Gekko, Better Days’ flagship project, is a non-formal educational centre providing personalised education and counseling support for young people experiencing displacement.
Gekko reimagines the delivery of education in humanitarian settings by emphasising Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and trauma-informed methodologies and has been highlighted as one of the best educational programs in Greece. In 2021, the 5th Global Entreps Awards Committee selected Gekko from among 5,000 candidates in 126 territories as one of the 100 Best Practices in the world on Sustainability (UN SDGs), Innovation and/or Good Governance. Operations of the original Gekko site in Mytilene concluded in 2022 and the new Gekko in the centre of Athens launched in July 2023.
Gekko was conceived by Better Days on Lesvos in May 2017 to challenge existing models of education in emergencies. Gekko Kids provided informal, alternative education in the centre of Mytilene for 12-18-year-olds. The majority of our students were unaccompanied minors (UASC), meaning they arrived on Lesvos without parents or guardians and, as such, were extremely vulnerable. Gekko Kids integrated high-quality education with mental health and psychosocial support services in a dignified, trauma-aware environment. Gekko operations on Lesvos reached optimal capacity in 2019-20 with 915 registered students and 452 psychosocial support sessions.
Just as it did for the rest of the world, 2020 brought many changes to Better Days. Due to a number of interconnected factors, including Covid-19, the fire that destroyed Moria, and the implementation of closed, securitised camps on the islands, we expanded our projects to mainland Greece.
Through our annual needs assessment in Athens in early 2022, we spoke with 57 service providers and 130 young people between the ages of 15 and 24. The results of these conversations were invaluable. We learned that displaced young people in Athens are in need of services that lie at the heart of Gekko: trauma-aware psychosocial support integrated with high-quality, individualised education. Thus, Gekko in Athens was born. Our summer pilot program for 50 students launched in July 2023, and we will reach full-scale capacity in fall 2023 with 120 students.
BetterDay’s non-traditional teaching methods and personalised approach to education will help students obtain accreditation and widen their career prospects. Gekko offers a safe learning environment for 15-24 years old who are experiencing displacement, and serves as a space where they can offload their troubles and fight for their dreams. We are developing Gekko programming consciously, aware of the difficulties displaced students face with accessing and attending school. We aim to reduce the barriers students face and pave the path to quality education and accreditation.
Geckos are small, colourful lizards that live on every continent except Antarctica. Geckos are incredibly diverse, with great variety in size, colour, and patterns among the 1,500 distinct species. Resilient and adaptable, geckos can lose their tails in self-defence and regrow them within just 30 days.
We recognize much about our Gekko students in the school’s lizard namesake. Gekko students come from around the world and have diverse identities and life experiences. What unites them is incredible courage, resiliency, and hope for a better tomorrow.
Our core curriculum includes Greek, English, and Math, key skills for any of our displaced students. Our core curriculum is designed to help students navigate their new context and promote readiness to return to formal education. Outside of the core curriculum, other academic subjects such as Biology, Geography, and Environmental Science have been taught.
At Gekko, we support our students’ skill development and career goals by providing the opportunity to sit official exams and acquire recognized certificates and qualifications. After thorough preparation with their teachers, our advanced students have the opportunity to sit both the TOEIC and Ellinomatheia (Greek language proficiency) qualification exams.