OCKENDEN INTERNATIONAL, FORMERLY THE OCKENDEN VENTURE, REFUGEE CHARITY OF WOKING: RECORDS, INCLUDING PAPERS OF JOYCE PEARCE OBE (1915-1985), FOUNDER
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- SHC Ref No: 7155
- Repository: Surrey History Centre, Woking
- Date: 1911-2010
- Description: The records were appraised and selected on site, from the archive store and from a set of filing cabinets housing some refugee personal files.
Due to the nature of the organisation, the archive presents some problems of accessibility: for most of the period covered by these records, Ockenden was a small organisation, closely overseen by Joyce Pearce, and evolving to reflect the requirements of the projects which it undertook. Some records were probably off-site while the UK homes were in operation; filing of in-letters at Woking does not present a clear series. While some small series of filing systems were evident, they did not appear comprehensive for any period; some collation of papers of particular interest took place in the late 1980s. The result is many files of similar dates with a similar diversity of subject matter.
It is known that there was no comprehensive record of persons assisted by Ockenden and that some personal files of individual refugees are known to have been passed on to the persons concerned. For the Vietnamese and post Vietnamese period, a sample of personal files was selected for the archive.
For a general overview of current projects and houses, the annual reports (7155/4/1/-) provide a useful level of detail; the chairman's reports to the council are also of importance (7155/2/1/-), some of which are listed separately with Joyce Pearce's papers on policy and strategy (7155/3/-).
For records relating to individuals, see Administration of Ockenden Homes, 7155/5/-, including indexes of refugees, and Refugee projects series, 7155/6/- and 7155/7/ (the latter in particular for Vietnamese settlers); early annual reports (7155/4/1/-) also provide information on named individuals.
It is known that some of Joyce Pearce's correspondence was destroyed after her death by Margaret Dixon and staff members (see Margaret Dixon's diary, 7155/15/10).
Much of the correspondence was filed in no particular order, so any chronological arrangement is often lacking.
- Admin History: The Ockenden Venture was founded in 1951 by three local schoolteachers, and took its name from founder Joyce Pearce's family home 'Ockenden' in White Rose Lane, Woking. The Ockenden Venture became a registered charity on 24 February 1955, under the War Charities Act 1940, its stated object being to receive young East European people from post World War II displaced persons camps in Germany and 'to provide for their maintenance, clothing, education, recreation, health and general welfare'. Within a few years, world events and the increasing numbers of refugees world wide would lead it to widen both its remit and its scope.
The project had begun in 1951, when Joyce Pearce (1915-1985) persuaded Woking District Council to help support a holiday for 17 displaced East European teenagers at her sixth form centre at Ockenden House, as part of the Festival of Britain. An ad hoc arrangement was subsequently made for two of the girls to stay in Woking when they had obtained visas to attend school in England. The plight of older non-German speaking children in the refugee camps, for whom the educational provision was inadequate, provided the stimulus for Joyce Pearce, her friend and teaching colleague Margaret Dixon (1907-2001) and her cousin Ruth Hicks (1900-1986), headmistress of Greenfield School, Woking, to found the Ockenden Venture. The project was initially a modest one based solely in Woking, but houses were soon acquired in Haslemere, and in 1958 Ockenden took over Donington Hall near Derby as a school for boys.
After World Refugee Year was declared in 1959, government money and increased donations enabled Ockenden to open eight new houses across Britain, and a small administrative staff was established. Direct help to adults was begun with the founding of The Ockenden Venture Family Trust, prompted by government relaxation of immigration laws to allow handicapped immigrants to enter the UK. The Trust was registered as a war charity on 16 Feb 1960, and worked for the admission of parents of children already in the UK under Ockenden Venture schemes (it was merged with the Ockenden Venture in 1991). Chiefly prompted by Joyce Pearce's desire to provide assistance to Tibetan refugees in India, in October 1962 the general council of the charity agreed to amend the constitution of the Ockenden Venture to state its object was 'to receive displaced children and other children in need from any part of the world and to provide for their maintenance, clothing, education, recreation, health and general welfare', to allow the possibility of help to non-European children. Initially most help took the form of donations towards existing orphanages and schools, and sponsorship schemes, but Ockenden's first direct participation in overseas-based work also began during the 1960s, with projects in India, northern Africa and later south east Asia. In 1971, Ockenden merged with refugee charity, Lifeline.
