Catholic Social Teaching in Action
The Priestly Life is full of variety. Having returned from the dreaming spires of Oxford yesterday morning and spent the afternoon dealing with queries at the Diocesan Archives, I had dinner with a small Polish community that has recently moved to my parish, called Barka UK.
My hosts were Thomasz Sadowski, the co-founder, and his daughter Ewa. Barka was set up in Poland at the time of the fall of Communism to look after those on the margins of society, particularly the homeless and alcoholics. They were invited to live in communities - more families than cold institutions - so that they could rebuild their lives and even set up small businesses, helped by 'leaders' who had been in the same situation themselves.
Barka UK was set up to deal with the most recent phase of Polish immigration following EU expansion in May 2004. Hundreds of thousands have come over to the UK over the past few years, encouraged by the Government, but many find themselves unemployed, homeless, exploited, defrauded of their passports and money, and without income support. Even in homeless day centres, tensions are raised because it is perceived that the Poles are 'taking over.'
Barka UK currently works mostly in Hammersmith and Fulham and helps homeless migrants in desperate situations return to Poland and live in Barka communities (such as the four farms they run in Wladyslawowo, Marszewo, Posadowek and Chudobczyce). Between July and October 2007 over 40 migrants were repatriated in this way.
It was indeed inspiring to hear of the work of Barka (based firmly on Christian values and the Church's social teaching) and sad to hear of the plight of so many migrants from A8 countries. I encourage you to visit the websites of Barka UK and their sister organisation, European Migrant's Integration Network.