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Ewa Sadowska: Creation of integration centers for intra-EU migrants

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Thank you very much. I feel very privileged to be standing in front of you to share my humble experience, actually, in the area of migration, and migrants' integration network. What I heard from the previous speakers has been incredibly refreshing and incredibly inspiring, so I feel pretty energetic to share with with you a little bit. I would like to start with a personal story, actually, because I feel it is important, it will explain to you where I am at now, and a little bit about the migration network that I would like to share. So basically, I grew up on a farm. A little bit like the farm that Jadwiga described. Beautiful Polish countryside. It's in Western Poland. But the farm had even more charm to it and significance, because it was run by people who had had very difficult life experiences, who were homeless for many years, rough sleepers, addicted, with mental illnesses. The farm was started in 1989 by my parents, who are psychologists, and they took a group of people with them, together with myself and my two younger sisters. And for eight years, we were living together under one roof. And this was my childhood, this is where I went to school. And I have wonderful images from that childhood. For example I remember Henryk, who spent 25 years in prison. All in tattoos. I remember him sitting on a large pile of hay and preparing carrots for horses. He was responsible for the horses on the farm and he felt needed for the first time in his life, he actually -- he was responsible for something and he was trusted. Then Zuzanna, who was a prostitute, and came to us with 12 dogs. Then, there was another person -- A grandmother, "Babcia Stasia" -- Grandma Stasia, who came to us in slippers in the middle of winter, at the age of 96, as her family thought she was a burden and just let her go. So this was my childhood, and the most important thing for me in living in this community with people from all walks of life, was the fact that I discovered that anyone, regardless of difficulties and tragedies and difficult experiences they've been through, everyone has the potential to rebuild their lives and to start from the beginning. And so, the people we lived with on this farm became the leaders of next such places, next such farms. They've been creating their own associations, their own companies, their own social enterprises. We've also establish centers to help them educate, because most of them didn't even have basic schooling completed. So, patterned after these Danish folk universities, popular universities, we've been establishing these schools in Poland, in many places in Poland to help them educate and develop their potential. Also, help establish [their] own social enterprises or even help to move on with their lives and live independently. And in September 2006, in London, to change the location a little bit, an official of one of the London Borough Councils, in [West] London, Hammersmith and Fulham, was walking through a park and passed what he called a whole "town" of people sleeping rough on cardboard, drinking alcohol, they spoke a language he didn't know, he only knew it was some Eastern European language and he tried to communicate with them. He tried to ask them what their [names were], where they came from. They only knew the basic "hello," "thank you" and "how are you." Then, he passed through that "town," as he called it, the next day and the next, and he developed a relationship with the people although they couldn't communicate very well. He did a little bit of research on the internet. And he wrote to us, to me, and he said, "I read about what you do in Poland, and there is a need for this kind of support for people for this kind of service, there is a need in London." And this is how I became involved with supporting Eastern European migrants in Western Europe. You know, migration is such an amazing process, and also a dangerous process, difficult process. I look at it that actually migration starts when the mother's egg meets with the father's... Ewa Sadowska: What do you call it? Audience: Sperm. Yes, and when life is born. This is when migration starts and it ends with death. (Laughter) (Applause) Well, in fact -- In fact, the person who was walking through the park was John Downey. And he later became chairman of our organization in London. When we came to London, we started, you see, with patrols on the streets. The most important element of the patrols on the streets, and the first project to help the most vulnerable Eastern European migrants who live on the streets is to help them understand the helplessness of the situation they found themselves in. And help them either with employment, and maintaining their lives in England, or helping them go back. Go back home. In this process, invaluable are the people who were helped by the organization my parents started in Poland. They were once homeless too, in Poland, they were jobless. They are now leaders, you see, going to London, talking to people who are on the streets there. Sharing the stories of their lives, sharing their path and saying to them, "Listen, I was like you. If I could do it, you can do it too. I have a family today, I run my own enterprise. I have prospects for the future. Over one thousand Eastern European migrants, not just Polish, all Eastern Europeans, have returned to rehabilitation programs in their home countries, also to Poland. Another thing, very important, is to support those who don't have to go back. A number of those who, with a little bit of help, a little bit of advice, are going to be successful with working and living in England, in Ireland, in Denmark. So we develop those social economy centers. Now the first one is working in central London to help people gain and maintain jobs. It's been going very well. In fact, to give you a little background -- In May 2004, when Poland joined the European Union, Nearly two million Polish people migrated to the West. I often compare it to the migration of European pioneers to North America, two hundred years ago. People taking their homes, their property, their children, their wives, and going to start a better life, to have a better future. This is what happened with Polish migrants and Eastern Europeans. Us who didn't have the freedom for so long, who were closed in this country for 50 years of communism. We wanted to exercise the right of freedom and go and explore. It's something very much to be encouraged, to be strengthened. The thing is to prepare yourself well for this difficult process. In fact, those who did not succeed in Western Europe were people, most of them, who [had] been the Communist generation. Those who spent most of their lives under the previous regime. And they speak no English or very little English, they don't understand the mechanisms of free-market economy, democracy, a strong one, like in England. Most of them were actually those who lost their jobs, who became unsuccessful, many addicted to alcohol. So, the film here shows a little bit of what I've been talking about, basically. The projects, those are for example the schools for adults, in Poland. The schools for adults with low levels of employability. They learn through practical and theoretical subjects and the purpose is to help them back to the labor market. They are learning cooking, sewing, gardening. Plumbing, carpentry. And this very project we [have] now replicated in London, in Hamburg, in Berlin, in Rotterdam. So, this is what I wanted to share. I am now working on developing a third project, an important one, to prepare staff, from both sending and receiving countries in Europe. Prepare them to work with migrants. And this network of migrant support centers, I have a dream that it will be developed not just in Europe, but that it will be developed across the world to help and support migrants. In fact, what I found, living on the farm in Western Poland, is that the mechanisms of human collapse and degradation are the same, regardless [of] whether it's a Mexican, American, [Pole]. All of us have a great potential to develop ourselves. So sometimes when our English friends come to Poland, English local borough councils, English civic society organizations with whom we are working in England, when they come to Poland, they say, "Poland is such an amazing place. You are, in a way, in a privileged position, because you had everything destroyed by Hitler and Stalin, and now you can build programs of a new generation. You can build a new free-market economy. You can build a new welfare system which is more active than passive." "We in England," they say, "have had this Christian charity model, which is mainly about distributing food on the streets." In fact, this is what one person told me, that it's been rather passive in England. Whereas here what they learned from Poland, from Eastern Europe is that these programs to help people do not have to be passive and make the vulnerable people just service-users, or clients of some service, but make them partners in all ventures. So, this is what I wanted to share with you, and thank you very much for listening. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 13 minutes and 54 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 710
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 15, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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