As the Christmas sense of altruism dwindles, food and clothes donations drop. However, the need for such basic items at the Millennium chapel, in Paceville, remains high throughout the year, Fr Hilary Tagliaferro tells Sarah Carabott.

The number of people knocking on the Millennium chapel’s door keeps increasing and the charity in Paceville is urging collaboration between similar entities that would cut down on misuse of resources.

Wishing Others Well centre, which served as the social assistance arm of the Millennium chapel, was looking into how possible it was, given issues of data protection, to share information about its clients with other charities that supported people in need, Fr Hilary, the director, told this newspaper.

That would cut down on people taking double advantage of aid that could instead go towards helping another family, he pointed out.

He believes there should be some kind of system – whether through an identification card or a shared clients’ log – that would allow for a fair distribution of resources.

Volunteers help sort out clothes for those who cannot even afford to keep themselves warm.Volunteers help sort out clothes for those who cannot even afford to keep themselves warm.

WOW cares for about 220 families who are regularly supported with basic necessitates such as food, clothes and blankets. These families are given a food pack every couple of weeks but provisions vary from month to month, depending on donations.

The items are donated by churchgoers or others who drop by at the centre. Some outlets, factories and companies also provide food having a couple of months’ worth of shelf-life. Fr Hilary said no expired food was handed out to families.

Apart from the 220 families, there are others who drop by “begging” for emergency support. This daily reality was unfortunately shrugged off by some, he notes.

We are culturally not yet convinced that there are poor families in Malta

“We are culturally not yet convinced that there are poor families in Malta. The island has passed through good times but is now reverting back to that same situation I remember as a child around wartime, with people begging on the streets,” he said, after seeing to a mother who could not afford her children’s medicine.

The previous night, a young man dropped by at about 10pm after fleeing home, where he lives with his alcoholic father. He had nowhere to go and was allowed to sleep on a sofa on the premises until the early hours when the centre closed for the night.

Fr Hilary noted that over the past year he realised that people’s need for basic necessities increased. New people knocking on the Millennium chapel’s door was a daily reality, he said.

He said that those who asked for the Millennium chapel’s support were in dire need. “It is hard for someone to resort to begging. While we do smell out the odd person who tries to benefit unjustly, we shouldn’t generalise and say people are being dishonest,” he added.

Ivana RestallIvana Restall

WOW’s regular clients are interviewed and assessed by Ivana Restall, a volunteer who previously managed a hotel and whom Fr Hilary calls the coordinator of “WOW’s solidarity garage”.

Ms Restall estimates that about 70 per cent of WOW’s clients have medical issues, some of whom cannot go to work, while about another 10 per cent suffer from substance abuse.

In some cases, WOW refers people to existing social services that would help them get on their feet. Others are supported by social workers at the centre itself.

The volunteers’ satisfaction rested with the people they saw “fly off like birds” once they no longer needed WOW’s support, Ms Restall said.

She noted that WOW’s clients came from different parts of Malta, including Gozo.

Rent was affecting people of different social backgrounds, she said, recounting her recent meeting with a highly-educated 24-year-old mother of an autistic child who had a stable income of €1,000 a month. At least half of the woman’s pay went towards her rent and another €100 to pay her car instalments. The rest was absorbed by her utility and fuel bills, among others, leaving her in need of basic necessities such as food and clothes, which she found at the Millennium chapel, Ms Restall said.

More information can be obtained by calling on 2135 4464/2138 1172, sending an e-mail to, via or by looking up the Facebook page called Millennium chapel.

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