On the 22nd of September Barka UK will celebrate its fifth anniversary

I want to take a calculated risk; to dream and to build, to
fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the
challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of
fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for
a handout.

DEAR STAFF, PARTNERS AND FRIENDS,

It’s hard to believe that this year on the 22nd of September Barka UK will celebrate its fifth anniversary, and that so much time has passed since we embarked on this journey in UK waters! Thanks to the invitation received in 2006 by the Barka Foundation in Poland from Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw, the Council of London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (John Downie), and the Housing Justice and Simon Community organizations, we were able to begin a service for these Central and Eastern European migrants who found themselves stranded in difficult life situations in the UK.

Many things have happened during this time. Barka UK worked in 13 London boroughs, including: Hammersmith and Fulham, City, Tower Hamlets, Barnet, Lambeth, Southwark, Brent, Hounslow, Harrow, Ealing, Kensington and Chelsea, as well as in Slough, and Reading where in partnership with local councils and organisations, it carried out the Reconnection project which provided severely excluded Central and Eastern European migrants in the UK with the opportunity for reconnection and social and economic reintegration, as well as offering support for their social development through education and entrepreneurship (so far 2215 people who were sleeping rough on the streets of London have been reconnected to socio-professional reintegration projects in their countries of origin and their families). In 2010, with the support of the OAK Foundation and the local governments of the City of London and Tower Hamlets the Social Economy Centre project was funded, with the purpose to integrate Central and Eastern European citizens into the labour market in Britain. We have also initiated the European Migrants Integration Network for local governments and organisation (more than 200 study visits to Poland took place of representatives of the British Government, the Mayor of London office and the House of Lords), and the pan-UK free helpline for migrants was initiated in 2011 (it assists in resolving issues such as housing, employment, legal issues, health or family problems).

These actions combined with Barka UK’s partnerships with local councils in support of migrants, have become a model for local governments and organisations in other European countries. In a similar way, Barka has been invited to cooperate with the local governments of Dublin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague, Arnehm, Venlo and Edinburgh. In October 2010, the Reconnection project was set up in Hamburg in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, City Mission of Hamburg and the local government. Barka Netherlands and Barka for Mutual Help in Ireland were reestablished to work with vulnerable Central and Eastern European migrants. Nearly two years ago, African organisations from the UK contacted Barka, which had resulted in the establishment of the International Network for Innovative Social Entrepreneurship (INISE) in Brussels for implementing programs in Africa.

I remember when we began our work in London we came across many people who did not believe that the challenge of delivering effective aid to the most vulnerable migrants was possible and that this process would prove most efficient if delivered with the help of those who themselves lived through addiction, homelessness, and went close to the lowest levels of human existence. Jurek Marynarz, one of the people who returned to Poland through Barka UK said: “I’m a recycled citizen. Today, I live with dignity, and in sobriety, I am rebuilding my relationships with my family, and I have turned my life around. “

We are extremely grateful to all those who have supported us over these last 5 years.

On behalf of the Barka UK’s Board, I would like to give a special Barka UK thanks to the OAK Foundation – Louise Montgomery and Amanda Beswick for 3 years of financial support in the continuing of the Social Economy Centre project. I would like to thank the local council of Hammersmith and Fulham (Chris Reynolds), City (Davina Lilley), Lambeth (Claire Ritchie) and Southwark (Natty St. Louis), in whose boroughs Barka UK is currently running the Reconnection project, for their trust and commitment in the A10 migrants issues, expressed through study visits to Poland, frequent contacts and support in the reconnection projects and other assistance programs for migrants in these boroughs.

Especially, with all my heart I thank Bernadette Cassidy for her great commitment in having been with us day after day, and for passing on her house in Hackney for Barka UK’s disposal. If it was not for Bernadette’s support over all these years, Barka UK would not be able to realize half of the tasks, which we managed to successfully carry out in England. Our sincere thanks go to Efrem Kidane, our accountant, for his help in every situation, for his hard work done largely on a voluntarily basis and for his great kindness and friendship. A warm thank you to Lord Roberts of Llandudno, who gained his title of the Ambassador of Eastern and Central European Migrants, through his friendly and supportive actions and initiatives for migrants, including the Dignity Day project, Migrants Helpline project, preparing educational materials and leaflets, taking Barka’s visitors for study visits into the House of Lords and many, many others.

I would like to express our gratefulness to Boris Johnson, the Major of London and his co-workers Richard Barnes and Richard Blakeway for their openness, consultations, numerous meetings and for the time they have spent with us during the study visit to Poland.

Thank you sincerely Michelle Binfield, Teresa Bryan, James Morris, Jenny Edwards, Joe Ansell, Megan Stewart, Alastair Murray, Helen Lewis, Julie Brett, Lee Seaman, Bruce Marquart, Anne Walker, Ian Cormac, Howard Sinclair, Basia Arzymanow and Polonia Brytyjska, Godwin Bateren, Baiba Dhidha Mjidho and the African communities in the UK, as well as Missionaries of Charity, led by Sisters Anna and Miriam, and all Barka UK’s British partners and friends for their support, friendship and for having welcomed us into your homes and your culture, for your openness to us and Central and Eastern European migrants.

We express our sincere thanks to Cooltura, Goniec Polski, Polish Express, Panorama and the BBC for showing the challenges that are faced by migrants, and for promoting good working practices in relation to migrant issues.

Thank you to the staff of Barka UK for your professional heart-warming and determined service and for your courage.

We are grateful to the Barka Foundation in Poland, our mother organisation for guidance and sharing with us its achievements of over 20 years of its organic work in rebuilding human lives and the development of social capital.

Ultimately, I wish to thank my parents, Tomasz and Basia, without whose support, guidance and selfless grassroots work in building social economy in Poland, none of this would be possible.Migration always involves an element of anxiety and uncertainty; it requires good preparation and a lot of luck, in finding a new position in a new place, to take root in a new context to build lives.

Barka is a place, which integrates and unites people despite their differences, regardless of their experience, education or age, it is a place where one can meet as individuals and share his or her testimonies. Barka UK is like a boat which has saved many, and continues to save us from life’s trials and tribulations. Barka in a sense is a therapy for all of us. Luckily on this boat there are no applicants or clients, there is a man – a citizen with a whole baggage of experience which equips him throughout his life and his entire humanity.

On the whole, I do not believe that we are doing anything exceptional. We are simply trying in a measured way to responsibly and honestly respond to the challenges we are faced with in our times – the mass migration and the dangers that come with it. We are trying to be useful to Europe in this journey.

We are looking forward receiving you and celebrating together on the 22nd of September!

Ewa Sadowska
Barka UK