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Civic Ceremony Honouring Ockenden Foundation Pioneers,
Woking, UK

On June 26th 2005 an event took place in the town of Woking, Surrey, England. This was a very special event because it connected the past, present and future in one gathering of people under the Banner of Peace.

In 1951 an organisation called The Ockenden Venture was founded. This organisation was a response to the huge need for support for the thousands of refugees and displaced people in Europe after the Second World War. The Ockenden Venture was founded by three extraordinary women; Joyce Pearce, Margaret Dixon and Ruth Hicks. All three were teachers and became dedicated to the work of providing "home, health and education" to many hundreds of refugees. The Ockenden Venture eventually extended its work into countries other than the United Kingdom and enabled refugees and displaced people become self-sufficient. In 1985 Joyce Pearce OBE died and in 1986 Ruth Hicks also died. Margaret Dixon continued her work with Ockenden until her death in the year 2000. Ockenden Venture continues on now as Ockenden International.

The event on June 26th was a celebration of the lives of the three founders of Ockenden Venture. With donations from many supporters and help from Woking Borough Council a beautiful lemon opal stone sculpture called "Protecting The Child" was purchased, it was a sculpture made in Zimbabwe by Tonderai Mashaya. In addition to the sculpture a beautiful seat was designed by a friend of Ockenden, Kathy McCloskey and this was sited alongside the sculpture in Woking Park. On the day of the launch the Peace Banner was hung behind the sculpture which was to be unveiled by the Mayor of Woking, Councillor Ian Johnson. The whole event took place in glorious sunshine. A Dragon Dance was performed by the Vietnamese Community and there were many reunions with two of the first European refugees to come to Ockenden being star guests, others came from Poland, Latvia, Bosnia, Tibet, Africa and there were messages from many more friends and supporters.

The site of the sculpture will remain in the park in Woking for all to visit and people will be able to sit on the commemorative seat to contemplate on the need for peace. The Banner was part of the message given on June 26th 2005, enough of war and the suffering of refugees and displaced people, it is time to think only peace and compassion, this was re-enforced by words from His Holiness The Dalai Lama sent for the occasion and the quotation from Joyce Pearce engraved on the plaque, "Compassion can rise above politics in the face of human need".

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Anthony and Gita Brooke email : optubrookiana@xtra.co.nz