The most dramatic expansion of the Ockenden Venture came with the government's decision in 1979 to accept Vietnamese 'Boat People' (who had begun leaving south Vietnam in large numbers after the invasion of Saigon by Communist forces in 1975) into the UK. Ockenden, Save the Children and the British Council for Aid to Refugees were given responsibility for a third of the country each to arrange for reception and resettlement of incoming families (Ockenden covered Surrey, the Midlands, the North West, North East, North Wales, Gosport and the Portsmouth area of Hampshire. The Birmingham office was responsible for organising resettlement; support was provided through support group liaison officers and support groups from the local communities). The three agencies operated under the umbrella of the Joint Committee for Refugees from Vietnam (JCRV) which was established by the Home Secretary in October 1979 under the chairmanship of Sir Arthur Peterson. Ockenden opened 25 new centres in response to the crisis, and by the end of the government programme in 1982, found itself a changed organisation, with a large workforce in formal salaried employment where before the organisation had been principally voluntary or semi-voluntary.
During the early 1980s, Ockenden continued to receive refugees and to add to its projects overseas. The death in 1985 of Joyce Pearce, who had continued as the driving force in the charity for 30 years, prompted questioning of the future aims of Ockenden. Several years of dissension followed over the managerial structure and the 'ethos' of the organisation, which from being a very small charity almost unique in its objects, now found itself one among many charities involved in refugee work. The burden of maintaining Ockenden's UK refugee accommodation to modern standards became an increasing argument for concentrating effort on overseas projects. Houses were closed down during the 1990s, until only Kilmore House, Camberley, a home for severely disabled Vietnamese orphans, remained in 2001.
In 1999, the Ockenden Venture became Ockenden International, and concentrated nearly all its work overseas, in Sudan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Pakistan, Iran and Uganda. Nowadays, Ockenden International operates purely as a funding agency, having transferred many of its programmes to local organisations.
- Level: Collection
- Access Status: Open. Unpublished minutes and other papers are closed for 30 years. Files which are stated to include material relating to named refugees or which contain sensitive information about individuals are closed for 100 years: permission for access to files must be sought via the History Centre from the depositor.
- Provenance: Deposited by the Trustees of Ockenden International in January 2002, August 2002, December 2006 and March 2012. Additional deposits by others received since then are in 7155/16/-. The preparation of this catalogue was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2009-10.
- Bibliography: Pamela Watkin, Joyce's Ockenden: the story of a vision that became a Venture for refugees (1993).
Joyce Pearce, ed. Margaret Dixon, Joyce Pearce: the story of Ockenden in her own words, 1951-1985 (1996). Drafts of both these publications are held under 'Ockenden History', 7155/13/- below.
Gerd Ledermann, One man's journey with the Ockenden Venture (2009).
K E M Broughton, My Ockenden Adventure (2009).
Patricia Moxey, 'Surrey Personality Profile: Joyce Pearce', in Surrey County, vol 5 no 2 (1974), pp28-29.
'The Ockenden Venture' in Brookwood Express, issue 54 (Feb 2004).
John Woodiwiss, 'The Ockenden Venture' in Surrey County Journal, vol 4 no 4 (Apr 1956).
E L Kemp, 'The Ockenden Venture' in Surrey Today (Mar 1966).
'The earthing of the Christ energies: a way of compassion', talk by Joyce Pearce to the Wrekin Trust Round Table (May 1981).
- Arrangement: Because of the fluctuating structure of Ockenden's organisation, and the lack of any clear division between Joyce Pearce's personal and Ockenden records, subdivision of this material into clear functional groupings has not proved possible (see 'the Records' above for more detail). Cross-referencing to the principal alternative sources has been given but is not comprehensive.
- For more information contact: Surrey History Centre
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