Jorge Rico is a man of many talents: devoted teacher, project manager, designer and all-around extraordinaire, Jorge is a crucial cornerstone overseeing the Cambodian arm of the Koya Project. He oversees the designing, building and fine-tuning of the aquaponics systems at Little Hearts orphanage and Light of Mercy Handicap Centre. In addition, Jorge trains the students in building and maintaining the systems.
Before Koya Project, the Colombian-born Jorge worked in the Arts and Community Cultural Development areas as a Music Coordinator for Brisbane Multicultural Arts Centre in Australia, where he has spent most of his life. He performed in numerous cross-cultural music ensembles and art fusion projects including working with the renowned Australian musician Linsey Pollak in “Out of the Frying Pan” at the Sydney Opera House.
Also a qualified interpreter and experienced bodywork therapist, Jorge then moved to South East Asia in 2013, landing in Laos, before heading to Cambodia almost 4 years ago. “I have always been drawn by ideas of sustainability”, said Jorge, ”I met Michael, the Founder of Koya Project through my previous role as sustainability manager of a luxury resort in Cambodia. I had the opportunity to take a couple of Murray Hallam courses with Michael and the rest is history.”
A unique aspect of Koya Project is the encouragement of inclusivity in the hopes of touching a wide range of lives regardless of socio-economic status, ethnicity or disability. Jorge finds this particularly inspiring when it comes to the Light of Mercy centre,
“I have witnessed blind and deaf students come out of their shells and quite literally bloom in terms of their desire to learn aquaponics farm building and maintenance skills,” he says, “This could end up having a much wider effect, as they return to their families and communities, or even if they decide that they want to work with us and help build other systems, it could become a source of income for them as well.”
Jorge is excited about the future of aquaponics and how it is taking shape in Cambodia, “I’m privileged to be part of a revolution in terms of food security and food purity, as we develop better and more sustainable ways to produce the food that we eat.”
Food security and learning sustainability skills are imperative for countries like Cambodia, and this knowledge needs to be transferred so as to benefit the wider community that they can replicate with the right support.
Paying the knowledge forward is one of the core values of the Koya Project, using a train-the-trainer peer-based learning model so students may transfer their knowledge and skills to their home and community.
“I am inspired everyday by seeing the enthusiasm and pride that the students have in their “small sustainable oasis” that they have built, and particularly by seeing how these students can overcome adversity and disability to play an active role in their homes and in their community,” – Jorge Rico