The Svinia Project
The Svinia Project is a multi-faceted compilation of developmental activities taking place in the eastern Slovak village of Svinia since the mid-1990s. It began in the spring of 1993 with the visit of a group of Canadian students led by the anthropologist David Z. Scheffel of The University College of the Cariboo, British Columbia. Taken aback by the sub-standard living conditions of local Roma, the students embarked on a quest for ways in which the situation could be improved.
||Manager of The Svinia Project David Z. Scheffel and his wife during their stay in Svinia
In 1995, the Svinia initiative began to bear first fruits with an agreement on cooperation between five charter members of the project:
Each of these organizations agreed to contribute to the improvement of living conditions in the Romani settlement of Svinia according to its possibilities: Habitat for Humanity in the area of housing; Heifer Project with the provision of livestock; Trickle Up in the sphere of micro-economic development; University College of the Cariboo through the coordination of the project in association with the Svinia municipality.
In the spring of 1998, The University College of the Cariboo received funding from the Canadian International Development Agency which enabled it to launch a complex community development program that affects the lives of many local Roma. A second CIDA grant, provided in 2001, extended the project until the end of 2003. The most important tangible results of the UCC-CIDA initiative are:
In the area of housing and living conditions
- improvement of local infrastructure through the construction of new sources of drinking water, introduction of regular waste disposal, provision of legal electricity to all housing units, and reconstruction of the drainage system
- a fully-equipped carpentry workshop located in the heart of the settlement, which permits low-cost repairs of existing housing as well as regular maintenance of infrastructure components implemented by the project
- creation of a technical support position responsible for the workshop and the implementation of necessary repairs. The position is funded by the government of Slovakia and is supervised by the mayor of Svinia
- with the financial support of the Dutch government construction of a housing complex for 12 families relocated from inadequate shacks. The complex is equipped with three showers – the only ones in the settlement – which are accessible to all residents
- in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity the setup of a Habitat office – the only one in all of Slovakia – charged with the implementation of Habitat’s commitment to help build up to 30 units of decent and affordable housing
- the incorporation of the Svinia municipality into the multi-million PHARE 2001 infrastructure project financed by the European Union, and a comprehensive social housing program of the Slovak government. The two plans foresee the construction of a new community for all local Roma, equipped with modern housing and much improved technical infrastructure
In the area of education
- the establishment of a daycare centre directly in the settlement, which accommodates 24 pre-schoolers under the direction of two teachers and a Romani assistant. Following the provision of running cold and hot water, a water closet – the only one in the entire community – and other hygiene-related improvements, the school was taken over by the state education authority in 2000
- the opening-up of the Svinia elementary school cafeteria to Romani students
- the establishment of an after-hours enrichment program for Romani students at the Svinia elementary school
- ongoing financial and administrative support for a range of educational and sports activities conducted by the teachers of the Svinia elementary school in an effort to become more responsive to the needs of Romani students
- the initiation of a number of training programs targetting young adults, such as cooking and sewing classes, hygiene and early childhood workshops, life skills, wood working, and crafts
- the establishment of a community kitchen, a sewing workshop, and a crafts workshop for the activities mentioned above
In the area of social and economic development
- ongoing assistance rendered to the municipal council of Svinia in an effort to increase its responsiveness to Romani citizens. Here the project was instrumental in the provision of several large grants by a number of organizations which enabled the municipality to construct a pastoral/community centre in the settlement and to fund much needed drug prevention and personal development activities
- creation of an ongoing community social worker position funded by the government of Slovakia and supervised by the mayor of Svinia. The social worker is placed directly in the settlement and functions as a mediator between local Roma and agencies of the majority society
- in collaboration with Heifer Project International and Trickle Up Program introduction of small income-generation programs. This, in combination with the encouragement of talented local craftsmen, has helped us launch the manufacture and sale of locally produced crafts, ranging from beeswax candles and hemp shoulder bags to wood carvings and hand-made violins
- the emergence of several local interest groups, including the community improvement association SUNO, a group of youth activists, and a music band, which help enrich the lives of local Roma
- the training and placement of Slovak and foreign volunteers who cooperate with interested individuals or groups
- the year-long placement in 2001-02 of two CIDA International Youth Interns who developed programs for local children and youth at risk
Thanks to these long-term activities, members of our project staff have also made a contribution to the implementation of small and large programs provided to local Roma by other organizations which have relied on our project infrastructure. In the first place this concerns our charter partners – Habitat for Humanity, Heifer Project, Trickle Up and the Svinia municipal council – but to a lesser extent also a number of other NGOs whose activities focus on local Roma. Among these are the Dreyfus Health Foundation,
Partners for Democratic Change, Peace Corps, and
the Wide Open School Foundation.
Further information about the Svinia Project may be sought from the following individuals responsible for its implementation: Ivan G. Somlai (email@example.com) coordinates the collaboration between UCC and CIDA; David Z. Scheffel (firstname.lastname@example.org) determines goals and supervises their fulfilment; Alexander Mušinka (email@example.com) oversees all local activities.