SMOM Grand Master pays visit to Malta Guide Dogs Foundation
Created on: 31 August 2015
HMEH Frà Matthew Festing, Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (SMOM), made it a point
to visit the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation (MGDF) at its premises within the
Ċentru San Franġisk, Ta’ Qali, during his State visit to Malta recently.
Accompanied by Foreign Minister George Vella and his delegation, including the Maltese Association of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta (MASMOM), led by its President, Philip Farrugia Randon, Frà Festing was welcomed by MGDF Chairman Leone Sciberras and his guide dog Aval. The delegation was then introduced to the MGDF Board.
In his brief address, Mr Sciberras said the foundation, set up less than a decade ago, is proud of its aims: ‘to provide independence, mobility, security and ultimately restore confidence in the visually impaired’.
“We also work to ensure that all public and private services in the Maltese Islands are accessible to everyone, including blind and visually impaired persons,” he added.
After outlining the foundation’s services, offered free to all visually impaired persons in Malta and Gozo, Mr Sciberras thanked the SMOM for the support it had been giving the MGDF since 2012: “Four owners have received guide dogs that were trained in Sicily. Two of these were raised in families in Malta. A further two were brought to Malta already trained. Three puppies arrived in Malta last August and, thanks to the SMOM, we are covering the medical expenses of all the guide dogs in Malta and Gozo that are currently in service.”
Following a PowerPoint presentation on the MGDF’s work, three visually impaired persons gave their personal experiences. Samuel Farrugia, aged 9, lost his eyesight last year and has attended an Orientation and Mobility Programme at the MGDF. Anna Sultana and Christine Mifsud have each received guide dogs, Higgins and Winnie, respectively, gaining their independence.
Frà Festing and Mr Sciberras then exchanged gifts and the Grand Master was given an opportunity to mingle among the visually impaired and guide dog owners to ask them about their experiences. Before leaving the Centre, Frà Festing thanked the organisers of his visit for enabling him to get a unique insight into the MGDF’s work and said he was truly impressed that the foundation’s ultimate beneficiaries, the visually impaired, were receiving such an excellent service.