CHILDREN laid on a film star welcome yesterday when one of the rescued Chilean miners visited their school.
Headteacher June Lee said it was like “a visit from a movie star” when Carlos Bugueno – one of the 33 miners trapped underground for more than two months – came to Roseberry Primary School in Pelton, Chester-le-Street, to meet the Year Six children.
The visit had been arranged by Davy Hopper, general secretary of the Durham National Union of Mineworkers, before Senor Bugueno is guest of honour at today’s Durham Miners’ Gala.
Mr Hopper had been impressed by the children’s knowledge of the Chilean rescue when he visited the school to unveil their miners’ banner earlier this year.
Mrs Lee explained: “The children were studying mining as part of a cross-curriculum project to learn why we are here. This school was built in a mining community.
“When the plight of the miners underground was reported, and then the rescue, the children were fascinated, almost obsessed, by their plight. They watched the miners coming up to the surface live on the internet. We used details of the rescue as part of science lessons, the banner was created during art lessons, the mining heritage here was part of history lessons.
“When Mr Hopper came to visit he was impressed with the work. He was particularly impressed by the children’s knowledge of the Chilean rescue mission. The children had written reports about the dramatic events. They even made models of the rescue capsule in their design technology lessons. When Mr Hopper offered to bring Carlos to the school we were overwhelmed.”
Originally two of the 33 miners were due to visit County Durham this weekend, but Carlos Barrios Contreras could not make it because his passport had expired.
Mr Hopper said: “What is truly disgraceful is that Carlos will have to go back down the mine after all that he and his comrades have been through. But it was a pleasure and a privilege to bring him to this lovely school.”
Senor Bugueno, 27, who has a girlfriend and lives with his parents, said via an interpreter: “It has been very emotional coming here and meeting all the children and feeling the warmth towards me.
“When I was trapped underground it was frustrating, I was worried about my family. Getting back to the surface was wonderful. I haven’t been back underground since the rescue but I will have to one day. I expect I will be a little frightened.”
The miners were rescued from the San Jose gold and copper mine in Chile’s northern Atacama Desert on October 13 last year in an operation which caught the imagination of the world.