Tomasz Sadowski, the Founder of Barka was convinced that supporting the African communities was our obligation. He talked about the indigenous people of Africa – “Big Brothers”. He supported the organisation of more than 30 study visits to Poland by representatives of African communities. He built the foundations under the “EQUAL Europe with Africa” programme, which aim is to look for opportunities and create jobs in Africa.

The project of the ‘Tomasz Sadowski Power Centre’ in Kinshasa is a continuation of such  commitments. The purpose of this project is to provide affordable shelter and conditions for decent living, education and work for the poorest families.

This is the summary of the study visit of representatives of Caritas and people working in the Centre in Kinshasa. Caritas work in Kinshasa is much needed, not only because the organisation works directly with people with disabilities and their families, but also because it’s education values.

In their country, big problems are caused by the stereotype that a disabled child brings bad luck to the family. According to this belief, there is a social permission to throw such a child on the street. Caritas takes care of them, gives children a home, safe environment to grow and is looking for adoptive families for them.

Thursday, 13th April

A 9-day study visit started on 13th April, during which Ewa Sadowska-Keogh and Anna Maria McKeever, representatives of the Barka UK team, collected guests to take them to the first introductory meeting at Barka HQ in Poznań. There, they were met by Barbara Sadowska, the chairwoman of the Board of the Barka Foundation for Mutual Help, and several of the Barka Poznan leaders.

After lunch and a coffee meeting, during which we spoke about the genesis of the Barka Foundation and summarised over 30 years of Barka’s activities, the guests were driven to the Barka Chudobczyce Community Centre – their accommodation for the next 3 days.

Friday, 14th April

After breakfast, we had a meeting with Kasia, the Barka Chudobczyce Community Centre Manager, and the Leaders living in the centre. We also introduced the Community and Social Integration Centre of Chudobczyce. Our delegates had an opportunity to see the way in which the Centre operates and we showed them an organic garden farm, and animal farm, and explained how important it is for the Centre to be independent and sustainable in terms of income.

In the afternoon, we took the Congo delegates to a meeting with the Director of Caritas Poznań at the ‘Cuda – Garnki’ Social Cooperative, which specialises in catering. We compared the activities of Caritas in Kinshasa, Congo with the Caritas projects which Poznań is supporting and also discussed how Caritas works in both countries, in terms of the differences and synergies in the organisation’s structure. We also had some time to visit Fundation ‘Ubabrane’ specialising in producing ceramics.

After a very busy day, we have invited our guests to a well-known Polish restaurant which serves regional Wielkopolska dishes, near Poznan’s Old Market. Later, in the evening, we proceeded to Chudobczyce for an overnight stay.

Saturday, 15th April

In the morning, our guests were invited to a special breakfast made by Basia Sadowska, which she cooked for them at home. This was a very enjoyable visit, during which they had the opportunity to see the place at which the late Tomasz Sadowski lived, along with a chance to get to know each other better and share very personal stories. Soon, it was time to set off to Barka Poznań HQ, to have a lovely chat with Ukrainian ladies preparing food for the Orthodox Easter celebrations taking place at Barka on Sunday.

Later, a group met Father Ireneusz from the Archdiocese of Poznań, who has been involved in supporting Barka for many years. A few ladies from Ukraine joined the meeting and shared very special personal stories of how they came to Barka Poznań, what they do now and how being in the Barka community changed their lives.

After lunch, our delegates travelled to meet Jerzy Mańkowski, the owner of the palace in Brodnica, at which the group stayed for dinner. The host gave delegates a tour of his palace. Mr Mańkowski, who spent over 22 years working in Africa (including 7 years in the Congo), was delighted have a chat in French (Congo’s official language) with Barka guests. Later, during dinner, the Congolese group listened to the story of his life and a brief history of his predecessors. In the late evening, the group returned to Chudobczyce.

