We help people who are marginalized to overcome major problems such as addictions, unemployment, debts, homelessness (or threat of homelessness), isolation, and lack of hope. Sometimes marginalization and isolation are not obvious, for example when people have families but are unable to communicate with them about certain issues, or unable to find effective solutions in spite of having family comfort.
We provide emotional support and specific help as needed, both immediate and long-term. Our goal is to restore people’s well-being, and to help them become capable, resilient, and productive members of society. In some cases, when a person is affected by a significant health setback (such as a traumatic brain injury), our goal is to find appropriate care, and to improve their health and function to the degree that is possible.
Here is what we do in more detail:
Personal Help in Crisis Situations
24-hour Confidential Infoline 1-604-302-3060
We have a 24-hour, confidential Infoline that anyone can call to obtain our services and support. The line connects you directly to a Barka volunteer. If the phone is not picked up immediately, please leave a message, and we will do our best to call you back within 12 hours. If you don’t know where to turn or what to do, you can call us. If you are in an immediate crisis and need immediate support, please call Crisis Line at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). If you are in an immediate danger, please call 911.
We offer emotional support and compassion for each person, while respecting their dignity and their unique circumstances. We help people with solving specific problems, like finding housing or obtaining other services. We also accompany people to doctor’s appointments, or visit them in hospitals or detox centres to provide them with support through their treatment and recovery process.
Resource Information and Help
We provide information on resources available in the community, including governmental and non-governmental service agencies. Information alone may feel distant or overwhelming, but we can also help people identify which resources will suit their needs best, and assist them in obtaining or navigating these resources. Institutions that we have connected our clients with include hospitals, detox and addiction treatment centres, Service Canada, BC Housing, Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, other government social services, courts, Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, Immigration Canada, and many others. Please note that we cannot be guarantors or legal advocates for any client.
Our volunteers will meet people out in the community, or talk to them on phone as requested, to help with solving specific problems, or to initiate conversations about their situations and what kind of immediate or ongoing help they need. Such meetings are initiated by the persons themselves, family members, physicians, social workers, or other referral sources. Of course, we always respect the right of the person to decide whether they want to talk to us. Sometimes we meet with a family member of the person experiencing difficulties, to help them cope and to explore best ways of approaching the problem.
Long-Term Support, Personal Growth and Skills
Formal AA & NA Group
We run an AA & NA Group (Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous), formally registered with AA Greater Vancouver Intergroup Society. The group meets once a week (see the sidebar). Current participants are mostly Polish-speaking, so the group is run mainly in Polish, however, everyone is welcome and English can be used.
We run a Self-Help Group for people affected by addictions, including family members and those in recovery. The group also welcomes participants dealing with mental health issues or family problems. This is an informal group, based on people sharing their experiences and concerns, and receiving support from their fellow participants. Current volunteer facilitators are Kasia Major, Piotr Szymlowski, and Maria Placewicz. The facilitator’s role is simply to keep the conversations respectful and inclusive, and to ensure the group starts and ends on time. The meetings are held once a week (see the sidebar).
AP: I’ve changed “mental health concerns” to “mental health issues.” “Concerns” would have been better, but the word is used again in the next sentence.
From time to time we organize public seminars on topics that are important for the individual and community well-being, such as mental health, substance abuse, addictions, youth challenges, self-management, interpersonal skills, and family relationships. Our invited speakers are experts in the subject matter. The seminars are open to everybody and free to attend. This is an opportunity to expand our horizons and to learn, so that we can function better, be happier, and address issues in our every day lives sooner and more effectively.
Our Plans and Aspirations
[ A short introduction, e.g. what are the common goals? ]
The purpose of our Outreach Program will be to make contact with people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and to encourage them to use our services and the services of other agencies to find housing, get addiction or mental health help, and get assistance with other problems that may be contributing to their lack of stable housing or employment. Our model of service delivery will be based on Barka UK, where teams of two people go out into the community where people who are homeless have been known to be. They would approach and offer support and services, but they would not push anyone into accepting help. Each team will consist of a Leader, who is a person who has struggled with addiction themselves, has gone into recovery, and has been stable in their sobriety for a set period of time, and a person with a social work or similar degree, who will be there to offer professional guidance and support as needed.
