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St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

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Some choices, we do not make.

There is no warranting for the twists and turns of life. Often, in the stories of children seeking admission into St. Joseph’s Home, the level of trauma and hurt that we encounter is so intense, that we are left wondering if there is any freedom left for a child to forge out a new identity. Yet, for all the stories of children whose cards were stacked highly against them from their early years, we also encounter stories of children who fought through the odds and made it safely into mature adulthood. Without sounding simplistic, it seems we do not yet well understand why two children with similar traumatic experiences in childhood grow up dif ferently: one adopts the psychic position of a victim, another, similarly abused, becomes a survivor.

in the same quandry. Do we adopt a position of defensiveness, of closing in on ourselves, to protect ourselves? Or do we engage fully in the healing process, however painful? To quote from a recent conference on the subject held in Ottawa, Canada in October 2011: “What does the Catholic abuse crisis teach us about the challenge of building cultures that protect children from the threat of child abuse within wider familial and institutional settings?”

St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

With the gift of hindsight, we look back with deep sadness, and to the future with renewed hope. I firmly belief that all that has happened in the last years, has brought about a sharpening of the Home’s original mission and a deeper focus on the need to fulfil this mission diligently, transparently, and well. The last year has seen no let up in the amount of children seeking admission, Ironically, in the wake of the or in the severity of problems abuse scandal which has rocked these young kids face when not St. Joseph’s Home since 2003, in care. all at the Home found ourselves 3


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St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

In essence, moving from trauma the stakeholders in the country to real transformation asks us to who have children’s interests at tap into dif ferent qualities: heart.

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Resilience: one of the unique qualities of chilWe believe in the potential of dren is resilience. For people: be they children, the Home, resilience is staff and volunteers, marked by the dogged belief that a lot of good who help us in our task. can still come out of caring for neglected children in this Home. This breeds an Faith: As a Catholic Home, we optimism in the face of dif ficult are asked to live each moment odds. We have no illusion as to with faith, however dif ficult. The the magnitude of the task which last months, in particular, have we face daily with increasing- been atcontinuous invitation to ly challenging behaviours and all who are part of St. Joseph’s situations, yet firmly hold to the Home today, to believe in God’s good we can do. Essentially, this steadfastness, fidelity and provialso begs of us to believe in the dence. potential of people: be they chil- This publication showcases dren, staf f, and volunteers who what has been going on at the help us in our tasks. Home. It is a small testament to the belief that even in adversity Openness: In this light, the chal- and shame, God has been gralenge remains to have hearts cious to us as we seek to humwhich are open to all, including bly ensure that the most vulnerall victims of abuse. It is an es- able in our society find in St. sential part of the mission of this Joseph’s a place they call home. Home. This holds true, particularly to the Old Boys who have Fr Frankie Cini mssp lived years of their lives within Director the massive precints of this Home. On another level this attitude asks of us to be fully engaged and transparent with all


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Open day

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he first open day at St. Joseph’s Home in 2011 gave the general public the opportunity to enter and discover the world of a children’s home at close quarters. For all the publicity it has generated, little is known about the Home beyond the entrance and façade. The Open Day during which members of the staff took turns to take people around the premises, including the apartments where the children live, were an opportunity for many families from across Malta

to come and see what it is like from inside. Beyond the media perceptions, the Open Day gave visitors a first hand experience of daily life in a children’s home. Before the actual day, the children were asked to remove identifying objects and photos from their rooms. We feel that the need for people to know, and the need for the Home to be transparent, should in no way impinge on the privacy of the children, for whom this place is their home away from home. For many families


Beyond the media perceptions, the Open Day gave visitors a first hand experience of daily life in a children’s home.

Probably the highlight of days like this is the visit of old boys of

the Home. People in their sixties, seventies and eighties, who lived here, ran along the same corridors, and learnt a trade. Some come with stories never told before. Others, grown men, shed tears as they remembered the people who shaped their lives, trained them with discipline and prepared them for life beyond misery and poverty. Other retell stories of hardship and suffering, yet others remember the place and people with gratitude and nostalgia. For them, as for us, who opened our doors, this day served to bring together the many lives which make St. Joseph’s Home.

