A very disturbing and mysterious calamity struck the Maltese Islands toward the end of 1942 and early 1943. It was the outbreak of the poliomyelitis which baffled, to a very large extent, the local medical authorities and it affected mostly children. It was reckoned at the time that about 369 had fallen victims, apart from those (18) who had died. Places of entertainment and schools were kept closed as a precautionary measure.
Those effected found refuge at the Verdala Palace (now the summer residence of the President of Malta ), were a group of public spirited volunteer attended to their needs, however there was one burning problem at stake: the fate of the disabled when they grew up.
Mrs. F.C.R. Douglas, the wife of the then Governor of Malta (At the time Malta was Part of the British Empire), who succeeded Lord Gorth, immediately realized the problem and she succeeded in getting the support of a group of co-workers to set up;
The Infantile Paralysis Rehabilitation Fund to raise fund towards the building of a Rehabilitation Centre to afford training suitable to those affected and so that when they grow up they would be independent and useful citizens rather than a liability to themselves, their families and the state.
The Work Continued...
This objective was never lost sight of and those that succeeded Mrs. Douglas kept in mind this aim and, throughout the years, they endeavoured to organize rehabilitation schemes in different localities whereby the paraplegics realized what was essential primarily and foremost that, in spite of their disability, they should live a normal life in a dignified manner. This they succeeded to do in various ways, each in accordance with his or her ability and aptitude.
Getting Self Esteem
Folding wheelchairs and other working aids were procured, vehicles with hydraulic lifts were made available, trade classes organized, sport activities initiated, holidays abroad arranged, entertainment and socials held, employment suitable to their condition secured and they even formed their own families. Gone were the days when they did not even dare to cross the threshold of their homes.
The Red Letter Day
On the 14th of February 1971 a red letter day was registered in the life of the physically handicapped. The Rehabilitation Centre had its foundation stone laid by Lady Dorman, the president of the Physically Handicapped Rehabilitation fund, on a plot of land at Corradino Paola provided by the government. A dream was finally being realised on a dignified edifice property equipped. The Physically Handicapped Rehabilitation Centre was completed and functional in a couple of years.
The organisation and administration of the Physically Handicapped Rehabilitation Centre offered a big challenge. But the contribution give by all those endowed with this responsibility proved that over the years the Physically Handicapped Rehabilitation Fund continued to give its contribution towards achieving its objectives. This was possible with the contribution of such administrators such as;
Mr. .. Tonna, and Mr Micallef who over the years gave a valid contribution.
The Physically Handicapped Rehabilitation Centre today hosts three workshops; The computer Lab, the general workshop and the soft toys workshops. These workshops are well attended and the Council is looking of ways and means to enhance the workshops. The running of the Centre which offers a variety of services to the handicapped requires funding. (see services) The Council is run on an entirely voluntary basis thus reducing administration costs to the minimum. Fund Raising is of utmost importance to the running of the centre and the Council is indebted to all those that contribute by donations, or by attending fund raising activities. (see fund raising). The Council gives great importance to sports activities and with the assistance of Mr. Mike Pace, our physical instructor, who has been giving his service for over 20 years on voluntary basis, regular sports activities are organized throughout the year (see sports activities). The Council also organise religious activities giving our members, families and friend to pray together.
(see Religious activities)...