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Text: Barka Foundation

Barka Foundation for Mutual Help was established as a response to increasing social problems after the collapse of communism. Barbara and Tomasz Sadowski wanted to create conditions in which the “forgotten and unwanted” could have a chance for personal growth and social development.

This mission influenced the creation of an alternative system of support, which gathers people from the weakest groups, giving them possibilities to rebuild their lives, upgrade vocational skills and find their way in the new socioeconomic reality. In 1989, these two psychologists set up the first Barka community, using the derelict school building in Wladyslawowo (in the West of Poznan). This first community gave a home for 25 “life wrecked”” individuals, who were living together with the Sadowski’s family. Wladyslawowo became the spring-board for the continuing mutual-help movement, engaging not only the people in need but also informal groups and non-governmental organizations in Poland and abroad. Using its philosophy of encouraging mutual self-help, it now provides homes for 750 persons in a variety of community homes, hostels, private flats and one-family houses and through its various housing, education and vocational training programmes has assisted over 60,000 people in the last ten years. It has established 25 income-generating enterprises to date, as well as restoring two redundant large state farms and pioneering organic agriculture.

Services offered by Barka Foundation diversified over the years, since new needs emerged. To answer the intensifying needs of Central and Eastern EuRopean migrants to Western countries, who faced employment problems and often homelessness, Barka started to establish social franchises to support migrants in most difficult social situations. Barka franchises are present nowadays in UK, Holland, Ireland, Germany and Belgium.

They provide assisted return for Central and Eastern European (CEE) migrants to their country of origin. The project aims to ensure humane reconnection and reintegration of vulnerable migrants who are unable or unwilling to remain abroad and wish to return voluntarily to their countries of origin, but lack the resources to do so.

Barka Leaders/Assistants make contact with Eastern European migrants who have become homeless to offer them the opportunity to return home. They support the individuals in their journey from exclusion to inclusion through an organised program of reconnection. ”During outreach on the streets, Barka Leaders & Assistants invite Eastern European rough sleepers to day centres for the homeless. Here they share stories of their path from exclusion to integration. Through building relationships based on trust, they encourage and prepare clients for reconnection. Barka also helps people to obtain passports and transportation. When appropriate, Barka support the individuals to reconnect with their communities and families with the help of the local organisations. Those who are not ready to do this are invited to take part in the Barka Network of Inclusion Program in Poland and Barka’s partner organisations where they can enter rehabilitation program, access detox, learn new work skills and build friendships with others who share their journey.”

Since June 2007, Barka UK alone has helped to return voluntarily to the countries of origin, over 3000 migrants from Central and Eastern Europe.

Photo credit Barka Foundation