Our Story

Why was CORDE started? Who founded CORDE? How has it evolved? Find out! 

Where it all began – Cambodia 1993

In 1993, after decades of horrific civil war and conflict, Cambodians began the enormous task of nation rebuilding.

The most pressing concern then was poverty, lack of opportunities and poor health. Mines had destroyed soil fertility and made cultivation dangerous. More than half of the population was under 15 years old, many unable to attend school. Access to health care, particularly oral hygiene, was woefully inadequate.

Sowing the seeds of hope

In 1994, 7 friends launched CORDE. Utilising training as dental aids through United Nations programs acquired at the refugee camps along the Cambodian- Thai border, they started with building wells and promoting dental health. To address food and nutrition challenges, they also started a small nursery growing fruit trees. As the trees grew, previously dispirited communities saw their sense of hope return.

Education for all

It soon became apparent that to create a long-term sustained impact, they had to work on capacity building and education. Decades of warfare had left increased suspicion, lawlessness and crime. Family solidarity and moral behaviour were weakened. CORDE began to introduce moral concepts into its educational programs, as well as literacy and language training. CORDE trained a pool of tutors to start tutorial classes under houses or trees, wherever space was afforded to them, by oil lamp or battery operated lights. For many children, these classes were the only education they received.

In 2002, CORDE expanded is programs by starting the University for Education and Development (UniED), providing formal educational training to hundreds of young people to help them gain the skills in community building, agriculture, and primary health care.

Reaching the masses

In 2010, CORDE celebrated its 15 year anniversary. CORDE has now provided literacy education to more than 10,000 children and youth, in more than 50 villages across Cambodia. We have 15 CORDE Centres of Learning providing a formal space not only for tutorial classes but also community activities.

Growing together- building lasting partnerships

Critical factors in CORDE’s success have included the organisation’s understanding of the vital role of basic education for poverty reduction and the strength of its grass-roots commitment to expanding access to education. CORDE works closely with local schools and governments, to reduce duplication and deliver services more efficiently.

Its influence is felt all over Cambodia. In the Reangkesay locality, for example, a public school principal requested CORDE to conduct moral classes for the students once a week which soon grew into two days a week. In another locality, a UniED student began a children’s class. Because of his service, leaders requested to start a class and decided to build a grass-roofed school.

CORDE continues to expand through partnerships with other similar educational institutions, and expects to reach all provinces by 2020.

A sustainable model

CORDE’s success springs from its ability to identify and train committed young people serve the needs of their fellow rural community members, rather than migrate to work in cities. By providing a small allowance, young people are able to work in place, assisting family farms and businesses, thereby also strengthening family ties and vitalizing rural communities.