Fellow Since 1996
Fundacja Pomocy Wzajemnej "Barka"
This profile was prepared when Tomasz Sadowski was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Tomasz Sadowski is settling groups of homeless people on previously abandoned farms in rural Poland. He is focusing on what the authorities and social workers consider the most difficult cases, those often labeled "hopeless" and "unreformable." Once at the farm, the residents are immersed in an atmosphere of love, respect and hope. They are provided with training and skills which they use to manage the farm. Tomasz's program breaks from the system that Poland has adopted to deal with homelessness. Typically the problem has been addressed through short-term urban shelters, which rely on government and private funds for support. Tomasz's rural cooperatives are striving to be self-sufficient units.Paradoxically, Tomasz's project and the homeless people it is helping are contributing to the rehabilitation of the seriously under-developed communities that dot rural Poland. Farming compounds that were abandoned by their owners or the government are now bustling hubs of social and economic activity. The money that the community residents earn from the profits of the farm is spent and invested in the villages where they live. This in turn has created job opportunities for village residents and leads to an atmosphere of cooperation and respect between village residents and the former homeless people, who were once rejected by mainstream society.