In the early sixties, Monsignor Michael Azzopardi, Ecclesiastical Assistant General of The Malta Catholic Action, better known as Dun Mikiel, had, for some time, nursed a ‘dream’ that would help improve the quality of life of people with disabilities who for one reason or another could not stay any longer with their natural parents.
On the 12th September 1965 he aired his idea during a radio programme – that of opening the first residential home in Malta for persons with disability. A young lady who heard the programme was so moved by his idea that she sought him out and gave him a cheque for Lm100 (around €230) – money she had saved for a holiday abroad.
Mgr Azzopardi had in mind to build this home on the site that the Malta Catholic Action had acquired on lease from the Government. Up to 1962, it was a Royal Navy Rest Camp. Thanks to a generous contribution by the then Archbishop of Malta – Monsignor Michael Gonzi, work could start on extensive structural changes to the building now known as ‘Villa Monsinjur Gonzi’ and Id-Dar tal-Providenza started making the necessary preparations to welcome the first residents.
Nuns from the Congregation of Sisters of St Jeanne Antide Thouret took up residence on the 12th January 1968. They were Id-Dar tal-Providenza’s first support workers aided by a number of volunteers and subsequently by specifically employed personnel. The Sisters have given full time service since then.
From the very beginning of these Homes, one of the clauses in a set of rules written by Dun Mikiel shows that the intrinsic vision of the homes’ administration was always focused on the integration of the disabled within society.
The first three residents of Id-Dar tal-Providenza arrived on the 11th of February 1968 and housed in ‘Villa Monsinjur Gonzi’. In 1999, this villa was eventually demolished and rebuilt. It was inaugurated in July 2001. The year 1971 saw the start of the construction on a second home designed to accommodate around sixty residents. This home, that was called Villa Papa Giovanni, was inaugurated on the 19th of March 1974.
Mgr Mikel Azzopardi passed away on the 13th May 1987. During the funeral homily of the beloved founder of Id-Dar tal-Providenza at St. John’s CoCathedral in Valletta, Mgr Joseph Mercieca, the then Archbishop of Malta said: “…Go with your mind at rest…Rest assured, Dun Mikiel, that all initiatives started by you will be continued”. Most appropriately, he is buried at Id-Dar tal-Providenza.
Mgr Philip Calleja, temporarily took over the running of the Homes, until on the 1st July 1987, Mgr Lawrence Gatt was chosen by Archbishop Mercieca to succeed Dun Mikiel as second Director. A few months later, in September 1987, Villa Papa Luciani was inaugurated. In February 1997, five residents started living together in “Zerniq”, a house in the community of Siggiewi. In November 2012, a second home ‘Akkwarell’ was inaugurated in Qawra. Three persons with physcial disability live in this home. In January 2014, Id-Dar tal-Providenza took over the responsibility for the administration of ‘Dar Pirotta’ in Birkirkara that houses nine persons with intellectual disability. In April 2016, another home, ‘Shalom’ was opened in Żurrieq and houses five persons with intellectual disability.
fifteen residents whose age varies from six to over eighty years. During the day, the residents attend Resource Centres, special schools or Centres for Adults, whilst others carry out various jobs at the Siġġiewi Home or have
regular employment in the private sector. They also take part in various activities in an inclusive environment outside the Home.
The Home also offers respite services on a regular basis to families of persons with disabilities, thus offering them support to keep their disabled family member within their natural environment. Other services that are meant to improve the quality of life of the residents include professional services, a therapeutic pool, multisensory rooms, ICT Lab, Gym, music and drama therapy, religious services including symbolic catechesis as well as a transport service that enables the residents to actively participate in the community.
Since 1998, Id-Dar tal-Providenza has been affiliated with an agency in Glasgow (Scotland) called SPRED – SPecial REligious Development. The agency offers a network of services designed to assist persons with intellectual disabilities to become integrated into parish assemblies of worship through the process of education in faith. The Home is also affiliated with EASPD, the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilites.
Around four and a half million euros are needed annually for the running of the Home. Id-Dar tal-Providenza, that is built on Divine Providence, relies in the most part on the generosity of its benefactors and on donations from the
Maltese and Gozitans alike. This sees that residents continue to enjoy a better quality of life based on the values of respect, dignity and rights. The current Director of the Home is Fr Martin Micallef who was appointed on October 1st 2008.
(updated May 2nd, 2018)
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