Nursery Care & After-School Support : –
The Smiles Foundation has an in depth understanding of Educational Needs having operated a School and Nursery since 2003. An entire community who had not previously attended school, have done well through the support of Smiles. After 17 years, the work had integrated Roma and Romanian communities successfully enough to enable children to learn together and now attend the State School in Tileagd. Smiles continues to operate a Nursery facility for 3-6 year olds and now focuses more on After-School support that can include lunch, help with homework and lessons in more than academia as we focus on all important issues of life for all children.
Through the challenges of 2020 and particularly the COVID-19 crisis, Smiles began to assess its future role in supporting the children of Tileagd and how our commitment and responsibilities to their education could be best served.
In August 2020, we were informed by the State Education department of their intention to reduce the classes in our facility to just 2 classes for the new academic year. Many of our Gypsy Community were being moved to the State main campus in the centre of Tileagd. Our major concern was two-fold. Firstly, how would the younger kids respond to leaving our facility and heading into town? Secondly, a significant part of the Smiles Complex, allocated for the School, would now be empty.
Part of the original reason to collaborate with the State was to see the facility used, in one sense to justify the costs of providing it. Now, with just 2 classes, serving possibly no more than 30 children, we still faced a monthly cost of over £3,000 ($3,900) but barely a third of the children we were providing school for 6 years ago when we began collaboration with the State.
We therefore considered the best options with our Trustees, staff in Romania as well as discussions with Ghuiry and Meda (the Community leaders) – who both believed there was a better way forward for their community. Continuing to support through education but using After-School programmes to focus on the specific needs of the children and prioritising the importance of God and the Church in our lives, alongside the importance of reading and writing.
So changes were made and Smiles After-School now functions every school day from 12noon until 4pm. As the children arrive from school, lunch will be ready, prepared by Meda and served at the Complex. We then have an hour or so of Homework focus, ensuring the work set for home can be done and completed, as well as assisting with any aspects of the school day, that some children may not have fully understood. We will go over those issues to ensure better understanding. We want to employ our own teacher to cover this important aspect of support. A Christian Teacher who will also accept and love the kids for who they are. We are basically changing ‘facility provision’ – to control and have responsibility for the After-School program and associated support.
We provide the supplies needed for School, whether clothes, back pack, books etc to ensure ‘our kids’ keep up with other kids in the class and don’t feel the ‘poor relation’ which Gypsies normally do in the State facilities.
Finally, we plan for an hour of ‘fellowship time’ when homework is finished and we do things as a group – whether worship, bible study, games or discussions on life from a Christian prospective – all designed to fully expand their understanding of what a life in Christ can achieve and that academic achievement is only a part of the bigger story.
We also run on 2 days a week the Church-Club from 4pm – 6pm – which these kids will be entitled to attend. We also hope to attract children in the community who have abandoned school and no longer attend. We anticipate there could be up to another 30 kids in this category, and we want to reach these kids with the Gospel in a contemporary way to keep their lives on a good-path and avoid some of the dangers and pitfalls that await many kids who have dropped out of school. The Church-Club forms part of our exciting new ‘Missions’ initiative that we launched in Smiles in January 2021.
Please pray for these new efforts. Pray for the resources needed and if you can help with the Budget of our new After-School program, please support with your donation, whether a one-off gift and each month to help us budget.
The Smiles Nursery facility continues as it has since 2004, totally managed by Smiles and we believe this does a wonderful job preparing the little ones for Grade School when they are 6 years old. We currently have 40 kids registered for Nursery and seven staff caring for their needs each day.
A brief history …..
Chinese philosopher – Confucius, said;
“If your plan is for a year, plant rice.
If your plan is for a decade, plant trees.
If your plan is for a lifetime, educate your children.”
The Gypsy Community in Tileagd would never have heard of the great philosopher, Confucius. Yet, in their simple way, they were echoing his very thoughts – educate our children.
The Smiles Foundation had started to help the families by repairing homes, improving health and providing food – but to ‘Educate the Children’ – would provide a real opportunity to change for the future and provide an opportunity to dream. The Smiles Foundation was basically being asked to – Plan for a Lifetime.
In 2002, Smiles purchased an old Pentecostal church building that was no longer in use. We redesigned and started construction of Classrooms, Kitchen, Dining Room and added a complete Shower & Toilet block as no sanitation system existed in the building. By summer of 2003, the building was done and we began furnishing the facility to operate as a school upon Opening Day – September 15th 2003.
On that first day, the children had no previous experience of school. Many did not know what a line was, they didn’t know their colours, the days of the week or the months of the year and they clearly did not know how to use the toilet or shower facilities! Many had never held a pencil or seen a book and the first registration had to done by handprints as children (aged 7-14 years) didn’t know their date of birth or how to write their name.It was a great opportunity and a huge challenge. To their great credit, the children desperately wanted to learn and their teachers wanted to teach them. Standards of achievement have risen amazingly in reading, writing, mathematics, art, dance and personal/social development – in fact, right across the school curriculum.
Since then, many children have gone through the Smiles School & Nursery, more than 400 children in all, including many from the Romanian Community. Asking to join the ‘Gypsy School’ was a first in Tileagd for sure!
Children who had no dreams could now dare to dream and we wanted to help them ‘fly.’
The first school building was full to overflowing, so we decided the time was right to create a new purpose-built facility, incorporating Kindergarten, School, Medical Centre, multi-purpose Sports Hall and Church for 250+ people.
At the cost of £1 million sterling ($1.5 million) the Tileagd Community Complex started construction in August 2005 and the School & Kindergarten was officially opened in the new complex in September 2006 for the beginning of the academic year. Now the Nursery continues in an independant facility built and opened in 2004 serving 2-4 year olds. The Kindergarten moved to the new complex in 2006 serving 5&6 year olds and the School for grades I-IV (aged 7-11) operated with 4 classes.
In September 2007, Tileagd Community School in conjunction with the State School offered for the first time, Grade V for those graduating from grade IV and wanted to continue their education. In 2008, the remaining part of the Tileagd Community Complex, incorporating multi-purpose Sports Hall, Medical Centre along with the Church was completed and opened.
In 2015, we had our first student graduate 12th grade. And we had 3 other girls finishing 11th grade who wanted to continue in High School. These are remarkable facts and within the gypsy Culture, extremely rare.
In 2013, Smiles partnered with the State Education Department to share facilities and staff. Some classes that we had maintained for 10 years were now being supported by State funds. Over the next couple of years, classes began moving to the main State School building which was very positive for greater integration of Gypsy children with regular Romanian children. Our initial dream was truly materialising before our eyes.
Our objective in the beginning was not primarily to get into long term running of Schools. We wanted to demonstrate that if the Gypsy Community were given the opportunity and support needed for school, they would take it and make use of it for a better future.
It was a ‘chance encounter’ in 2001 with a boy begging in the city of Oradea that has lead to some mighty changes in Tileagd and by starting with a focus on Education – changing the future of an entire community became a reality.
Creating Hope … Making Dreams come true!
The MISSIONS PILLAR and associated projects are under the leadership of Smiles Director – Maria Cimpoca-Hava.
Working within Smiles since 2002, Maria has a heart dedicated to the Smiles ministry and has vast experience of dealing with the issues and demands of managing all the important aspects of people, logistics and finance.
Being personal assistant to the Foundation’s Founder and CEO has also benefited Maria in understanding and sharing the Vision that drives the Foundation forward day by day.