adventure: on German railway trails set in the 1930ies….by French….experience history…

 

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Reload your batteries….best in class meals…just adorable!

 

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Healty, biological and happy chicken and pigs…

 

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School project in preparation (by the way: our farms looked the same 3 years ago…imagine!)

 

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Prosperty and wealth around the farm….small shops closeby, mopeds not seen a year ago….

 

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Children Surgical Center (partner NGO of Dr. Jim): delivered medicine from ‘Permance Mainstation Zurich’ and happy faces in Cambodia….’bridging needs’

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