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History

The Malta Guide Dogs Foundation is a registered NGO whose aim is to offer services for Visually Impaired Persons.

It was during 1997 that the National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD) put forward the idea of setting up a guide dog association to benefit the blind and visually impaired in the Maltese Islands. A small board of directors put together a set of rules and aims, and commenced raising funds for the enterprise. The project moved slowly but almost Lm8,000 (€18,500) was raised by subscription and donations in the following five years.

In 2005 it was mooted that the association be reorganised. In July 2006 a charitable foundation was formed with a board of directors representing blind aid associations in Malta and Gozo. The first meeting of the reconstituted board was held on Wednesday, July 19, 2006. Seven directors were elected, four of these from the following bodies:
  • National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD);
  • Malta Society of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MSB);
  • Torball Society of the Blind; and the
  • Gozo Aid for the Visually Impaired (GAVI).
The Secretary, Treasurer and another stood as individual members.

The success of the foundation owes much to the effort and attention to detail of the founder chairman, Ronald Colombo. Sadly, he passed away on February 6, 2011. His shoes were filled by the person who was among the first to receive a guide dog through the foundation, Joseph Stafrace. On 21 June 2012, a new Board was appointed, which comprised of:
  • Chairperson, Leone Sciberras (Torball)
  • Deputy Chairperson, Christine Mifsud (Malta Society for the Blind)
  • Hon. Secretary, Lilibeth Cachia
  • Hon. Treasurer, Major Francis X. Naudi, FCA
  • Hon. Legal Advisor, Kevin Cutajar (GAVI)
  • Hon. PRO, Malcolm J. Naudi
  • Member, Francis Tirchett  
Ex-Officio officers:
  • Puppy Walking Supervisor Victor Delceppo
  • Michael Calascione
  • Noel Tabone 
Over the years, there were various changes to the Board. Mr Sciberras served as Chairperson uninterruptedly until 27 June 2018. The post of Treasurer was vacated by Major Naudi in 2014. It was first filled by Ms Elaine Cassar and, since 2016, by Ms Charlotte Cilia. As from 2018, it was decided that the post of Vice-Chairperson would be rotated among the founding partners, with Francis Tirchett, representing MSB, being appointed. The Board for 2018-2020 is composed of:
  • Chairperson, Joseph Stafrace
  • Vice-Chairperson, Francis Tirchett (MSB)
  • Hon. Secretary, Lilibeth Cachia
  • Hon. Treasurer, Charlotte Cilia,
  • Hon. Legal Advisor, Kevin Cutajar (GAVI)
  • Hon. PRO, Malcolm J. Naudi
  • Member, Alfred Reale (Torball)

A statute comprising the Constitution, Aims and Procedures has been registered at a Public Notary and the Department of Inland Revenue will consider the foundation to be a non-profit-making non-government organisation. The plans for developing the Foundation were detailed in a five-year business plan which set out the proposed programme for the acquisition, training, supply and support of guide dogs for selected Maltese clients who are blind or visually impaired.

Qualified dogs are trained in Malta with their clients. Up to 2016, guide dogs were trained overseas and matched with local clients, who in turn received training there. Since 2017, a local internationally qualified guide dog and mobility instructor (GDMI) has been working with the MGDF to train dogs locally. A dog he trained in Australia was matched with a local client, a dog sent from the Mathilda school in the Czech Republic was trained locally and matched with a local client and four dogs were in training in 2018.

The Malta Guide Dogs Foundation has provided guide dogs to 13 users in Malta and Gozo. It gives training in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) to the visually impaired and is totally reliant on fund-raising. Its sponsors, foremost among which is the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (Knights of St John), are the Malta Community Chest Fund, under the Presidency of Malta, Borg Cardona & Co Ltd, the P. Cutajar Foundation, the Alfred Mizzi Foundation and MoCo.

Many volunteers who have worked within the organisation lost their sight themselves. Thus, they know the needs and difficulties of all those who use the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation's services. A new team has been built up and is delivering sterling service in this area.

All the volunteers are fully committed to the tasks and challenges that they face every day.