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who visited us with their own children, this was an eye opener as to how similar our apartments look to “normal” homes. The image of dreary large dormitories with rows upon rows of beds next to each other is banished. The day was punctuated by abseiling provided by the Vodofone activity team, who returned again in summer to provide the boys at the Home with the thrill of abseiling into the main courtyard of the Home. For younger children, Jugs Malta Ltd provided a play area.

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The Independent Living Project, took off in 2011, as the brainchild of a group of young entrepreneurs who wanted to create something unique for children on the verge of leaving care. Apart from the actual changes to the physical space, the project is intended to cater for the particular needs of youths who are preparing for living on their own. Works started in March 2011, with the removal of the old structures in a whole wing of the Home. A particular feature of this project has been the outpouring of support in kind by contractors, suppliers and people who actually did some of the work

needed on a voluntary basis. From youths who came to clear tiles, to major local companies who offered time and resources, the project started to take shape and is now entering its final phases, in time for inauguration in a few months time. Creating a home away from home is never easy. The project has been aimed at minimising as much as possible the effects of institutionalisation in children’s homes, fostering a hands on approach to living together as small families, and skills learning for youths, whilst being still mentored by the skilled staff of the Home.


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Mr Winston Zahra Jr. (Island Hotels Group), Mrs Gemma Mifsud Bonnici (Chairperson Vodafone Foundation), and Mrs Lucy Weldon (HSBC Foundation), during the launch of the Educational Programme.


When in the early 1920’s St. Joseph’s Home opened shops for trade, with carpenters, book binders, printers, shoe-makers, and other trades, it kicked off a tradition which went beyond the mere provision of shelter for street kids.

Up to the early 1970’s, hundreds of children left St Joseph’s Home equipped with a trade for life. With the advent of compulsory education, and the change of the child population at the Home, the trade shops closed, to give way to a different focus on education outside the walls of the Home, and within the national institutions of learning. Throughout, volunteers and dedicated men and women from all walks of life have assisted children resident at the Home, not only with exercises brought back from school, but with the mentoring they needed to perform better, at school, and in life. St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

The truth is, that children in institutions struggle academically. They have to deal with problems which often many adults have never even imagined. Yet, they still are expected to perform well academically. Invariably, for very complex reasons,

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they fall behind, and find it difficult to do well at school. Low achievement levels are unfortunately common in children’s homes, despite the best efforts of many.

was actually part of their after school hours! For children who have often had very little schooling before being in care, this was not an easy task. For some it meant we had to start from basic literacy skills, for children who are already 10 or 11 years old. Three years on, the programme has made an even bigger leap. Island Hotels Group, Vodafone Alexander Pope, Moral Essays Foundation, and HSBC More than statistics, these are Foundation, courageously enthe lives of children, who might dorsed the “Higher Platform for have lived in a children’s home Children in Care”. for years on end, yet still find it very hard to integrate in society The programme was designed and set up by Mr. Dominic when they leave. Lewis, project manager secAt St. Joseph’s Home we real- onded to the Home by HSBC, ised that these unhappy statis- in coordination with Mr David tics were something which we Schembri, the Head of Care at could not tolerate any longer. the Home. The programme now Over the last years, the Home envisages an educational costarted to adopt a more struc- ordinator, Mr. Miguel Debono tured approach to the educa- Cianco, who oversees the tion of the children resident overall needs of each child. at the Home. In 2009 Island His role is to help recruit tutors Hotels Group started to annu- from the educational field, and ally sponsor this budding pro- guarantee that each child at gramme . In its first three years, the Home has three hours of the challenge was to help the personal tuition per week. This children realise that education meant that rather than relying

Tis education forms the common mind, Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.