Sunday, 16th April

<div><br class=”Apple-interchange-newline”>The day started early, as the group travelled from Chudobczyce to Poznań to take part in the Orthodox Easter Celebrations at the Barka Community Centre. The Mayor of the city of Poznań was also present and was introduced to our special guests from Congo. After the breakfast, we went to the Old Town Centre in Poznan for a short sightseeing tour, including: the Old Market Place, Town Hall, Fara church and the Cathedral. After the tour, the group returned to Chudobczyce for dinner and an overnight stay.

Monday, 17th April

Monday was a busy day: we invited our guests to a special partnership meeting in Szamotuly, where representatives of various local municipal offices were present, most of them involved with Barka in the field of special integration centres or social cooperatives. It was important for the delegates of this study visit to see how communities work together to offer people who are often on the margin of society a second chance, particularly those with a long-term unemployment history, prison inmates and disabled people. It also provided a better understanding of the methods of incorporating social economy entities in the system of institutional relations in the local environment.

The guests also visited one of the social integration centres for disabled people run by nuns in Szamotuly and were very impressed by various workshops, and the facilities offered, including felinotherapy. They admired the handcrafted artefacts created during the workshops.

The last meeting of the day was at Kwilcz Meeting at the Diakonijna Spółka Zatrudnienia founded by Barka and Social Integration Centre Kwilcz. We met Krysia who have our guests a tour of the factory where the parts for Voltsvagen are produced and we talked about the model of working with local authorities in Kwilcz. Later we drove quickly to show our delegates a few houses built for the workers on the land given by the mayor of the town.

The last stop for our delegates was at the first Community Centre of Barka in Władyslawowo. We were invited to an early supper with community members and leaders.

The last stop for our delegates was at the first Community Centre of Barka in Władyslawowo. We were invited to an early supper with community members and leaders.

Tuesday, 18th of April

As some of our Congo guests look after children in Kinshasa, we arranged a quick visit at the Zespół Szkół Salezjańskich primary school in Poznan with a class of 7 years old children. The pupils got to know African songs and culture of Congo and our delegates – the education system in Poland. We all ended up singing a popular song from Congo and had time to take a group photograph. One of the delegates, Petronelle had a special message for the children: ‘always dream big and you see that the dreams will come true if you learn hard and work hard’

After the school meeting, we set off to Strzelce Opolskie to see a few Barka community centres there. The meetings at the 3 centres were very special for both our guests and the residents of the communities. Congolese delegates were very interested in every day living of each community, the rules, the residents and the ways each centre is managed. They heard very personal stories of Leaders and Managers of the communities who overcome many live difficulties and addictions and completely changed their lives. Our African guests were very interested in how the centres were built and the materials used. Also asked questions on how each of them operates and how residents make money, are managed including bee keeping. In the evening, after visiting the first community, went to the hotel for an early night.

Wednesday, 19th of April

Another busy days started early morning with a visit to 2 different Barka communities, one of them very special – where older residents live.

After a very warm welcome in both places, we drove to a special Community Integration Centre for disabled people which works very closely with the vice mayor of Strzelce Opolskie town. Various workshops and physiotherapies attended by disabled people were shown to us and we were invited for a quick coffee to have a chat about the ways disabled people are looked after in Poland and Congo.

Friday, 21st April

Early morning our guests went to Sroda Wielkopolska for a meeting with local partnerships representing among others companies which look after general waste for the town’s residents. Afterwards, they were invited to see the town centre and lunch at local restaurant by the lake.

After lunch, the guests departed to Poznań for the last meeting with the Director of Redemptotris Missio, a foundation which organises medical interventions, shipment of medical equipment and dressings, creation of medical infrastructure as well as education and health promotion in Africa. We also had a chance to summarise the study visit. Afterwards, the delegates had some free time on their last evening in Poznań.

Saturday, 22nd of April

After picking up the group from the hotel, we went to Lawica Airport to drop them off to departure lounge with enough time to say goodbye.

Share this article: