The School at Mina-1-Mai
The primary school and kindergarten were initially very basic, a floor open to the elements, no running water or toilets. They have one large boiler for heating in winter, but the buildings general poor state of repair and the odd broken window make conditions during the coldest months very uncomfortable. With heavy snow, the temperatures can get as low as -25 Centigrade. The desks were very old fashioned, although some new chairs were provided by the Charity thanks to a kind donation. The bold and brightly coloured play equipment, pens and crayons donated over the years are clearly visible in their basic and faded surroundings. Garafeta, the kindergarten teacher, is the Charity's link with the school. Her English is good and she always makes the team welcome with lively barbeques, singing and dancing.
Children attend the school from the age of three to around fourteen. The Romanian education system requires children to complete eight classes, but many in the village leave before they have attained this target. The self sufficient farming lifestyle, still almost entirely in place amongst the villagers, means that often children are expected to work with the family around the home and in the fields.
A good number of the children, sometimes as many as seventy, turn up at the playing field to join in activities run by the team members. Usually these include singing, drawing, painting, story telling, organised games, sometimes culminating in a sports day. The size and attentiveness of the crowd is rarely predictable which adds to the fun of the occasion. The age range is broad (from a few months to late teens), but this does not seem to pose the same challenges as it would in Britain as all are willing to join in with one another.
More recently, work has been done in improving various aspects of the school. In 2000, two flushing toilets were installed to go with the running water provided in 1995. In 2002, new desks were ordered and delivered during October. The school, thanks to Garafitsa, has also been made available as the 'sleeping quarters' for the team for several years. Also during 2002, a computer education suite was installed by the team in the school at Vulcan, the first such facility in the area. This was possible due to kind donations of various items of computer equipment. In 2005, the school in Mina also had its first computer system installed.