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Pestalozzi-UWC Scholars. © Pestalozzi International Foundation 2020.

Locally based charity having a global impact

The name ‘Pestalozzi’ may be known to many local residents and people nationwide. However, does anyone actually know who they are and what they are doing now? This locally based charity – the Pestalozzi International Foundation – has evolved over the years and their alumni continue to have an impact around the world, as their Company Secretary, Stella Keen, reports. 

Pestalozzi has had a presence in East Sussex for over 60 years. A 170-acre site in Sedlescombe was purchased in 1957, which became the Pestalozzi Children’s Village. The first children, who arrived in August 1959, were mainly European, from refugee families who had been placed in displaced persons’ camps in Germany after the Second World War.

They were joined by a number of British children from deprived backgrounds. The children received an holistic education based on the theories of the Swiss educational reformer and humanitarian, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi.

In 1963, 22 Tibetan children from Tibetan Communities in Exile arrived at the Village, marking a shift in direction for the charity. Since then, Pestalozzi has evolved to offer life-changing educational opportunities to students from developing countries and areas affected by conflict.

1967/68 saw the last of the European students at Pestalozzi and from that point, students from other parts of the globe, including Thailand, Nigeria, Vietnam, Tibet, Palestine, India and Nepal, began to arrive. The Children’s Village became the International Village, with the students living in a multi-cultural, multi-faith environment, with the intention of fostering understanding of the diversity that exists in the world and encouraging international understanding.

Pestalozzi alumna and graduate Aswathy volunteering in India. © Pestalozzi International Foundation 2020.

The programme underwent a further change in 1997, when Pestalozzi began to offer two-year scholarships for academically bright young people aged 16-19 from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who had already completed basic secondary education (the equivalent of GCSEs). For almost 20 years they studied for the International Baccalaureate Diploma at a local college in Hastings, then between 2016-2019 students studied for A-levels at Claremont Senior School in Bodiam.

The very difficult decision to sell the Village estate in Sedlescombe was taken and the last students passed through its doors in July 2019. The Village played a very significant part in the lives of the many students who had lived and studied there over the decades, as well as the many staff and volunteers who had supported them. A number of reunion events took place to allow the alumni to gather together for one last time in what for many was their spiritual home.

Courtesy of the Pestalozzi International Foundation 2020.

However, this was not the end of the road for the charity! With a much smaller team, the newly named Pestalozzi International Foundation moved to an office in St Leonards-on-Sea to continue the very valuable work of providing educational scholarships to those bright and motivated young people who would struggle to complete their further education without financial support.

Pestalozzi has developed a partnership with United World Colleges and the current scholarship students study the International Baccalaureate diploma at Atlantic College in Wales. UWC has a very similar ethos to Pestalozzi, in that it encourages intercultural and international understanding – viewing education as a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

Pestalozzi recognises the transformational nature of education and the benefits not only to the students it sponsors, but to the wider communities they study, live and work in. The scholarship programme has also been the springboard for many alumni to continue their education at colleges and universities around the world, including prestigious institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

However, the programme is as much about giving back to others as it is about receiving an educational opportunity. Its holistic nature encourages personal development and the acquisition of leadership skills to enable the students to have a wider impact on the world around them. Pestalozzi alumni have followed many career paths, including healthcare, environmental conservation, medical research, international development, information technology, engineering and education. Some have established their own NGO’s, including a school in Nepal.

Alumnus Chris Yaluma, PhD Candidate at Ohio State University. Photo: Nancy Anderson

The impact on those who have been supported by the charity is far-reaching. Prabidhik from Nepal, who has recently started his second year of studies at Harvard told us: “Pestalozzi has changed me academically, socially and emotionally. It brought me from a small corner of the globe and showed me the whole world. It has paved a beautiful path in my life. I have become more mature, resilient and global in my outlook.”

In 2019, the charity established the Pestalozzi Development Fund, which provides seed funding to enable alumni to set up or expand projects or activities of benefit to their own or other developing communities, thus amplifying the impact of the programme. Grants made so far include providing maternity kits in Zambia, the development of an online education platform in Nepal, a sanitary pad project to tackle period poverty in Zimbabwe and an organic aquaponics venture in Uganda.

Alumna Dawa Zangmo from Bhutan, Biomedical Scientist, Microbiology department, University of Brighton. Courtesy of the Pestalozzi International Foundation.

Mags Alexander, the Student Selection, Alumni Liaison and Development Fund manager for the charity, stated: “It is inspiring and humbling to see the personal growth and development of these motivated young people. All they required was the opportunity and belief in their potential. Education has the power to change not only the lives of the individuals who benefit from our scholarship programme, but can also have a much wider impact through the philanthropic outlook that the alumni develop.”

It will not have gone unnoticed that the impact of COVID-19 on all areas of our lives has been devastating. Charities, particularly smaller ones, are finding fundraising increasingly difficult as many people find themselves with less disposable income to contribute to good causes. Many traditional fundraising activities have stalled during 2020 and now more than ever charities are having to explore new and innovative ways to raise funds.

Courtesy of The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2020.

With Christmas only a few weeks away, Pestalozzi’s next fundraising activity is The Big Give Christmas Challenge, a match-funding campaign, which runs from 1 to 8 December. The charity is hoping to raise £7,500, with donations received during that week potentially being doubled by match-funding. Your support means a young person can complete their further education and make a difference in the world. You can make a donation of any amount online here during the campaign week.

One donation. Double the impact!

More information about the work of the charity, including ways to donate to its work, can be found on their website.

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Posted 22:03 Tuesday, Nov 24, 2020 In: Charities

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