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on short term placements, the Home opted to recruit professionals from the educational field in order to ensure continuity and set programmes with a clear focus on each child’s educational needs. Recruiting teachers for the programme proved to be an opportunity to meet a lot of people who genuinely care about children who need help in this field. The programme is no panacea for difficult situtations. Some children resist the process after having lost so much in previous

years, but slowly we are marking a paradigm shift: from simply providing shelter, to assuming responsibility for the greater well being of each child in our care. Like the trades of St Joseph’s Home in the 1920’s, we want the Home to provide more than a place to live in safety. It is our hope, that beyond actual improvements in results at school, the educational programme at St. Joseph’s Home offers hope and possibilities to many children currently in distress.

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Early days: The late Br Rosario Micallef mssp teaching a young man printing techniques in the 1950s.

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Il-Bebbuxu

St. Joseph’s Home, built in various stages in the first half of the 20th century, is a massive complex. At it peak in the 1950’s, it was home to nearly 200 children at any given time. With the decline of the child in care population from the 1970’s, large areas of the buildings became vacant. Over the last years, a number of rooms have been rehabilitated, making way for seminar and meeting rooms, and other services. In this light, a landmark agreement between the Maltese Church and the Ministry of Education, Employment and the Family in late 2010, paved the way for a large basement theatre to be converted into a Child Care Centre. Il-Bebbuxu, was born!

St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

From the shell of a large hall, a vibrant, colourful space for children took shape in early 2011. The works included also rehabilitating a small pitch which the boys of St. Joseph’s Home use in the evenings, and which serves as a bright play area for the children at il-Bebbuxu Smartkids during the day.

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Il-Bebbuxu Smart Kids Child Care Centre is one of seven centres currently run by the Foundation for Educational Services. It was officially opened on the 12th July 2011 by Minister Dolores Cristina and to date the centre has already catered for more than 60 children. The main aim of the centre is to


offer a personalised service of exceptional quality for all children, especially those at risk of social exclusion. The child care services are based on the educare principle. This means that the childcare centres of the Foundation sustain that every child is an individual and also very special. The child care centre programme focuses on the various areas of child development (social, emotional, physical, intellectual, communication and creativity). The most important feature is that children learn through play. The aim of the service is to help children to reach their full potential. Quality service provision in these child care centres

is assured by following the National Standards of Child Day Care Facilities (2006). The service is offered from Monday to Friday, between 730am till 4pm. The child care centre caters for children between 3 months and 3 years. Parents interested in making use of this service are to fill in a Registration Form. This may be obtained by: • Asking for a copy to be sent by post, by phoning 21455600/7 or by sending an e-mail: childcarefes.meef@ gov.mt • Collecting the form from the centre or calling the Centre Coordinator on 21443863/ 21443855.

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Peace on Earth Concert at the Chapel of the Home, St. Monica Choir


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Volunteer activity is part of the fabric of most Homes like ours. It is the unsung yet very visible contribution to the welfare of children in care. St. Joseph’s Home has nurtured and developed a reputation as an open place for individuals, families, groups, and companies to come and be part of the journey.

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Building meaningful relationships Many think it is very easy to just come into a Home, and strike a relationship with a child in care. In reality this needs preparation. Gone are the days when a person simply knocks on our door and they join the team! Normally individuals and groups which intend to work closely with the children,


are inducted into the Home’s regulations and structures, so they blend in gradually and slowly. The Home does not encourage short term experiences in direct contact with the children, because the residents tend to feel abandoned each time volunteers come and then disappear from their lives. On the other hand we encourage continuing relationships with families who form beautiful friendships with the boys as they grow up. Simarly joint activities with organisations and NGO’s which also offer services in our society are always an opportunity for the boys to encounter something different. In particular, a recent joint activity with the Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni b’Di\abilita was a beautiful coming together which the children of the Home benefited a lot from.

