THE rich history of a refugee charity started by three Woking school teachers has been celebrated at a special lecture at Oxford University.
Ockenden International was set up by Joyce Pearce, Ruth Hicks and Margaret Dixon in 1951, with the aim of helping displaced children after the Second World War.
The charity, originally called Ockenden Venture, was named after Joyce’s house in White Rose Lane, Woking.
A bus-load of Ockenden’s local supporters travelled to Lady Margaret Hall College, Oxford, for the ceremony, headed by the university chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, and Surrey-based BBC presenter Michael Buerk.
In his speech, Lord Patten recalled seeing Ockenden International programmes when he was Overseas Development Secretary during the Thatcher government.
He praised Joyce and the people of Woking for giving such help and support to displaced and disadvantaged people in many parts of the world.
The lecture marked the establishment of a Junior Research Fellowship into refugees and forced migration in memory of Joyce, who graduated from Lady Margaret Hall in the 1930s and was one of the early supporters of the university’s Refugee Studies Centre.
More than 150 guests watched a 1950s newsreel of Joyce and volunteers from Woking showing the film actor Richard Todd around the first project which broughtrefugees to the UK from Germany.
There was also a tribute to a young Woking volunteer, Adam Rock, who died tragically two years ago and left a large bequest to the charity. He worked with Vietnamese and Eritrean refugees during his gap year at a reception centre in the Woking area.
Ockenden International has now changed direction and will be giving annual grants to British-based groups that promote self-reliance in their development programmes.
Mr Buerk announced that the charity will be giving an annual prize of £50,000 in recognition of innovative work among displaced people around the world.
Bequests Charity trustee Stephen Claypole said: “There’s been a lot of talk about the big society in recent years but the people of Woking and the wider Surrey showed they were big-hearted 60 years ago.
“The support given and money they have raised have helped tens of thousands of people in the world, often in remote places overlooked or forgotten by larger agencies.
“The Ockenden International Prize has been made possible by contributions and bequests over many years. We shall continue the work started in Woking by Joyce.”