Awareness Campaigns

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Campaigns 2022

Myths & Facts
The Textile Industry

Campaigns 2021

#YouthHomelessness

Based on research by Dorianne Caviedes Diaz BA (Hons)

Circular Economy: YMCA Charity & Vintage Shop Promotion
Anti-Bullying Week 2021 – #OneKindWord
One Kind Word

Did you say something nice to someone today?

We proudly joined with bBrave for Anti-Bullying Week with the theme 𝗢𝗻𝗲 𝗞𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗱. Words have power, and while they can hurt, it only takes one kind word to make someone’s day.

Our volunteers came up with the idea to turn our centres into places of giving compliments! Team members gave each other anonymous sticky notes with compliments, making the place very colourful and most delightful, creating a very warm-hearted atmosphere.

Our volunteers also decided to expand the initiative by giving hand-written compliments to strangers in the street, and asking them to pass it to someone else, in the hope that compliments would travel across the island and brighten many people’s day.

The week ended, but combating bullying is a fight that we must undertake every day of the year. One way to do so is simply to share words of love whenever we have a chance. 

Kindness is powerful.

#OneKindWord

Campaign 2020

Family Sleeping at the Side of the Road

We received a call from the 179 Helpline informing us that a Good Samaritan had called in as he had found a family of four sleeping on the side of the road in the middle of the night.

At midnight, this mother, father and two young children arrived at our shelter with all of their worldly possessions in suitcases with them. The children were freezing to the touch but it was their vacant expressions that were more striking. The family had become homeless after falling out with family members who they were living with and as a result of having no other support network, had resorted to sleeping rough.

At ‘Dar Niki Cassar’ we offer family rooms and homelessness did not mean separating this young family. They soon settled in and with the help of both our team and the rest of our residents, the whole family integrated well within the community. The children soon filled the rooms with their laugher and play. We initially helped by providing them all with warm winter clothing and food.

As they came from abroad, we soon began helping them by providing guidance with their documentation. We also helped clarify procedures for them and set up essential medical appointments. As the father was employed, it was not long before we were able to work with the family to find an apartment and move them back into independent living.

The way in which the children became so much happier made this time very significant for us. Although this family was only with us for a short while, we were able to relieve the parents until they got back on their feet. These days they are happily settled and often come past to tell us how well they are doing.

From Sleeping in Bushes to Independent Living
This is an accompanying image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2020. It shows a young homeless man slouching on the sidewalk.

Koji had already been through much trauma in his life before he reached our doors. Only in his mid-twenties, he had already escaped his country as a refugee, bearing much heartache and pain in the process. Having lost his entire family, Koji had no support system at all, let alone in Malta.

He had become homeless upon departure from the open centre. He knocked on our door and explained that he had just started a job working 16 hours a day and was living in a bush out in the cold. He was so timid and soft-spoken and although he appeared frail and beaten due to sleeping rough, his eyes still remained hopeful for a better life.

Providing Koji with shelter at Dar Niki Cassar helped him focus on his arduous job and his goal of attaining independent living. During this time Koji also began engaging with our professional support team and opened up about some of his traumas. These were often the cause of sleepless nights and he would some down in the early hours of the morning to speak with team members. We created a space where he could deal with his insomnia in privacy and peace.

Through his dedication to starting his new chapter and with the ongoing support from the team at DNC, Koji soon found another job with better working conditions. We collaborated on a budgeting plan and within a short while Koji had saved enough money to start looking for accommodation.

These days he lives fully independently, has maintained his job and seems happy rebuilding his life. With his increased confidence he has been able to make friends and now has this additional support system in the community. We often give Koji a call to see how he’s doing and we offer him ongoing psychological and practical support where needed.

No One Can Believe How Different I Am
This is an accompanying image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2020. It shows a young girl and a woman each holding up a hand to form a love heart against the backdrop of a sunset.

Francesca was a mother of a seven-year-old and had a long history of physical and emotional abuse from her family. Having reached breaking point and in the best interest of her child, she finally made the decision to leave home. This led to retaliation from her family; financial support was withheld and legal battles amongst them worsened. Due to the toll that this was having on her mental wellbeing, coupled with raising her child alone, Francesca was unemployed by the time she came to us. She was also suffering from anxiety.

Francesca and her child were welcomed at the shelter and we began helping them holistically in order to give them the best chance at starting their new lives. We provided them with counselling, food donations, support in dealing with the ongoing difficulties with her family as well as encouraging the development of self-confidence and helping her find employment. Francesca started working full-time and her residential support officer helped her schedule around schooling, breakfast club, etc for her child, in order to be able to go out and work.

