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Staff blog: Meet Mags Alexander

Even the wildlife at Pestalozzi loves Mags!

Mags in Nepal.

Mags and some of the Pestalozzi class of 2014.

Mags and Musa (one of our Pestalozzi alumni) with a statue of JH Pestalozzi himself.

Look at that view!

Mags at the 2014 Leavers' Ceremony, presenting the students with their awards.
16 July 2014

Student Programme Manager Mags Alexander has been at Pestalozzi for just over 10 years. She has seen dozens of young people through our scholarship programme from selection to graduation and beyond – and she regularly amazes staff by recalling minute details about our alumni!

  • Congratulations on your 10 year anniversary! How did you first get involved with Pestalozzi?

In the year before I joined Pestalozzi I had been studying in the north of Thailand. After my studies I decided to continue travelling for several months, which took me to Myanmar, Cambodia, South West China, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the West Coast of America. My jobs before this included being a Civil Servant, working with young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties and severe epilepsy and as a Residential Social Worker at a school for young people who had been excluded from mainstream education. Pestalozzi students are sometimes amused when I tell them one of my jobs while at school was delivering milk. We all have to start somewhere!

When I returned to the UK I wanted to continue my work with young people. It was the name that attracted me to the advert as I had never heard of Pestalozzi before and when I found out about the work of the charity I was keen to apply and visit. I recall the students I met during my interview visit asking me some enquiring and challenging questions!

  • What are your main roles and challenges at Pestalozzi?

I oversee the educational and pastoral support of the students, working with the Student Programme team to make sure students have the best experience that they can during their stay at Pestalozzi. As part of the selection team, I visit some of the countries from which our students are chosen and I’m involved in the follow up ‘bureaucracy’ required to get them here, which can be a real challenge at times! There is a lot of variety to the work and no day is ever the same.

  • So what are your favourite parts of the job?

Anything that involves the students, from selection right through to their Leavers’ Ceremony at the end of their two years. I have learned so much from successive generations of students, about their countries, culture and customs. I’m inspired by their drive and commitment to their studies and to making a difference in the world. I also enjoy meeting our alumni when my travels allow, finding out what they are doing now and the impact their own contributions to society are making in the lives of other young people.

  • Speaking of travel, I know you have some interesting stories!

One of my most memorable visits was to Nepal in April 2006. A General Strike was called, which disrupted travel plans and brought many people out onto the streets to protest. Although there was a call for protests to be peaceful there were clashes between police and demonstrators. I was in the middle of selection and the students had an extended stay as we were unable to send them back to their schools safely for several days due to curfews. As I recall the strike lasted about three weeks and was a turning point in the pro-democracy movement in Nepal. It was incredibly interesting being in the country at a time of such significant change.

  • Finally, what message would you like to give to our supporters?

Without the support of trusts, foundations and individuals our work educating and empowering young people would be impossible. Please take the time to read about our alumni and students and the change that the Pestalozzi scholarship has made to their lives and the lives of others. I can’t thank you enough for your invaluable support.

This article first appeared in our Spring/Summer newsletter... Download one here.

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Inspiring young people to make a difference in the world.