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Humble beginnings

Pestalozzi has a rich history, dating back to 1959 when the first children arrived at the Village in Sedlescombe. The charity’s ethos is based on the principles of Swiss educationalist and reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi who believed in educating the head, heart and hands, and has gone from strength to strength since those humble beginnings.


In 1947, the British Pestalozzi Children's Village Association was founded by Dr Henry Alexander, a German, Jewish refugee who moved to the UK before the Second World War, and Mrs Mary Buchanan, a British sociologist.


It wasn’t until 1957 that the Pestalozzi UK story moved on when the group purchased the 170 acre Oaklands Estate in Sedlescombe, East Sussex. Two years later, in 1959 the first children arrived at the Village. They were Europeans who ended up in Displaced Persons’ camps in Germany at the end of World War II and were joined by a number of British children from deprived backgrounds. Between 1959 and 1963, Pestalozzi focused on providing the power of education to European children who attended local schools.


In 1963, 22 Tibetan children from Northern India, along with their house parents, 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 a number of countries including Thailand, Nigeria, Vietnam, Tibet, Palestine, India and Nepal began to arrive.


The programme underwent a further change in 1997 when Pestalozzi began to offer 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 the International Baccalaureate Diploma at a local college and then between 2016-2019 students studied A levels at Claremont Senior School.

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Pestalozzi Today

Today, Pestalozzi continues to provide the gift of education to students from a number of developing countries including Belize, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Tibet, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Uganda through a partnership with United World Colleges International. 2019 saw the inception of the Pestalozzi-UWC Scholarship Programme, which will support students to study the International Baccalaureate Diploma at UWC Atlantic in Wales.


2019 also saw the launch of the Pestalozzi Development Fund, which will provide seed funding to our alumni allowing them to make an earlier and greater positive impact in the world.


For 60 years we have grown tremendously with the help of our donors and supporters; we have been able to offer bright and determined young men and women the chance to change their lives for the better - and you can continue to help by supporting us here.

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Inspiring young people to make a difference in the world.