Handyman Division Social Enterprise
The Handyman Division social enterprise will provide an opportunity for people to get back into the workforce. The employees, including managers, will be people recovering from addiction and/or mental health issues, or those struggling to find a stable job. The work will involve physical labor and include pre-construction or pre-renovation preparation work, post-construction cleanup, small demolition jobs, junk removal, landscaping, and general yard work. The enterprise will offer accommodated employment, with basic job training, supervision, and workload tailored to what each employee can fully and responsibly do at a given stage of their recovery (subject to the availability of work). At the same time, the enterprise will provide structure, enforce sobriety, hold each employee accountable for their work, and foster good work habits. Barka Canada, as a non-profit society, will be the owner of the enterprise. Any extra income generated, after paying business expenses and employee wages, will be used to fund our programs.
This will be a residence for men recovering from addiction. The criteria for entry into the house will be a set period of sobriety/abstinence from the use of substance. We will offer a clean, safe environment with strict policies against substance use. Since an important part of the recovery process is learning/re-learning/maintaining life skills, we will require the residents to participate in the upkeep of the house, including cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. We would like to have a residence for up to six men.
Barka would like to run and operate a farm where people who are in recovery would have the opportunity to learn farming skills and obtain accommodated employment. The residents will be people recovering from addiction, both men and women. The requirement for entry will be a set period of sobriety. There will be strict rules against substance use. Our farming activities will include cultivation of various crops, as well as raising animals for food or products such as eggs and milk. Away from the city’s hustle and bustle, the farm will provide a slower pace and more personal environment, with less stress, yet plenty of hard work, close to nature. In time, the farm should become financially self-sufficient, and eventually able to generate extra income that could be used towards other projects at Barka Canada.
NOVEMBER 9 VERSION
We have a 24-hour, confidential Infoline that anyone can call if they need assistance. The line connects you directly to a Barka volunteer. If the phone is not picked up immediately, please leave a message, and we will do our best to call you back within 30 minutes.
If you are facing a crisis situation, don’t know where to turn or what to do, you can call us. We offer emotional support, information about resources in the community, assistance in obtaining such resources, or direct information about how to proceed with an urgent matter, if we are able to give such information ourselves. Please note, though, that we cannot be guarantors or legal advocates for any client.
Currently we are able to provide immediate assistance in English and in Polish. For other languages, we need time to find a volunteer interpreter.
JULY 31 VERSION
Currently Barka Canada has created various programs aimed at assisting marginalized people maintain sobriety and reintegrate into society, and helping our community build up its capacity for dealing with issues such as addiction and mental health concerns.
We have a 24-hour, confidential Infoline (604-302-6030) that anyone can call if they need assistance.
Our volunteers will go to people’s homes or meet them out in the community as requested to help with solving specific problems or just to initiate conversations about their situations and what kind of immediate or ongoing help they need. We often accompany and guide people through the process of obtaining services from other agencies, including governmental.
We have organized and presented three community workshops on the issues of mental health and addiction/substance abuse. We plan on continuing to organize and offer such workshops on topics that are of importance to the community.
Formal AA & NA group
We have initiated and run a formally-registered AA & NA group which meets every Tuesday at 7 pm at the Phoenix Society building in Surrey, across the street from Surrey Memorial Hospital. The current participants are mostly Polish-speaking so the group is run mainly in Polish, however, everyone is welcome and English can be used.
We currently run a self-help group for people affected by addiction, including family members and those in recovery. This is an informal group and is based on people sharing their experiences and concerns and receiving support from their fellow participants. The current facilitators are our volunteers: Kasia Major, Piotr Szymlowski and Maria Placewicz. The facilitator’s role is simply to keep the conversations respectful and inclusive and to ensure the group starts and ends on time. The meetings are held in one of the meeting rooms at the Central Library in Surrey every Thursday at 7 pm.