Upon her request, YMCA Malta also helped her reconcile with her family. Francesca valiantly worked on moving forward with her life whilst working on past traumas. At times these still overwhelmed her and she was afraid of the consequences they may have had on her child. This thought would often trigger anxiety in Francesca. She had been totally devastated by the thought that she and her child would end up living on the streets. She was truly appreciative that the YMCA had given them a roof over their heads.

We are very proud that Francesca and her child are living independently in a stable, healthy environment. Francesca is happy and in full-time employment and we still maintain regular contact to offer our support when needed. Last time we spoke she told us that she had been so lost and broken – financially, mentally and spiritually – when she had first asked for our help, but that today no one can believe how different she is.

Hope and Home
This is an accompanying image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2020. It shows a young girl with her hair blowing in the wind standing by the sea at sunset.

Greta was brought up in care homes in Malta from a very young age. She had to deal with responsibilities and challenges herself at an age when most of us are cared for by parents. Greta became homeless after she left the children’s house where she had spent most of her childhood. She came to YMCA Malta seeking refuge and we saw in her a young, lost girl.

We embarked on a journey, slowly fostering trust and hope. We walked together and helped her start building a life for herself rooted in self-confidence and unconditional love. Greta took the psychological help we offered her; support from our psychotherapists and counsellors being part of her care-programme. Her assigned residential support worker helped her learn new social and life skills and she was supported in finding employment and continuing her studies.

Above all, we helped Greta find hope. We will never forget her excitement when she opened her first bank account, nor the happiness she felt the day she received her first salary. After more than a year with us, she felt confident enough to move on. Greta broke this news to us with tears in her eyes. She had now saved enough money to pay a deposit and first month’s rent. She found an apartment and we assisted her with the application process.

Greta came to us feeling lost and worthless and left us full of hope and living independently. We cannot make childhood traumas disappear, but we know that people are strong enough to work through them when they are wise enough to ask for help. Greta is still in contact with the YMCA and calls to inform us about her new adventures in independent living.

From Custody to Community
This is an accompanying image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2020. It shows a man in silhouette standing by a window.

Jacob came from abroad and had been serving time in prison. Upon his release he approached the YMCA Malta. Cases like these are often more complex as the individual will need additional help readjusting and reintegrating back into the community.

As a non-discriminatory, non-judgemental and accepting organisation, Jacob felt comfortable with us and was optimistic about his future. He was very appreciative of our help and with support was able to start building his new life and lowering the chance of recidivism.

Jacob experienced a common barrier to employment with his prior conduct however with the help of YMCA’s residential support officers at Dar Niki Cassar, and in collaboration with other organisations, he managed to find a job. He also started taking English lessons. We made all necessary adjustments to accommodate Jacob with his working hours and by giving him a space to study. Our team was also on hand to assist him with his studies.

His support officer helped Jacob find shared accommodation and he was supported in moving into his new place. He was provided with essentials such as food donations, blankets and study resources.

Jacob’s story is one of success and triumph over adversity. Resettlement of homeless, ex-offenders is an essential part of reintegration back into the community, though rarely an easy task. With the outstanding determination that Jacob showed, along with the support and guidance he received from our dedicated team and care programme, he was able to beat the odds and now lives fully independently. He still comes by and visits us.

Stronger Together: A Journey of Two
This is an accompanying image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2020. It shows a man in silhouette standing by the sea with a purple sunset.

John was the first to be admitted to our residential facility after not being able to pay the increase in his monthly rent. He had not been issued a work permit and employers were abusing this by taking him on and making him work lengthy hours whilst paying him less than everybody else. John is just one example of so many others that come to us who are without documentation and exploited in this fashion. He is an example of modern slavery.

John knew that he was being treated unfairly, whether because of his skin colour, culture or lack of documentation. However he did not allow the treatment he received from others to influence his own humanity. The residents, staff and volunteers at YMCA Malta quickly became his family.

Peter came to us several months later. He and John were of the same origin and culture and connected immediately. Life for Peter seemed to be constantly working against him, opportunities for employment were scarce and most of his daily efforts amounted to simple survive in a toxic environment whereby he was not seen as an individual but as a ‘race’. He found great support in John whilst he settled in. Living with 30 others in a residential setting is not easy! He helped him realise that he could be seen, acknowledged and appreciated for who he is.

Peter in turned helped John find better employment. Spending time together after work and cooking traditional dinners became a tradition shared by all residents of the shelter. Peter and John’s bond became an invaluable lesson in compassion to the rest of the service users, as well as to us on the team.

They both worked hard and after a few months were able to find a shared apartment, lessening the financial burden for both of them. We provided them with the necessary help in transitioning into their new place. Both are still in contact with us and are doing great.

