Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) held its second annual conference in Malta themed ‘Family and Person-Centred Services for Children and Young People with Disability’.
More than 120 participants attended the event on 28 April, that was organised in collaboration with the University of Malta’s Department of Disability Studies and Aġenzija Sapport. A welcome speech was delivered by RMHC Malta Chairman Martin Xuereb.
Mr Xuereb said: “The core mission of the RMHC Malta Chapter and worldwide is to promote and help improve family-centred care, an approach to healthcare and wellbeing where the entire family is fully involved and supported in the provision of care and services to their child.
RMHC offers a platform and hub for NGOs that share its mission by putting the Ronald McDonald Learning Centre at their disposal.”
This year’s conference focused on the needs of children and youngsters living with a disability, and the needs of their families who require physical, educational, and psychological support. In this regard, RMHC partnered with two of Malta’s main stakeholders: the Department of Disability Studies within the University of Malta’s Faculty for Social Wellbeing, which spearheads
research and trains professionals in the local sector, and Aġenzija Sapport, the National Agency responsible for providing professional services to persons with disabilities.
Speaking about the importance of the collaboration with RMHC, Dr Maria Victoria Gauci, Head of the Department of Disability Studies, said that: “The philosophy behind RMHC is aligned with the importance attributed to children and families by the Department of Disability Studies.
Professionals and stakeholders such as NGOs will be taking with them the findings and information shared during this event, and will be in a position to put them into practice during their work.” Dr Gauci also commended RMHC for providing an inclusive and safe space for both people with disabilities and the non-disabled.
Oliver Scicluna, CEO of Aġenzija Sapport, spoke of the long-standing collaboration with RMHC. Scicluna said that: “The Agency has been using RMHC’s premises to host initiatives such as workshops. RMHC offers a hub where Aġenzija Sapport interacts with NGOs to share their experiences and create a better environment for children with disabilities.”
The conference included two panel discussions during which participants at the event were able to put forward their questions. The first discussion focused on the challenges and opportunities of implementing inclusive services, with panel members sharing their professional insight and experience. The panel was composed of Ms Georgette Bajada, Head of Department in Inclusive
Education at the Secretariat for Catholic Education in Malta; Dr Nathalie Buhagiar, lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences within the University of Malta; Ms Valentina Caruana, Leader Children’s Social Work Services at Aġenzija Sapport and Mr Tonio Axisa, Executive Director, RMHC Malta.
The second discussion was about the lived experience of the holistic family-centred approach from the point of view of persons with a disability, and their close relatives who formed part of the panel. Neville Cassar Bonavia, whose elder son, Alex, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at the age of two and a half, said: “Parents of children with a disability appreciate being given the space to raise awareness on the challenges that they face and tocontribute to the better orientation of services to their needs.”
The Malta Chapter of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is part of a global network that hosts programmes and services to children, young adults and their families in more than 60 countries. RMHC has enjoyed the support of McDonald’s owners, operators, suppliers, employees and customers around the world since 1974. The Malta chapter’s lead benefactor is Premier Restaurants Malta which operates nine McDonald’s restaurants across the Maltese