Members of the Barka UK team took part in the study visit to the Barka Network in Poland in June. The visit stretched over 4 days and started with a visit to Barka Headquarters in Poznań, where the study group was welcomed by Maria Sadowska, Vice President of the Board of the Barka Foundation for Mutual Help and the Barka Network.
The background, approach and programmes of the organisation were discussed in considerable detail. The group had an opportunity to ask questions about communities, social entrepreneurship, education and integration programmes in Poland. During the meeting, Maria explained how Barka creates and develops local partnerships for social and economic inclusion and also how the organisation works with local municipalities and government policymakers. Ongoing projects abroad were also discussed.
The meeting ended with a dinner (summer grill), prepared by a community of Barka Beneficiaries who live at the Barka Centre in Poznan. This was a useful, informal, opportunity to get to know the Beneficiaries of Barka in Poznan and to listen to their stories.
The second day started with a morning trip to Chudobczyce (about 70 km from Poznań) to meet the Barka community there. We met the leaders of the community, once homeless people with addictions who turned their lives around and now serve the ever-changing community of people who come to the Centre. Most of the time was spent in assessing entrepreneurial activities and the social integration centre in this rural area, along with organically grown vegetables in the gardens, and the sheep and goats at Barka’s organic farm.
It was time to say goodbye to Chudobczyce after lunch had been served in the communal hall, and the group left to see a Barka special social enterprise, situated at Lake Lubosz, where Barka had built wooden chalets to rent to holidaymakers who like to stay close to nature. This summer, however, the chalets were provided free of charge to Ukrainian families to live there.
After an early start the next day, the group travelled to the Władysławowo community (about 90 km outside Poznań), where the Barka Foundation started over 33 years ago. The group met with the community there and heard the story of the first Barka home over a coffee buffet and lunch. It was very interesting to witness the day-to-day activities of the community and to speak to many of its members, including its leader. After their return to Poznan and a short rest, the members of the study tour went to see some of the most famous landmarks of Poznań, including The National Museum, the Old Market, with its Town Hall, and the Cathedral. There was also time for dinner in the evening, at which the whole group could compare their insights and experiences, draw conclusions and exchange views on the way in which the Barka Foundation works in Poland.
On Monday, 13th June, we attended two meetings scheduled for the group: the first, in Turowo (about 60 km from Poznan), was with the manager of a social cooperative which looks after elderly people, and the second with the Mayor of Pniewy, and the manager of the social integration centre and social cooperative in the town. The group then proceeded to Ławica Airport for lunch and, later, to catch a plane to the Netherlands.
This was a very well-organised visit, with numerous insights and first-hand experience of the way in which the Barka communities work every day to help people to change their lives for the better.