"It began one evening as the autumn of 1966 was drawing into winter. And it began simply with a question millions of concerned people had asked all over the world as the Vietnam war ground on its brutal way. 'What can I do to help?'. (p.21, Children of the Ashes, James Davidson Ross)

Cord was founded in 1967 soon after the launch of Project Vietnam Orphans in response to the news that thousands of orphans were being left homeless as a result of the Vietnam War. The organisation’s founders, Pat and Marion Ashe, alongside a congregation of St Mary’s church in Leamington Spa, wanted to see lives saved and transformed in this situation so far removed from the United Kingdom. In this way Cord began as a personal expression of both love and faith.  Working on the ground and taking a personal stance, Pat and Marion Ashe approached the situation with a commitment to helping transform one life at a time.

With the support of friends and community members in Leamington Spa and elsewhere, over the course of the 1970s Cord galvanised the focus of its work on the needs and rights of refugees and children, working on the Thai border with refugees fleeing Cambodia in particular.

Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, Cord’s strategic approach evolved from one that responded to the immediate humanitarian needs of refugee communities to one that helped them to achieve long-term, equitable and sustainable access to education, livelihoods, water and sanitation, and other basic services. This was based on a fundamental recognition of people’s rights, and saw Cord develop new and committed working partnerships with local and international organisations. During this time Cord responded to a number of refugee crises, expanding into new countries including Sudan, Iraq, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Eritrea, Albania, Zambia and Afghanistan.

Countries that experience civil war are often affected by further periods of violent conflict. This threatens the security and wellbeing of communities, increasing the risk of displacement. Since 2004 Cord has worked to help address the root causes of conflict in the countries in which it works, recognising that many of the countries it works in have experienced periods of violent conflict or civil war.

For the past 13 years Cord’s work has focused on addressing inequality, marginalisation, and exclusion, issues that fuel tension between communities and that can lead people to resort to violence as a way of settling their grievances.

Cord is celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2017, and is excited about the prospect of working to help more communities in the coming years to realise and embrace their rights to access basic public services, to engage with local governments and have their voices heard, and to reconcile themselves with their experiences of violence and injustice as part of a longer journey of healing. It has worked in many different countries, at various points under the directorships of Pat Ashe, Martin Lee, Michael Godfrey, Brian Wakley and our current Chief Executive Mark Simmons.

Cord currently works in Burundi, Cambodia, Chad, Laos, and Myanmar.

More information about the early history of Cord can be found in James Davidson Ross' excellent book, "Children of the Ashes". Although no longer in print, it is available from a variety of online booksellers. Book Details: 1974. Lutterworth Press. ISBN 0718820738.