Children’s Mental Health Week 2023: what Pestalozzi World does to ensure that we are providing the best care for our children.

Written by Dr Jo Nair PhD – Director of Programmes.

Our emphasis is on giving our children the loving, nurturing environment and skillset they need to ensure their good mental health. This involves helping them develop the resilience required to handle whatever life brings their way without threat to their wellbeing.

As an organisation providing residential care to children through their teenage years (ages 11-18) except during school holidays, it is particularly important that Pestalozzi World ensures the mental health and wellbeing of the children it cares for.

To achieve this the Pestalozzi World residential villages offer:

  • A Pestalozzi village ethos which puts love, enjoyment, trust in each other, compassion and care for others at the centre of everything
  • A period of orientation for the children when they first arrive, helping them adapt from their rural homes to living with many other children, often in a city environment.  Intensive in-house education is also provided to ensure that the children can make the transition from their government primary schools to academically high-achieving private secondary schools without mental stress
  • A safe and beautiful physical environment with spaces for children to relax in and play sports.  A clean environment, with well-maintained and decorated buildings and grounds full of shrubs and flowers.  The children help keep the physical environment looking good, giving them pride in their surroundings
  • Houses to live in with no more than 24 children per house, each house supervised by a Housemother who treats the children as she would her own.  Children eat as a family and are encouraged to sit and chat informally with their housemother.  The housemother makes herself available to them whatever their needs, 24 hours a day
  • A Pastoral Officer and a Matron who oversee the wellbeing of the children, working with the Housemothers to monitor their physical and mental health and providing them with both informal and formal group and individual counselling.  They also work with the staff to ensure that their mental health is nurtured, believing that staff wellbeing is vital for the wellbeing of the children in their care.
  • Encouragement to and opportunities for alumni of the Pestalozzi programme to come back as staff members or as volunteers.  Having been through the same programme, our graduates are best placed to help ensure the wellbeing of the children
  • Policies, which are child centred; these include, but are not confined to, the Child Safeguarding Policy, the Staff Code of Conduct, the Children’s Code of Conduct and the Disciplinary Policy.  The latter avoids punishment, preferring to offer counselling.  If punishment is necessary, it is always relevant and the reason for it always explained to the children, helping lead to the trust needed for good mental health.  Workshops for both staff and children ensure their engagement in the policies, while both staff and children are encouraged to question the policies, giving them the chance to be involved in how the Pestalozzi villages operate
  • Democratically elected student councils, and suggestion boxes.  If the children’s suggestions cannot be put into action, reasonable explanations as to why not are given.  Having their voices heard promotes the mental health of the children
  • Workshops for children on areas supportive of their mental wellbeing, especially on Adolescence, and Sexual Health and Reproduction
  • A programme of extra-curricular activities to promote the all-round wellbeing of the children.  At Pestalozzi World, we recognise that intellectual, physical, social and mental wellbeing all contribute to good mental health:
    • Intellectual wellbeing is promoted through activities including educational excursions, quizzes, debates and public speaking, book clubs, careers advice and an emphasis on peer learning.  These supplement the academic education provided in school
    • Physical wellbeing is nurtured through opportunities for sports as well as provision of hands-on programmes of skills activities such as art and craft, carpentry, computer and mobile phone repair, bicycle repair, drama, dance and music, organic gardening, sewing and opportunities to develop small scale, entrepreneurial craft-based businesses.  A well-balanced, nutritional diet and supervised meals also help ensure the physical wellbeing of the children
    • Social wellbeing is promoted by opportunities for children to help others.  Children volunteer in organisations such as old people’s homes, community schools and clinics.  It is promoted through leisure activities – each birthday is celebrated in-house, and the children celebrate all the local festivals and important days.  These events also help ensure the children feel continuity with and pride in their backgrounds
    • In addition, the children’s mental health is supported through a programme of values-based teaching and learning activities, available at www.jhpestalozzi.org.  These provide a Pestalozzi extra-curricular programme of activities which are: holistic, child-centred, active, connected to nature, supportive of cooperative behaviour, community-oriented and relevant to the all-round current and future wellbeing of the children
Our Pastoral officer, Mwinji Nachembe, in Zambia, talking about the importance of her role.

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