The first weeks of this scholastic year were particularly special to our resource centre as they marked the twentieth anniversary from its opening as Helen Keller School in November 1992. To celebrate this milestone a week of activities was organised between the 19th and 23rd of November, the highlight of which was the visit by Their Royal Highnesses the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
Activities kicked off on Monday with an open day. Students from the respective schools of our college were invited to visit and experience at first hand a day in the life of our centre. Over 200 students were taken around the classrooms where they had the opportunity of speaking to the staff, getting to know our students and to watch activities being carried out as part of the group’s daily schedule. The students were also taken round the various facilities at the disposal of our students and an explanation was given as to how they benefit from the services offered and a curriculum which is specially adapted to meet their particular needs. Our visitors were very appreciative of the opportunity which had been offered them and many left with a very different perspective with regards to what constitutes disability.
Tuesday was a very special day for our centre. From early morning security personnel from the AFM and the British High Commission were at our centre to ensure that everything was in place for the royal visit. Distinguished guests including the Prime Minister’s wife Ms Catherine Gonzi, the Hon minister Ms Dolores Cristina, the Hon Mr Clyde Puli and directors from the Education Division were in attendance together with members of the press and the media who were to cover this memorable event. Also present were members of the board of the Vodafone Malta Foundation and the HSBC Malta Foundation who had generously contributed to the purchase of a ceiling hoist for the Jacuzzi room and a generator to power the lift in case of a power cut and which were to be inaugurated on the day as part of the celebration. Their Royal Highnesses Prince Albert and Princess Sophia arrived at 11.30 am and were greeted by Ms Connie Richard, Ms Gonzi and Ms Cristina and then proceeded to meet the other distinguished guests in the centre’s entrance hall. They then proceeded to visit the classrooms and facilities where they spent ample time talking to the staff and the getting to know the students. Their Royal Highnesses were then led to the newly refurbished hall where they met the parents and other guests, including past students and members of the council. Ms Cristina addressed the guests and then their Royal Highnesses unveiled a commemorative plaque and signed the guestbook before leaving through the main yard where they were greeted by the students and staff of the primary school on their way out. This had been a highly anticipated event particularly as it had been initiated by their Royal Highnesses themselves. It entailed a lot of planning and coordination but the effort paid off in a visit which was smooth running throughout and praised by all who attended.
Wednesday was dedicated to animal awareness so staff and students were encouraged to bring their pets to the centre. On the day the centre became a veritable menagerie with dogs, cats, rabbits and birds of all shapes and sizes contributing to the lively atmosphere. Highlights of the day were a presentation by Ms Tania, one of the drivers who kindly brought her pets, an owl, a macaw and a python to the centre and spoke to us about living with exotic animals, and another presentation by a volunteer from Dog’s Trust who brought her German Shepherd along and spoke about taking care of one’s dog. The students had the opportunity to pet the animals and it was a very enjoyable experience for everyone.
Thursday was dedicated to creative activity. Once again the students gathered in the hall and this time under the direction of Ms Carmen Piscopo, the art teacher, they participated in the creation of a large papier mache sculpture which took the shape of a tree. Students, with the assistance of staff, took turns to paint the tree trunk and make hand prints in red and green which were then used to make leaves and flowers on the tree’s branches.
The week’s activities were brought to an end on Friday with a mass for staff, students, past staff and students and parents besides other special guests. Mass was celebrated at Qrendi parish church by Fr Raymond Cassar and was followed by a get-together during which old acquaintances had the time to catch up and reminisce and parents had the time to meet other parents and talk to the staff. The event was also commemorated by the presentation of bookmarks and mugs which were printed for the occasion with a picture-composite of works by the students. It was a hectic week but everything ran smoothly thanks to the meticulous preparation and effort put in by everyone involved.