Community Grapevine

U.S. visas available; rural volunteers; British broom-ball

The U.S. Information Service (USIS) will accept applicants for 1997's Diversity Immigrant Visa program between February 3 and March 5. The program annually provides permanent U.S. residence visas to 55,000 applicants from around the world. Applicants must provide information about their families, employment and education, with a passport-size photograph to DV-98 Program, National Visa Center, Portsmouth, NH 00212, USA. For instructions on applying for the program, contact USIS at tel. 07/533-0861 or 07/533-3338.

Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA), bid farewell last month to Rosemary Mahoney, VOCA's regional representative in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary for five and a half years. Her replacements are Donald Oelsligle, and Christine Weiss as VOCA's new senior project advisor in Banská Bystrica.

The new arrivals coincide with VOCA's launch of a new program for rural development in central and eastern Europe called, "the Rural Community Capacity-Building Program." VOCA personel will focus on developing rural cooperatives and food processing companies in remote areas. "Since we are fully sponsored by USAID," said Pavol Vajda, VOCA's country director for Slovakia, "we can offer these services free of charge."

Oelsligle spent the last year and a half as VOCA's representative in Bulgaria, while Weiss brings to her newly created post in central Slovakia over 15 years' experience among poor rural communities in the U.S., where she was active in women's programs. Asked if VOCA anticipates sponsoring women's programs in Slovakia, Vajda told The Grapevine, "We are trying to identify counterparts here in Slovakia including womens' groups."

For more informantion contact Vajda or Alžbeta Počsová at VOCA's Bratislava headquarters, tel. 07/522- 2788 or 07/522-4194

"Broom-ball," the British Embassy in Bratislava's answer to hockey, might not displace the Slovak Hockey team's purchase of the nation's ice, but Jacqui Fay, a vice-consul at the embassy, guarantees that the hybrid sport, played in sneakers with a small rubber ball and broomsticks, provides a high-speed spectacle of splintering power-plays and frantic put-ins. While scores of broomsticks were reduced to sawdust in the last match at the Železná Studienka pond (east of Lamač, along Cesta Mládeže) on December 26, Fay says the game's practical difficulties are offset by the grit and dedication of the players, not to mention the absence of rules. The game is played whenever possible on Sundays; plans are afoot to rent the rink at Zimný Štadión, but meanwhile all are welcome at Železná Studienka, provided enough players "bring snow-shovels to clear a path." For more information contact Jacqui Fay or Caroline Barker (who aptly enough, is the head of the British Embassy's Know-How Fund), at tel. 07/53109633 or 07/531-9632.

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