Saturday, August 06, 2011

This week we visited the Sanitorium school in Molochansk. It is located on the grounds of the former Mennonite hospital in Muntau. Sanitorium schools basically are longer term residential schools for children who have long term respiratory or cardiology problems. The school in Molochansk has students from the Zaporozhye region.

Students in this school have developed a pen pal relationship with students from Menno Simons Christian School in Calgary. Each year we take letters from children in the Sanitorium school back to Canada and send them to Menno Simons School.

Lydia Petrenko, the somewhat stern looking principal, has a warm matron-like style. For 45 years, through Soviet and independence times, this school, its students and staff have been her passion and her purpose. She bears a strikingly resemblance to Mrs. Slocombe in the British TV comedy series, “Are You Being Served?” She always gives us a thorough tour of the school pointing out all the improvements funded primarily by students from Menno Simons. In addition Rebecca from Calgary has sent a donation to the school on her last three birthdates. With support from the students, Rebecca, and a few other donors, we have been able to tile the hallways, put linoleum and new desks in several classrooms, put new chairs in the assembly room, give the only two computers and a printer to the school, and now give money to paint the gym and classrooms and provide new plumbing for the washrooms.

Someday we hope that students and teachers from Menno Simons will have the opportunity to come and see the difference their support means to the school. We would like to provide more computers in the near future and ensure that the school has internet access. It would be wonderful if the students from both schools could connect through the internet. We would love to see other schools adopt a school here.

This week we were busy interviewing students who are asking for financial support to attend university. Of the sixteen students we have interviewed, only three have both a father and mother living at home. In virtually all cases a father is not present. In a few situations dad has passed away, but in most he has left the family home. In spite of the challenges this presents, it is amazing how many students and their mothers are committed to getting the best education possible. For these, time is too short to nurse regrets.

Today we drove south to Alexanderkrone to visit 90 year-old Margarita Pankratz. She is somewhat weak but very alert. She loves the opportunity to speak German, the language of her childhood, and tell stories of her incredible life. She is so thankful that she has been able to spend the last 51 years in the very house she was married in as an 18 year-old. Now she is cared for by her granddaughter and great-grandchildren. Next week we plan to interview her 18 year-old great-grandson Denis to provide him with student financial aid. He is hoping to be admitted into medical school in Zaporozhye. It’s fascinating to think that in this home an 18-year-old married the love of her life, and 72 years later another 18-year-old is moving out to chart his new course. This visit best illustrates what the Mennonite Centre is all about—we want to share the past and help build the future.

For more information on the Mennonite Centre, visit our website at:

Ben and Linda


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