History of Woking refugee charity to be preserved by Surrey Heritage

Seven 'Lost' [Vietnamese Boat] children at one of Ockenden's homes, 1978
Ockenden Vietnam appeal leaflet
Logo for the community play 'The Vision: Tales from Ockenden'

Ockenden International, a Woking based charity that has provided shelter, training, education and hope for thousands of refugees from around the globe, will have its history preserved thanks to a grant of £42,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The headlines after the Second World War made grim reading. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over Europe were left without homes, without family, without a future. In the quiet Surrey town of Woking three women decided that they might be able to help, first by inviting 17 displaced East European teenagers to spend a holiday at ‘Ockenden’, the family home of Joyce Pearce. Thus, in 1951, Ockenden was founded by local schoolteachers Joyce Pearce, Ruth Hicks and Margaret Dixon to help displaced children after World War II. From these humble beginnings it worked for 50 years helping refugees from around the world, including boat people escaping from Vietnam and Tibetans fleeing oppression.The project is timely because it will tie in with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of World Refugee Year, 2009.  The story of Ockenden is of vital significance because it reveals how ordinary people made a difference & changed the lives of thousands across the world.  The people of Woking took the charity to their hearts & supported it throughout its existence and this project will perpetuate the charity’s legacy of promoting good community relations.

The grant has been given to Surrey Heritage, based at Surrey History Centre in Woking (part of Surrey County Council), and will enable the charity’s extensive archive, held at Surrey History Centre in Woking, to be catalogued and made available online. The memories of over 15 people who worked for or were helped by the charity will also be recorded and surviving historic film will be digitised and preserved for the future. At the end of the project a small travelling exhibition will tour Surrey to bring Ockenden’s story to all parts of the county.

In addition, the Woking Community Play Association will stage a specially written drama called ‘The Vision: Tales from Ockenden’, for performance from 27 April to 8 May 2010 to celebrate the inspiring history of Ockenden, the creation of which will bring together local people of all ages and backgrounds.  Woking Community Play Association a registered charity,was established in 1990.  Enshrined in its constitution are ideals of encouraging the “spirit of friendship and co-operation by the promotion of Community Play projects within the Borough of Woking and the organisation of community arts projects open to participation by all”. The Association have performed numerous plays and community events and the success of these demonstrates their value in building friendships, excluding no one and fostering community cohesion.

The records of the association are a vital source for studying the charity’s genesis & development and once catalogued, will be available online and unlocked for users globally. Project Archivist, Jill Hyams, will have the task of cataloguing this significant archive which runs to over 100 boxes. As cataloguing proceeds, the input of volunteers will be crucial as they explore the archive to feed into the scripting of the play.

Michael Page, Stewardship and Preservation Manager at Surrey History Centre said “This is an extraordinary story, which raises issues that are still with us today, from which will come an extraordinary play – a great celebration of remarkable lives. The story of Ockenden is an inspirational one about ordinary people making a real difference”.

Helyn Clack, Surrey County Council’s Executive Member for Safer and Stronger Communities, added “This is an exciting project that will serve to protect and preserve this magnificent organisation’s past and allow others to access its information and assistance in the future.”

For further details of the Ockenden project please contact:

Mike Page or Di Stiff, Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND. Tel: 01483 519737

This archive entry was last updated on 14 May 2018. Information incorrect or out-of-date?
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