John and Peter came to us on their own but left together. They arrived feeling lost but left determined to create a better future together. The greatest lessons in life are learnt from those who know suffering. This duo taught us that together we are stronger and that connection is healing.

Campaigns 2019

John
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'John'.

John was a 48-year-old man referred to the YMCA by a generic social work agency. He was a compulsive gambler who had been thrown out of the house by his wife. He owed money to loan sharks and spent nights sleeping underneath his van for fear of being discovered by creditors. He came to the YMCA and was offered accommodation and was empowered to find work. Agreements were reached with his creditors enabling John to pay off his debts at reasonable rates. He was also referred to Gamblers Anonymous who worked with him on his addiction. John is now living independently and managing his finances much better.

Doris
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'Doris'.

46-year-old Doris came to YMCA Malta after leaving a psychiatric hospital. She had been abused by her husband for several years and her children were still living with him. Doris could not bring them with her to YMCA’s shelter due to a lack of beds. She was assisted in finding employment and once she was capable of independent living, Doris found a rental property with her children and new partner. YMCA helped her reduce the financial burden by assisting her with a rental subsidy application.

Susan
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'Susan'.

19-year-old Susan spent her childhood in institutions. She had started gambling at the age of 17 and was emotionally aggrieved because she wanted to track down her parents. Susan was living in a hostel for female individuals and was eventually referred to the YMCA Malta. She was capable of living with minimal supervision, was working part-time and had found a steady partner. Since then Susan has succeeded in finding full-time employment and will soon be moving into her own independent domicile.

Mark
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'Mark'.

Mark was 26 and homeless. He was referred to the YMCA Malta by the national helpline. He had no family support, was abusing drugs and living in a hotel. Mark could not keep paying these charges and was asked to leave. He could not be accommodated at the YMCA due to a lack of beds and his severe drug habit. However various efforts were made by the YMCA to better his situation. He was placed in a guest house for the weekend and referred to a specialised agency catering for drug abusers the following week. Mark eventually moved into a shelter for homeless men.

Lisa
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'Lisa'.

Lisa left her abusive partner who had forced her into prostitution. She was referred to the YMCA Malta together with her three children aged two, three and nine. Lisa was given accommodation and a secure environment to keep her from her partner who was looking for her. YMCA liaised with the Domestic Violence Unit and helped Lisa retrieve her belongings from her former home. Eventually she was able to rent an apartment where she now lives with her children.

Mary
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'Mary'.

Mary was a 30-year-old woman referred to the YMCA Malta by the Domestic Violence Unit. She was five months pregnant and had been sleeping in a car for the past two months. She had already been in a shelter and experienced difficulties with their stringent regulations. Mary was taken in by YMCA Malta and was referred to a hospital social worker to guide her during her pregnancy. She was assisted in submitting an application for social housing and was referred to a second-stage shelter for domestic violence victims. Mary later resumed contact with YMCA, staying with them for a few days before going back to her family and reconciling with her father.

James
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'James'.

James came from abroad and found himself in financial difficulty after separating from his wife. He had nowhere to live and was unemployed. YMCA Malta referred him to a shelter for homeless men and provided him with his essential needs. However, he encountered difficulties in this shelter and preferred to return to his own country. YMCA was in the process of providing him with an airline ticket but he then decided to stay on in Malta. He found a flat and YMCA paid for the first month’s rent. He found employment and is now living on his own without the need for further assistance.

Jane
This is an image from the YMCA Awareness Campaign Series from 2019. It introduces a person about whom a story is elaborated on in the accompanying text. This is 'Jane'.

Jane was a 47-year-old woman suffering from domestic violence who was thrown out of her home along with her two children aged 12 and 14. Shelters for domestic violence victims could not take her in because her children had passed their age criteria. She went to a hostel heavily disoriented because she also suffered from epilepsy and did not have her medication with her. This resulted in her being admitted to a psychiatric hospital and her children staying with difficult relatives. She was discharged from the hospital after stabilising and referred to the YMCA Malta. She was provided with accommodation and a sense of security. She is currently on the waiting list with the Housing Authority.

Anti-Bullying Week 2019 – The Impact of Words
Day 1: Body Shaming

“I was bullied for 12 years at school because I was overweight. I was called various names reflecting this trait of my body: fat cow, greasy pig, whale, big tuna, pork…It seemed like no one knew my name. In class, children would throw anything they could at me: chewed papers, used tissues, ink, pen caps…They’d cut my hair, glue it or stick gum in it. If I left my stuff unattended, I’d find it flushed in the toilets or hung in the trees – my sports underwear included. If I queued for lunch, they’d say I should skip that meal, and even the next one. They’d push me away from the queue or flip my food on my clothes. In the corridors, they’d trip or push me. If they’d hear my voice, they’d say ‘why is that one talking? Isn’t she dead already?’ or ‘shut up! You’re useless, go kill yourself dirty, fat pork’. My life was a restless hell.

