The power of self-expression as therapy – venting one’s soul in the act of creation – is a vital remedy and one ever utilised at YMCA Malta. Back when we were still YMCA Valletta, expression stood central in all our community outreach work.

1998 was a very good year for the Arts in Malta: we organized the nation’s very first music marathon, with 40 local bands performing at the National Opera House and at the Abyss Night Club, Bugibba.

In collaboration with the Labyrinth Art Gallery in Straight Street, YMCA held Art Week: 50 blank canvases were made available for the public to paint as they wished. More than 1,000 people attended, some holding a paintbrush for the very first time in their lives. At the end of the week an auction was held at Freedom Square and all money collected was used to fund our gratis alternative education program.

Long before ‘sustainability’ became a catch phrase, we started a little club called Creating With Junk: we taught people how to create masterpieces using other people’s trash! The club also offered art lessons, supported formal education classes, as well as English lessons.

The first Infant Joy Art Festival was held at the YMCA Internet Café. This festival gave youth a platform to explore diverse artforms, from experimental performance to poetry and installation. The festival’s proceeds were used to fund a project for Albanian children living with disabilities.

This edition of the Valletta Festival featured special performances from native Peruvian musicians alongside dazzling displays of street art, American pool tables and handmade clothing. Proceeds from the festival helped us fund our social services and residential facilities.

1998 also struck a somber tone for us in Malta: YMCA Valletta organized a 1-hour silent march in solidarity with people suffering from drug-addiction. At a time when many chose to ignore this social ailment, we took the lead and made some noise, effectively giving the voiceless a voice.