When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, it was a time of jubilation in Eastern Europe. But communism left behind an underclass of homeless people former prisoners, addicts, alcoholics and the psychologically disturbed with nowhere to turn. For Polish psychologists Barbara and Tomasz Sadowski, it was a call to action. Like the other people profiled in this section, they have been honored as "social entrepreneurs"; creators of innovative, scalable solutions to intractable social problems by the Schwab Foundation, co-founded by World Economic Forum president Klaus Schwab.
In 1989 the Sadowskis launched a foundation called Barka, or Lifeboat; for their vessel they chose a defunct state school in Wladyslawowo, and moved into it with their three daughters and a group of 20 homeless people. Rather than keep their distance from a potentially dangerous population, they believed that homeless people could "live together like a family,"; Barbara recalls. Tomasz set out to teach farming how to raise chickens, sheep and pigs, and plant crops to the shattered personalities who had gathered at the school. "They had a feeling of identity, they belonged to a group and a place,"; says Barbara. "It's important for people who have nothing to achieve success in their lives."; Most nongovernmental organizations offered only temporary support such as food and clothing. This was a new life.
It wasn't always easy. The Sadowskis didn't feel threatened by their boarders, but for five years they worked without any salary and tapped their savings. The charity has since grown to 20 centers housing 700 people. After seven years on the farm, the Sadowskis have moved back to the city to better administer Barka. Both high-speed talkers, they are delighted at their unexpected path. "There was a big impact on our lives in a spiritual way,"; Barbara says. Their three children also adapted. "They felt like they were among brothers and sisters,"; she says. The Sadowskis say the most important thing about Barka is trust. "It's important that we live together, share money and share kitchens,"; Barbara says. "Without trust it would be difficult to build cooperation with such groups of people."; By taking a leap of faith that would frighten most, the Sadowskis gave Poland's homeless genuine hope.