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Volunteers from 41 firms give St Joseph’s Home study halls

More than 200 business owners, executives, managers and team members from 41 organisations rolled up their sleeves last month to give the boys at St Joseph’s Home in Santa Venera new kitchens, leisure quarters and a create a study hall in time for Christmas.

The ambitious €42,000 project, themed Appetite For Learning, was realised under the leadership of Jugs Malta through its Jugs and Friends network. It was the third year the events management and training company came together with clients, business partners and friends to give back to the community.

St Joseph’s Home was the location of Jugs and Friends’ first project when the corporate social responsibility network was set up in 2010 and brand new bedrooms were delivered to the delighted young residents.

Jugs directors Gianni Zammit and Josef Gafà and their collaborators thought it would be a good idea to return to the home to complete a wider project. Before the volunteers headed to the home, flat-packed furniture was ordered and shipped from Ikea, an inventory of the required paints and tools drawn up, and preparation work organised.

Volunteers then stepped in over two days in mid-November to show off their decorating and furniture assembly skills; they were split up in groups of 20 and given specific instructions for each task.

A total €38,000 was raised through donations, and Jugs contributed around 10 per cent of the cost of the project and also dispatched its own staff to lead the logistics and planning and the preparatory work.

Home director Fr Frankie Cini was visibly delighted with the results just before Christmas. The study rooms with their orange and sky blue feature walls and modern white furniture are bathed in sunlight shining through the large windows. Complete with inspirational quotes on the walls and parquet flooring, the rooms are a far cry from their previous guise – a long, austere 1910 dormitory with high ceilings.

“The study rooms now occupy about a third of the old dormitory,” Fr Cini told The Times Business as he led a tour of the new quarters. “The rest will serve as storage for now until we find a way to make better use of it. I’m happy the boys will be able to study quietly in a dedicated space. It will motivate them more. It’s also such a relief to have new kitchens, finally. Jugs and Friends have done a great job throughout. The boys’ quarters are colourful, cheerful and functional.”

Eighteen vulnerable boys aged between nine and 18 live at the home in three separate quarters according to age group.

The older boys’ section is a modern apartment where they are expected to live independently with responsibilities.

Fr Cini explained how leading the busy household is a challenging but rewarding task. The boys’ difficulties include behavioural and emotional issues, and with a team of dedicated carers, his role is to ensure that they lead serene lives in a supportive environment where they can pursue their education and rebuild their confidence.

St Joseph’s Home has 10 full-timers and six part-timers on its books which translate into an annual salary bill of €180,000. There are, of course, numerous other overheads and costs, and Fr Cini is determined to continue to identify alternative ways to generate revenue so that St Joseph’s Home can be increasingly self-sufficient.

Fr Cini hopes to embark on initiatives to raise awareness of the home’s needs and of how the business community, in particular, can lend its support. Some of the sprawling property’s ample ground floor areas have been converted into seminar rooms and a large section is occupied by a day care centre. The seminar rooms are open for use to third parties at a nominal charge.

All accounts, including those relating to the Appetite for Learning project, are drawn up by professionals to ensure benefactors and stakeholders have transparent access to the financials.

“Having volunteers on the premises is a good way to bring people upstairs and to show people how the boys are living and benefiting from benefactors’ efforts,” Fr Cini added. “Most people want to do good, so it is up to us to find ways to present opportunities for them to help. In order to be candidates for corporate social responsibility programmes or initiatives, NGOs have to create structures and channels to become more approachable.”

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