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By launching a network of adult education programs, collectively called the Kofoed School, Barbara Sadowska is helping formerly homeless people gain job skills, build self-reliance, and regain dignity and confidence.
Unemployment and homelessness in Poland have reached crisis proportions. Many who are unemployed are also homeless. With no job and no place to live, people are alone and in despair; many develop a dependency on alcohol or other drugs. Lack of education contributes to high unemployment. Existing laws and regulations that govern schools offer little support to those who are poorest and most in need of education. Moreover, there are no effective, long–term solutions engineered by national and local governments that significantly increase opportunities for students from poor families.
The Barka foundation has been working for 25 years and during that time has developed many initiatives and projects. Their Help System works in 2700 Polish municipalities, as well as in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Mexico, Canada, Uganda and Kenya. Barka created 50 different social enterprises and cooperatives which have been assembled in a network. They opened Social Economy Centres and 200 Centers of Social Integrationhelping excluded and vunerable people revert to a decent life and in many cases renewed social acceptance. Barka was also involved in creating a legal system regarding social economy in Poland
Barbara started the Kofoed School to help adults whose lives have been marred by homelessness, unemployment, and, in many cases, chemical dependence. By treating participants as partners rather than patients, she enables them to see a hopeful, productive future and contribute to the school’s sustainability and scope as they recover. She combines therapy with work and professional training. Subsequently, participants assume roles in the Kofoed School as mentors and teachers of newcomers. In addition to education and therapy, the school offers long–term housing, legal aid for people facing eviction, and lobbying and advocacy for the legal rights of homeless and unemployed people.
The Foundation‘s aim is to create support systems for the integration of socially marginalized groups, which consists of programs involving around 5 000 people per year (this number is constantly growing). The main purpose of the Barka Foundation development program is to create a pro–active social system in Poland. But the demand for their knowledge and business models has increased over the last years and now Barka is expanding in Europe, America and Africa (Burkina Faso, Kenia, Zimbawe and Uganda).
Barbara has always been drawn to helping others less fortunate than herself. As a little girl, she stole eggs from her mother’s chickens and offered them to poor families in her neighborhood. Later on, she began thinking about how to help elderly people who lacked families to care for them. She talked to them on the tram or train and learned about their needs. She then gathered a group of friends and organized visits to the homes of elderly people to help them with their daily tasks. During her university years, Barbara studied psychology and began to address poverty and its psychological effects in her own community. She organized patients, read books to them, and took them to bonfires and on recreational trips.