I tried to talk to some adults, but I was told that I was overreacting, dramatising small things and that I needed to toughen up if I wanted to make it through in life. ‘Kids will be kids, what can you do, huh?’ I lost all self-esteem and started cutting myself every night as it was the only thing that would help me calm down and fall asleep after hours crying in my room. I withdrew, forgot how to smile and spent my time trying to make them forget that I exist.

After high school, I lost 20kg in three months and became very skinny. Yet, years later, I still hate my body, and I still expect everyone to bully me whenever I say or do something”

For Anti-Bullying Week in Malta this year, we would like to show the negative, but most importantly, the positive impact of our words through a series of authentic testimonies and social experiments.

We tackled body shaming and now, we would like to end on a positive note by showing the power of kindness.

Day 2: Gender

“This happened when I was in my first year of high school. I hung out with a group of girls and a guy who was known to be gay, only because I found them more interesting. Others – and particularly a few girls in my class – criticised my choice, saying I was not ‘a real man’, or calling me ‘gay’. They also used my passion – horse-riding – as another reason to bully me, because ‘it’s a girls’ sport’..

I ignored them, so they became harsher hoping to see me break. As it was not happening, once they cornered and threatened me. I tried to stay calm and just gave a little push to one of them, so she’d step back. Her friend stood up in front of me and slapped me. One of my friends saw the scene and dragged me away before we fought.

The girls distorted the story and got their older brothers and friends involved who started hitting me when they saw me in the corridors. As it was weighing heavy on my mind, I told my older sister who was also in the same school. She stood up for me, threatened the girls in my class and got involved in a fight with the older students. My sister’s boyfriend at the time got involved as well, and the story became a big deal in the whole town.

Eventually, my sister and the older students were sentenced by the school and strongly advised to stop any violence before being fired. The girls in my class were never bothered, and the atmosphere remained very hostile throughout the year. I stopped horse-riding the following year and never started again. I started hanging out with guys mostly, and I almost don’t see friends from school anymore.”

Because our words can…make someone happy, at YMCA, we love to give compliments and let happiness shine!

Day 3: Cyber

“I started receiving abusive messages on facebook by a bully who created an account under a false name. The bullying began with messages such as ‘you’re nothing’ and ‘no-one cares about you’. At first, I honestly thought it was a joke but then it continued. At one point, I was also receiving emails regarding my mother who had passed away two years before by committing suicide. In the emails, there were personal things mentioned that made me suspect my best friends of being behind this. After one particular email in which I was told that my mother killed herself because of me, I was so distressed that I started to self-harm; it started eating into my self-confidence, it all started going downhill.

Things would have gotten a lot worse if one of my friends hadn’t seen my wrists. This happened after almost a year of mean emails and facebook messages. I managed to be honest with her and she convinced me to seek help. I went to the school counsellor and after reading the emails, even the cyber police had to open a case. After some investigations, I learned that it was a boy in my class that I had confronted months ago because he was making fun of another friend. Saying this, I am glad that he is also in therapy because he was unfortunately also going through a rough patch. He was picking on me just because in a way it was helping him not to feel weak. Don’t ask me if I’m over it because I have bad days and better days, however, I’m doing my best to move on.”

Don’t underestimate the power of a compliment!

Day 4: Workplace

“My confidence was shot to pieces after I started to get bullied at work, mostly because of my excess weight and intelligence. I couldn’t sleep, my hobbies and social life were destroyed, I was a nervous wreck and having a breakdown. I was working with another two women for whom I was practically their supervisor. However, they managed to make me feel awful even though I was always really nice and helpful; many times I ended up doing their work because I was afraid of giving them work.

They called me a fat pig, lazy and useless and that I should be ashamed to go outside. I used to spend hours crying at home, wishing that I wouldn’t wake up the next day. Then I lost weight and the situation got worse. Now they started to lie about me being in a relationship with our married boss, saying that I was sexually promiscuous and that I was on cocaine.

I still can’t quite believe how they managed to erode my self-confidence so dramatically at the time. I think this is what is most insidious about workplace bullying – you can’t figure out what is going on until they have completely done your head in. I finally managed to talk with someone who arranged for me to be transferred to another department. I’ve been in therapy since 2014 and I have still a long way to go to learn to love myself again.”

Simple compliments mean the most. Make someone’s day!

Campaign 2018

Campaign 2017