The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

Id-Dar tal-Providenza: Half a century of providing a home to individuals with disabilities

Monday, 1 January 2018, 09:49 Last update: about 10 months ago

To how many residents is Dar Tal-Providenza home?

Dar tal-Providenza is home to 115 residents, who reside in different homes which fall under Dar Tal-Providenza. In Siggiewi, there are three villas, there is one home in Qawra which was inaugurated in 2012, one in Birkirkara which was inaugurated in 2014 and in 2016 one was inaugurated in Zurrieq.

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22 people live in these houses within the community. The community houses are home to small groups of people. For example, the house in Qawra is home to three individuals who suffer from physical disabilities. The other two homes have individuals who have intellectual disabilities.

 

How old are the residents?

Ages differ; however, they are all adults. The majority of residents have intellectual disabilities, such as autism and global developmental delay; in many, the condition it is severe, whilst some residents have both physical and intellectual disabilities.

In February we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary from when the first three residents entered the home. The first residents were children, who came from some institution, because people with mental disabilities at that time used to be sent to live in a hospital.

Today the situation has changed, because there are more services in the community and for the families of the individuals. People who take residence here are older, 30 or 40 years old, the reason is because parents start aging or will have medical problems and can no longer take care of their children.

Some people also desire to be at a home. Id-Dar Tal-Providenza is home to individuals as old as 85 years.

 

When and why did the home begin?

The project began in 1965 when Monsignor Mikiel Azzopardi, the founder of the home, wanted to build the first home in Malta for persons with a disability. At that time, many people used to live in hospital not adapted to their needs, or in an inhumane environment amongst their families. He had also mentioned that some families used to hide their child with a disability in the basements of their houses. Others had brothers and sisters who did not even know that they existed, because of prejudices that existed within society. There were also many misconceptions in those days, for example that every disability is hereditary, which is not the case. There are some which are, but the majority are not.

Monsignor Azzopardi did not have money to his name, and found it difficult to find a place which was not expensive to buy in order to start this project. He looked all over, and initially wanted to build the house in Floriana. The main idea was to build a home within the community.

At that time, Mgr Azzopardi was Ecclesiastical Assistant General of the Malta Catholic Action, and the house in use today became apt for this service when the property was signed over from the Qrendi Royal Navy Rest Camp to the Malta Catholic Action, in 1967.

On the 12th of September 1965, he mentioned his idea on a radio programme – to open a residential home in Malta for persons with a disability. There was a woman he knew from Floriana, who, after the programme, approached him and gave him Lm100 to help fund his idea, money she had initially been saving up to go abroad with. She gave him the first donation.

That night he felt this was a sign from God to carry on with this project, and the next day he met up with the architects to discuss the project and work kicked started the following December. Work finished in 1968 and shortly afterwards the nuns from the Congregation of Sisters of St Jeanne Antide Thouret, who are known as the Sisters of Charity and used to help in all Malta’s hospitals, took up residence and were id-Dar tal-Providenza’s first support workers aided by volunteers, and subsequently by employed personnel. 

On 11th February of 1968 they started taking care of the first residents.

 

How is the house financed? Is it just through fundraising?

Since it opened it has been funded by the donations of the Maltese and Gozitan population. Residents contribute with a disability pension, that is 58% of the minimum wage, which is not much, but otherwise we take care of everything, whilst the government gives good subsidies on water and electricity and helps a bit with some workers, everything else is funded for by fundraising or donations given by the population. Other people also leave us money or property in their will.

 

Can you tell me about the interaction of the residents within society?

Although the property here is not in the middle of a village, we invested in a lot of transport so that individuals can enjoy their social life. On the whole I feel the residents take part in activities that take place in the parishes as much as possible.

 

Do you think there is a need for more residential homes to open around the country other than the ones which are present now?

We think that more are needed. We have many people knocking on our doors, so the more homes there are in communities where there currently aren’t, the better. That way, if someone is from, say, Zurrieq, they can remain living in their own village but in the resident home.

 

From when the home opened, how have the prejudices of society changed towards people with a disability?

From fifty years ago until now, there has been much more awareness linked with this topic, and if Maltese society used to look at individuals with a disability in a negative light, I think today society looks at these individuals in a more positive light. This does not mean we have arrived at our objective. We need to work more to create more awareness about people with a disability and their rights, and we must make sure that society respects those rights.

Unfortunately, although nowadays there are laws and opportunities regarding equality, there are still people who experience discrimination, and so this does not guarantee their rights.

 

When did Feast of Generosity begin?

It began 22 years ago, this is the 22nd edition. It started off as an initiative by RTK radio station, and eventually became a whole day broadcast on television. About 200 people will be helping with the fundraising activity.

There are four main reasons behind the Feast of Generosity; to meet up with the residents, to see the capital projects, to raise the much needed funds, but more importantly to spread the Home’s message that society has to respect persons with disability, treat them with the dignity they deserve and offer them choices and opportunities has a right to enjoy.

 

Do you have any projects lined up for this year?

We are working on a new home in Balluta, which will soon be ready. It will be home to three residents. We also want to open a home in Zabbar to have a home in that community. We are also creating a music room which, amongst other things, will be used for music therapy.

 

 

Donations may be made at the Home in Siggiewi, at Radio RTK studios in Blata l-Bajda or by phone as follows:

€10 donation – 51602012

€5 donation – 51702013

€25 donation – 51802014

 

€7 donation SMS – 50618922
Pledge Line - 21462759

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