In 1959, when the founders of the Pestalozzi Childrens Village began welcoming children from the wreckage of World War II into a manor house on a hill in the expansive countryside of East Sussex, could they have imagined the depths of love they were engendering in many of those children? A love which has surfaced into the Early Pestalozzi Children Project, and which has led to the successor Trust, the Pestalozzi International Village Trust (PIVT),  instituting an annual Founders Day to honour the organisation and the founding vision, and the people who have lived and embodied that vision for over half a century!

arc320The month and a half is really compressed into the last two weeks of October, and began with a two-page spread on the Project in ARC, the professional magazine for members of the Archives and Records Association - professional archivists, records managagers, and conservation professionals throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland (first page illustrated, left!).

There was then a crescendo in the Founders Day celebrations themselves, on October 24th, for which the Early Pestalozzi Children Project created an exhibition, and gave a well-received presentation to current international students at the Village, Trustees, PIVT friends and supporters, members of the local community, a group of the early children themselves, and even an early student volunteer and a retired teacher from the local school, who'd taught and vividly remembered the early Pestalozzi children: They are called "early" because, from 1965 the Village changed direction, transforming itself from a home for children with disrupted lives into an educational foundation offering international fellowship experiences to students from all over the world. It was no longer an appropriate place for the children who were there, and as they left and were placed elsewhere, their history gradually faded with their presence,  and was largely lost to the organisation itself; until the Early Pestalozzi Children reappeared!.

plaque320And then, on top of the Founders Day, one of the Tibetan early Pestalozzi children appeared, and spent a riotous night of reminiscence and discussion with Len Clarke and Will Eiduks, leaders of the Early Pestalozzi Children Project. The Pestalozzi Childrens Village was home to a small group of United Kingdom children, a large group of children from the European mainland, and a smaller group of children from Tibet, whom Len and Will have been seeking since the Project started: one of the many unexpected treasures of the Project being this serendipitous reunion. And then, to pile serendipity onto serendipity, one of Len's oldest school friends appeared - a local child, and not one of the Pestalozzi children - whom Len had not seen since leaving the Village over 50 years ago. More catching up and reminiscing.

To top which, Len and Will travelled to Brighton University on the 27th, to conduct a seminar on the Project and the many experiences behind it for members of the academic staff, and teachers on the Educational Doctorate programme; coming away with ideas and direction on how best to encourage and work with the potential doctoral students which discussion suggested would be interested in picking up the Village's stories and threads and running with them.

Rounding off the month with another, informal meeting with current Pestalozzi students; and thoughts with PIVT itself about the future.

Phew!

For the Early Pestalozzi Children Project website, go here.


 Additional material:

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The new Founders' Hall, with freshly mounted portraits. From the left: Swiss educationalist Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi; Robert Corti, founder of the first Pestalozzi Children's Village in Switzerland, and inspiration for England's; Dr. Henry Alexander and Mary Buchanan, founders of the Pestalozzi Childrens Village in Sedlescombe; and Eric Bourne, himself a refugee from war-torn Europe, who was the Village's warmly-remembered first Warden.

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Len Clarke and Will Eiduks in the Pestalozzi Centre hall.

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Part of the world the early Pestalozzi children found themselves invited to discover.
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Not quite Abraham Lincoln, but notes that PETT archivist Dr. Craig Fees made for his similarly short speech, introducing the Early Pestalozzi Children Project on Founders Day.