I had a delightful surprise a couple of days ago.
Out of the blue, I got a call from an unrecognised number from Sydney, Australia. Strange – simply because it clearly wasn’t my family nor one of my older Aussie friends.
It turned out to be one Meguerditch Asurian – also known as Micky – a Palestinian/Armenian ex-Pest from the Village’s earlier times! Neither Micky nor I had ever been aware of each other when we were both living in Australia. We have only recently noticed each others’ names through this project’s activities on Facebook.
The nicest thing about the call was the special, almost instant connection that seems to occur whenever two ex-Pests meet for the first time. Although Micky and I had lived at Pestalozzi during different times (me 1959-66, Micky 1968-76), we immediately felt that indefinable but enduring bond tied to the Pestalozzi experience. And there were enough overlaps in our respective experiences that we could both easily connect with each other’s memories. Needless to say, as typical Pestalozzi kids, we had no problems filling the conversation!
One thing I found reassuring was that (along with most ex-Pests, I think) we both look back in a reasonably balanced way: always relishing the amazing and valuable experiences we had but also recognizing the community’s limitations at the time. People with no knowledge of the Pestalozzi Children’s Village often get the impression that our enthusiastic and positive memories must be at least a little exaggerated (after all, we were children in care!!!). It can be hard to accept that a “home” could possibly be that good! As most who know will agree, while the Village wasn’t perfect, it was quite wonderful in many respects.
Micky told me that when people ask him where he calls home, he still replies, “Sedlescombe!”. I really do feel the same way. After almost 70 years, right to the present day, the Oaklands estate in Sedlescombe remains the only place in the world that gives me a gut-level sense of belonging. In fact, the main thing I can’t get used to today is that the cattle-grid at the main entrance has been removed in the past few years. Its absence has helped me discover that the almost daily “rumble on arrival”, when we were driven across the grid, became the sign that I had come home. Not to “a home”, but to “my home”.
So, speaking to Micky has already given me an unexpected pleasure – and reinforced my awareness of the good things that have been done for many in the name of Johann Pestalozzi.
For me, this is one of the exciting things to anticipate about reconnecting with our Pestalozzi community – from the very beginning right through to today: the recognition that so many other people were fortunate enough to experience this brilliant Village. There are many hundreds of us spread across the world. Add to that all the staff, volunteers supporters and fundraisers. Then add the families that we have had (who have also been affected in one way and another). We are talking about thousands of people whose lives have been impacted by that little ladybird!
On 15thAugust 1959 a young boy, by the name of Richard, arrived at the Pestalozzi Children’s Village. At that moment he was the only child there! Over the next days, weeks, months and years, more children arrived. The Village gradually filled, expanded, developed and changed. It also led to other groups taking the idea on later for themselves in various countries.
2019 will be the 60th anniversary of that moment in Sedlescombe. Please remember that the Village is not simply the place you recall, in isolation. It has been a pivotal link for so many different people. If we can get together next year (either back in Sedlescombe, or in-country where you live) it will be a chance to discover and celebrate what an impact Pestalozzi has had on lives around the world. I hope we can make this happen.
So, do keep in touch: email us, post/message on Facebook – or contact us here. (We may even move into the 21stCentury and get a Twitter account shortly!) – or even take a leaf out of Micky’s book and phone us!😊