They made the association: Philippe Guichandut, Area Manager in 1991, tells his story...

Apr 29, 2024

I joined Enfants & Développement (that was the name of the association at the time) as Sector Manager in 1991. I worked on program design in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, and opened a program in India and Madagascar. I was also in charge of recruiting field staff (mainly doctors, nurses, social workers, managers, etc. for 2-year assignments) and maintaining relations with our donors. There had to be 6 of us in the office.
I made my first visit to Cambodia in January 1991, alongside Danièle Cheysson, the association's founder and President.

Icon 40 years of Planète Enfants & Développement

Let's put things in context: there were hardly any doctors, nurses or teachers left in the country. The Khmer Rouge had killed many of the intellectuals, sent them to work in the fields or driven them out of the country. People lived very modestly. There were still many traditional houses in Phnom Penh. I can still see people getting around on bicycles, wearing traditional black clothes. Infrastructure was very precarious.
This was before the arrival of UN peacekeepers in 1992. The country was still under the influence of the Vietnamese, and parts of it were still controlled by the Khmer Rouge.

I remember there were only 3 or 4 restaurants you could go to as a foreigner; you couldn't go out without permission, and you had to travel with an interpreter from the Ministry of the Interior. We were received directly by the Ministers, so we had to intervene at the highest level. We were one of the leading NGOs in the country. There was also a strong diplomatic dimension, to recreate links.
We worked in support of state programs, in state hospitals. We were mainly involved in training and curriculum design. Our first priority was pediatric health. Then we started working on preschool in Phnom Penh, in the Teacher Training Center.
We have also helped set up local NGOs.

Over the past 30 years, Cambodia has undergone incredible change, with a strong Chinese influence. I've seen this for myself throughout my career in other NGOs, micro-finance institutes and foundations, and in contact with my brother who lives there.
Schools have improved. A new generation of young people continues to be trained. They can get information and travel abroad. Entrepreneurship and creativity are strong.
But while a middle class has developed and poverty has fallen sharply, the gaps have really widened and there is still a high level of poverty today.

Over the years, Planète Enfants & Développement has pursued its mission to help children through a comprehensive approach to education, health and support for their families. This ability to renew itself, find new partnerships, expand into new countries and adapt its strategy to today's increasingly complex challenges is proof of its maturity and professionalism.

Philippe Guichandut

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