St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

Probably the main volunteer activity in direct contact with the residents of the Home is that held by ~AMYouths, an organisation of youth groups under the MSSP umbrella, which organises three whole weeks of voluntary activities at the height of summer. This groups starts to form around April of each year and is prepared in detail for the experience with the children: the Home manual is discussed, norms explored, and basic training for being with children provided. It results in weeks of packed activities for the boys at the Home, including educational activities, apart from a lot of fun activities both within the massive

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BOV

precints of the Home and in other entertainment venues. The group of volunteers also helps in seeking sponsorships for the boys to have a really good time in summer. St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

Making a difference For others, the Home provides an annual or occasional place where to spend a day together doing something good for others. The sheer size of the building means that there’s always something to be done; a window to be cleaned, a room to be painted, or a corner of gar24 den to be cleared! Such groups,

normally from major companies, or even groups of friends have become a regular feature of the Home, especially during weekends. Some companies opt for small one day projects, like the recent painting of the main entrance by RadissonBlu employees. Others put in a shift of work where it is most needed. Seasonal varieties include the orange picking season. Many opt to spend the day here, bring their children along and make an outing out of the experience. Often large groups, such as the BOV group include cooking lunch in the


Radisson Blu

Kummissjoni Nazzjonali Persuni b’Di\abilita

Support A third group of volounteers are individuals who offer their services in different parts of the Home. A pensioner comes to answer the phone every Tuesday. Another comes in on Monday. Yet another on Thursday,

and Wednesday and Friday. A person opens up the church every morning. Another visits every week to keep our databases up to date. A man visit from a village, bringing fresh eggs every week. A supplier phones to deliver a consignment of good quality foodstuffs. These people never make the news. Yet, they are the hidden treasures of St. Joseph’s Home. They are people who care for the children who live here, and for the mission of the Home to continue to provide care for children in need.

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main kitchen of the Home, so that the whole day ends with a shared meal! Apart from being great team builders for companies, schools, and groups, such events open up the Home to visitors, giving them a glimpse of how children in care are taken care of today.

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Jugs (Malta) Ltd.

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Vodafone

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For Volunteering opportunities contact us on 2123 1252, 21245 046, or email: admin@stjosephhome.mssp.org, or facebook: St. Joseph’s Home.


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oming to meet the children of St. Joseph’s Home more closely was a huge eye opener for me. I was assigned for a short summer experience at the Home, spanning the summer months. The fact that I actually lived in the building meant that I could visit the boys at various times during the day: from the early mornings when they woke up, bleary eyed, to face the adventures of the day, to the tender moments when they say their prayers before they sleep.

Joining the ÄŠAMYouths volunteers in their summer experience also helped me immerse myself in activities for the boys. I realised, that for all their deprivations, the kids still managed to have a summer packed with activities and fun. As a young member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, I am under no illusion as to how difficult the task of caring for these children is today. However this experience has been a very formative one for me personally and I have been struck by the commitment and dedication of the people connected with the Home and the children who live in it.

St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

Being with children is not easy. I found the staff to be very helpful in moments when I had to face awkward situations with children: moments when they are sad, and angry, others when they are lost and disturbed. The staff and Fr. Frankie helped me also to frame the experience in a wider context: more than a summer camp, for me this was a journey of discovery. Yet, beyond the presenting problems of the children, they remain es-

sentially children who want to play, have fun and make the best of their childhood. Admittedly, some of the older boys, nearly my own age, present particular challenges in facing the world beyond this Home, and it was heartening to see the many efforts being made to help them integrate back into society. One of the highlights of this experience for me was to get to know these youths on a personal level.

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Digging Deep

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St Joseph’s Home - Annual 2012

The dry summer months gave us the opportunity to clean the underground systems at the Home. St. Joseph’s Home has three underground systems in its precints: two war shelters and a massive water catchment system hewn out in two stages: a first cavern built beneath the “Palazz l-Aħmar” during the last decades of the Knights of St. John, and a massive extension cistern dug in 1924. One of the war shelters is mostly submerged with water used for irrigating the Home’s orange orchards. Thoroughly cleaned before the rains, the long summer of 2011 gave us the opportunity to go down and admire this subterranean maze under St. Joseph’s Home.

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Photos: Mark Anthony Bugeja


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St Joseph Home Annual 2012