Changing course – from one day to the next

Although the Pestalozzi Children's Village in Trogen was originally built to house war orphans, it has not been used for this purpose for decades. Now, in just a few days, the team has prepared for and successfully accommodated refugees from Ukraine.

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A Ukrainian boy with his grandfather in the Children's Village in Trogen. KEYSTONE/Gian Ehrenzeller

After the Executive Board and the Board of Trustees of the Pestalozzi Children's Foundation (PCF) jointly decided on 28th February 2022 to accept Ukrainian refugees, the first guest arrived at the Children's Village on 4th March. Since then, the village has filled up and between 150 and 200 people from Ukraine have now found a temporary home here. They are not only provided with safe accommodation, food and the opportunity to rest here, they are also offered a varied daily programme so that they can maintain some structure in their day-to-day lives.

Between Kids Club and the registration process

While the children are looked after by PCF staff at the Kids Club between 9:00 and 11:00, their parents and guardians have some time to themselves. A community centre has been set up in one of the nine houses, where Ukrainians lodging in the various houses can meet and interact with each other. The General Assembly, which is attended daily by one representative from each house, was set up to ensure smooth coexistence and that information is shared. This ensures that information provided by the PCF reaches all the Ukrainian residents. It also provides an opportunity for guests' concerns to be brought specifically to the attention of the Task Force. In addition, the residents are given the option of structuring their daily lives with activities they are familiar with, such as yoga classes or chess tournaments.

A website published in three languages was also set up at short notice. There, the residents can find all kinds of information about their stay in the Children's Village, from the weekly programme to medical care to how to register for Status S for refugees. PCF staff are providing a great deal of support in this regard. They are responsible for coordinating the registration process and accompanying the residents in groups to the relevant federal asylum centre.

Solidarity and willingness to work together on all sides

The Pestalozzi Children's Foundation is grateful for the tremendous solidarity and support from all over Switzerland. Alongside financial support, numerous donations in kind have been made. The cooperation with medical and psychological experts is working smoothly, and thanks to a unique solution throughout Switzerland, Ukrainians who have fled the war are allowed to use Swiss public transport free of charge until the end of May. We are able to offer all these services to the people of Ukraine thanks to this network of solidarity between private individuals, authorities and organisations.

What next?

The projects that were due to take place in the Pestalozzi Children's Village between March and May have been cancelled for the time being. The Task Force is currently deciding how to proceed and how the exchange projects can be resumed in parallel with looking after the Ukrainian refugees. Meanwhile, the Foundation has stepped up its work in the existing projects in the border region between Ukraine and Moldova in particular. There, too, support is being offered to refugees in the form of accommodation and donations of supplies.