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Youngsters embark on a launch pad for life

Children lending a helping hand at St Patrick's yesterday. Photo: Ray Attard.

Children lending a helping hand at St Patrick's yesterday. Photo: Ray Attard.

Teenagers who leave institutional care are faced with a series of challenges as, having grown accustomed to an insular group life, they suddenly become independent and adapt to living alone in the outside world.

St Patrick's School in Sliema, which hosts boys until the age of 16, has initiated the Launching Pad project to bridge the gap between the boys' experience of being in care and independent living.

Through the project, realised with the help of Rotaract Malta La Valette, the boys will be guided and helped to integrate with others and develop networking skills, adapt to living outside the institute and acquire independent skills.

To help them get a taste of independent living, a semi-independent unit which neighbours the St Patrick's boy's senior quarters, is currently being refurbished with the aim of creating a space for those older boys who are not yet prepared to live on their own.

St Patrick's head of care Fr Antoine Farrugia explained that boys, some as young as four, were taken there when their families were experiencing difficulties and could not take care of them.

When the boys reached 16, most were re-integrated into their families but some ended up living in hostels. Over the past year St Patrick's has been trying to come up with a way of making this transition smoother and therefore came up with the Launching Pad project.

"Leaving a place of care is a hard time for these boys and, unless they have a family to go back to, at the age of 16 it's difficult for them to live alone," said Audrey Agius, the unit leader of the senior boys at St Patrick's.

"So we asked ourselves whether we were preparing them well enough for their future, and to be able to socialise and hold down a job."

The semi-independent unit, ¬≠estimated to cost €10,000 (Lm4,293), involves the refurbishment of three bedrooms and a living area neighbouring the senior boys' quarters. Works on the unit have started and, yesterday, members of Rotaract, St Patrick's and the children themselves met to paint the walls.

Steve Spiteri, the president of Rotaract - a non-profit voluntary Rotary-sponsored service club - said that works were expected to be completed by the end of May. He added that Rotaract had a series of fundraising activities lined up for the project that included a swimming marathon, gala dinner, treasure hunt and wine tasting.

Apart from helping with the refurbishment works and fundraising, Rotaract also plans to help find sponsors for furniture. It will assist the boys prepare for their future by providing them with job interview training as well as opportunities for internships.

For further information, or to help with the project, call 9942 7491 or e-mail [email protected].

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