Larisa Melinceanu – study visit in Barka Network in Poland report

Study visit to Barka Poland 24 February – 28 February 2014

General impressions

During this study visit we were shown the main center of Barka foundation in Poznan, the social enterprise in Posadowek, the social co-operative in Wladyslawowo, the partnership with Association Gebiczyn and local authorities of Wielkopolskiego, the social enterprise in Chudopczyce, the city Rawicz (there where progress are registered in the effort of establishing a new partnership with the local authorities, other representatives of civil society and interested commercial organizations) and the established partnership with the local authorities of Poznan.

The study visit contributed to the formation of a more complete image of what the concept Barka means. Helped me visualize how the concept is being successfully applied, to better understand the mechanism of social inclusion through social economy.

What concerns the Barka abroad I see the constitution of the teams as a symbol of its good practice, where the Leader is a person who experienced homelessness of/and alcohol addiction and the other half of the team, the Assistant, is a high educated person with whom life was kinder. The Assistant can‘t afford to be arrogant in front of the Leader from who he has a lot to learn. The Leader holds the appropriate approach in relation with the new possible beneficiaries of Barka’s support. He is perceived as a trustful person who is able to understand the sensible situation of a homeless or of an addicted person.

By Barka Poland I discovered another symbol of the whole entity: the large table which could be observed in every visited community, where every vulnerable person is welcome to join, with no fear of being judged or discriminated. More than that, if someone makes mistakes, fails in his struggling of rebuilding his life, the table is the place where he can get another chance. Round the table the decisions concerning community’s welfare are taken together. At the Barka table, different persons, with different backgrounds come to a sense in the name of the common interest.

Another element which had a major impact to me as Assistant was meeting Barka’s founders, Tomasz and Barbara Sadowska. Their determination and their consequent manner of working is being very inspirational and motivational.

In the first day of the study visit we arrived in the middle of the staff meeting, which is taking place weekly, on Monday, by the headquarter in Poznan. Here, Tomasz Sadowska referred to the sensible situation from Ukraine which he linked to the same difficult situation Polen has been through 25 years ago. He underlined the fact that such major transformations brings with it major orders. He considers that the social economy should be the new order which must gain more and more room in world’s managerial systems. Afterwards the leader Marek has shown us the Center of Social Integration. There are 5 workshops functioning here where long term unemployed persons, rehabilitated persons are preparing themselves not only vocationally but also emotionally to become active on the market again: sewing workshop, building workshop, cooking workshop, IT workshop, catering workshop. The Leader also allowed us to see the atelier where the street paper is redacted, the hotel built in order to generate income, the conference room, the gallery room (with this room, Barka wants to express the idea that the renewing of people lives must be made through different ways, colors and forms; the art needs effort, time, patience just like the human renaissance needs) and the surroundings.

At the end of the day, Barbara Sadowska offered us a general presentation of Barka.

The second day we visited the social enterprise in Posadowek where there is established a dog shelter which is ran by 3 dedicated people who obviously loved what they were doing. The figures sustain their devotion as well: in the last 7 months they succeeded to give to adoption 59 dogs. At the same location a number of people are living as a community. Later on that day we also visited the social co-operative in Wladyslawowo. Here a number of persons organized in a social enterprise are offering care services to elder people. Other persons from the community had succeeded to receive a job outside Barka’s network but they were not yet prepared to live by themselves. Other people contributed with their own workforce to the community welfare.

On our third day we have visited the partnership with Association Gebiczyn and local authorities of Wielkopolskiego. Here a Center of Social Integration is functioning as well through 5 workshops: gardening workshop, building workshop, cooking workshop, forestry workshop, sculpture workshop. The center runs cultural activities as well.

In the second part of the day we visited the social enterprise in Chudopczyce. Here the community is busy with the activities around the organic farm and animal farms. Inside the animal shelters, classic music is being rolled. This is showing again the devotion and the professionalism of those people. The community has also a sports hall which was thought not only as a healthy way to spend the leisure time but also as a place where potential aggression can be released.

On the fourth day we have joined Barbara Sadowska to the city of Rawicz where she had an appointment to the City Hall. The meeting was another step made in the effort of establishing a new partnership with the local authorities, other representatives of civil society and interested commercial organizations. This meeting constituted a great opportunity for us to see how negotiations at the level of such a committee are being handled. Her professional arguments comprised within a stirring speech were very good intercepted. At the end they established a new meeting to discuss more organizational aspects and to give the chance to other interested parts to join the project.

On the fifth day, we visited the already established partnership with the local authorities of Poznan. Here is running as well a Center of Social Integration. We could see the works made inside the sewing workshop and we could observe how proud the participants felt whenever they received a compliment. Other workshops are running as well: building workshop, cooking workshop, catering workshop. We visited the small “second hand shop” were besides the clothes donated, works made inside the sewing workshop (different handicrafts) were on sale as well. The day/night shelter existing here is being run by the local authorities.

Not far away from the last visited location, we visited a complex of houses special constructed for the people confronting major social, economic, psychological etc. difficulties. The houses were orderly distributed, had one level each, not very large but groomed. In the middle of the area was there a playground for children and every house had a green space in front. This is another project conducted in collaboration with the local authorities.

In the second part of the last day we had the opportunity to visit the city of Poznan. I was impressed by the imposing churches which were witness to important historical events, and I was amused by the legend of the two famous goats from the old centrum.

This study visit represented to me a life lesson. I learned that it is never for nobody too late to start all over again and that unconditional trust given to a vulnerable person makes wonders.

 Larisa Melinceanu