The Svinia Project

Roma settlement in village Svinia in the year 1996

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.

Chief of Svinia Project David Z. Scheffel and his wife during their stay in Svinia 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

In the area of education

In the area of social and economic development

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, SPOLU 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 (isomlai@cariboo.bc.ca) coordinates the collaboration between UCC and CIDA; David Z. Scheffel (dscheffel@cariboo.bc.ca) determines goals and supervises their fulfilment; Alexander Mušinka (musinka@unipo.sk) oversees all local activities.