Since the first contingent of Canadian university students visited the Romani settlement of Svinia in May 1993, this community has welcomed dozens of young people (as well as some not so young) from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Canada, the United States of America, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Thailand. In spite of initial fears that this influx may lead to problems, the process of accommodating these visitors has been smooth and largely unproblematic. While all of the outside guests have been driven by a degree of curiosity about a community that appears rather exotic, most of them have also been motivated by a healthy dose of social activism and the desire to help the people of Svinia bridge the gap that separates them from the surrounding society. In this spirit, some visitors have taught English classes, some have stayed in rat-infested huts in order to find out how to tackle the endemic hygiene deficit, and others have tried to help a handful of budding craftspeople and micro-entrepreneurs by linking them with potential customers abroad.

Through this long-standing encounter, many Roma of Svinia have learned about the needs of foreign visitors, and some have become gracious hosts. Should you be interested in coming to Svinia to volunteer your skills (or to simply look around), the Centre for Anthropological Research can provide assistance with your placement. Depending on your particular interests and personal needs, you can either stay with a host family directly in the settlement or you can take advantage of the Centre’s facilities in the village of Svinia. The arrangements are simple, safe, and affordable. However, because of the time required for making the necessary contacts inside and outside the settlement, we cannot accommodate requests for less than a week-long stay.

For further information please contact the Canadian director of the Centre for Anthropological Research at dscheffel@cariboo.bc.ca.