Befriend – A virtual intergenerational project of the Maltese Catholic Action

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Youth members of the Maltese Catholic Action (ŻAK), have started an intergenerational project through which old and young members of the organisation met through virtual means.

Originally organised as face to face encounters, these had to held virtually because of COVID-19. Apart from being an encouragement for old people who were forced indoors, it was an opportunity for younger members to seek to appreciate life more.

A project financed by Aġenzija Żgħażagħ through the BeActive scheme, Befriend, constituted in a number of meetings during which members shared their experiences and their memories of their involvement in the Catholic Action.

Through stories and experiences, participants could rekindle memories and appreciate that notwithstanding the difference in age, there is a lot in common which bridges the various generations of members.

To promote intergenerational dialogue and the voluntary work of the organisation, parts of these meeting will be streamed later on this year.

Established, 90 years ago, the Maltese Catholic Action chose the theme “Once upon a time …” to celebrate this anniversary, inviting members to reflect on the history of the organisation, whilst motivating them to continue working within the organisation in the years to come.

Kirsty Cauchi, 16 years, ŻAK Ħal Tarxien: “It was a wonderful experience because due to this activity I realised that the organisation is big, not only in the amount of people, but also in terms of what it has to offer. I got to meet people of different ages who shared interesting experiences. I not only shared my experience, but I also learnt that as a member of ŻAK I should not take what we have today for granted, because there were many others who in the past put in a lot of time and effort towards the success of the organisation and to what it is today”.

Lorenza Debono, 74 years, Ħal Tarxien: “Apart from once again seeing old friends who I have worked with for a long time, it was a great opportunity to meet young people. I enjoyed myself immensely, listening to them talk, full of enthusiasm and determination, appreciating their experiences and skills that have helped them become the persons they are today. These young people are guaranteeing the future of the Catholic Action in Malta”.

Maria Zammit, 30 years, ŻAK Siġġiewi:“This project helped me connect with my friends from ŻAK, but also to elderly persons within AKM. I saw that from the stories and values we shared, we had a lot in common, thanks to the sacrifices and work carried out in the past. I particularly liked what Guido, one of the eldest members in AKM stated, that we need to take care of the organisation and its members, just like the organisation has helped us in our formation. We originated from it, and we continue to work within it for other future members”.

Carmen Francalanza, 59 years, Mosta:“For me this was a very different experience than what I am used to. It never crossed my mind that I would be able to participate in an online discussion, together with 8 other people. However, it was possible, even though we experienced some technical difficulties, in the end, we managed. I really enjoyed the fact that it was led by the young people themselves. Their enthusiasm filled me with courage and hope that the Catholic Action will continue. Naturally according to today’s needs, but this is very positive. I hope this experience was also fruitful for the young people themselves, even though we might seem ‘ancient’ to them. However, I believe the 4 young people present for this meeting appreciated our input”.

Maria Camilleri, 26 years, ŻAK Birżebbuġa: “On Wednesday 10th June I participated in an online session, part of the Befriend project. It was a very nice experience where I had the chance to share my thoughts and experiences gained from the Catholic Action with people of different ages. During the discussion, it was clear that thanks to the organisation we pertain to, we have the opportunity to meet and discuss things with people coming from different backgrounds and countries, with people who have different opinions and ideas. This aspect has helped me develop personally and help me understand others better. Even though we were people of different ages, we all agreed that the Catholic Action has helped us become more confident and better equipped to face challenges in our daily lives. I continued to understand how much the Catholic Action has left an impact on a spiritual level and how our experiences strengthened our faith. I was impressed, that even though some participants were quite old, they were still full of life and proud to be part of the organisation. This motivated me to continue to do my part. Thanks to all those who came before us, to the current members of the organisation and to those who will be members in the future, the organisation can continue to be active within society”.

Antoine Vassallo, 69 years, Gozo: “This project, Befriend, offered me an innovative experience because I could spend some time sharing ideas with other young and old members. I am quite sure I never met the young people, and they impressed me with their enthusiasm. It is clear that they hold the Catholic Action close to their heart. The other elderly members were familiar to me, however, since I rarely participate in the meetings in Malta, it is not often that I get the chance to speak to them informally. I noticed that the elderly look towards the past, towards other leaders and members and many experiences with a positive attitude. They acknowledge the fact that such people were essential in the process of their own membership within the organisation. Even though we live in a small country, each and every person emphasised different aspects”.

AnnMarie Bonnici, 32 years, ŻAK Birżebbuġa: “Thanks to this opportunity, the young people had the chance to share their experiences with members much older than them and to also listen and learn about what members have experienced before us. This meeting gave us a platform to discover more about the roots of our organisation. We found out about the many opportunities it offered, how beneficial it was to society in general and how successful it was in adapting to the times. It was interesting to listen to stories about the years when we were not even born, such as the opportunities for people from different countries and continents to meet. Today, thanks to such encounters and networking, we are reaping the benefits. All the persons present for this online meeting agreed that the Catholic Action is an important aspect in our lives, and that it has helped to form us in the active young people and adults, with strong values, we are today. It is important that such experiences are shared so that the memories are not lost with time”.

Ivy Fleri, 68 years, Sliema: It was a pleasure to participate in such a meeting. It was a great opportunity to reminiscence with persons that were very active in the past, but today are residents in an old people’s home. It was an occasion where we spoke about our roles with the organisation, what motivated us to start attending and what kept us involved. In a very informal manner, we shared our thoughts and opinions and what we think the organisation needs to do in order to remain relevant today. I believe these meetings between different members of different sections should take place more frequently, because it is when we meet and get to know each other more, we can understand each other more and be able to better coordinate the different activities and commitments, in order to progress and develop”.

Erika Pace, 20 years, ŻAK Iklin: This project has provided me with a unique opportunity. Even though I was aware that my youth organisation formed part of a larger organisation, I never had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with an elderly member of AKM. I felt grateful that we had the opportunity to get to know the generation that came before us and to listen to what they had to share. I enjoyed listening to their experiences and watching them smile whilst they were sharing them. They told us that if they were not part of the Catholic Action, their principles and values which they lived by and continue to live by today would have been different. Apart from this, it was also clear that my friends in ŻAK also mentioned stories which helped us develop and become better persons. The elderly told us that we are now responsible to continue the work which started before us and not to lose hope, but to continue to build a better society. The young people also thanked them for their generosity. We all acknowledged the work and time they dedicated which resulted in what we have today”.

Rachel Paris, 18 years, ŻAK Birżebbuġa: I can say that I added another experience in ŻAK. I really enjoyed listening to other young people of different ages telling their adventures, as well as the elderly persons who have been involved for a long time, dedicating time and energy to continue to help others. Thanks to this experience I became more aware of what the organisation offers to its members and to the community. I am more motivated not to give up or to try something new because I can learn and it can also be meant to help others”.

Joe Rossi, 69 years, Valletta: “It was a great pleasure for me to participate in such a project. I was happy to share my stories of when I was much younger and also experiences from a few years ago. Whilst I was telling my story I felt as if I was reliving them once again and I also remembered the persons I had met along the years. I remembered a lot of leaders, older than me, who sacrificed a lot to help me and my peers learn and experience a lot of things. At the same time, it was fun to listen to young people, express themselves with such maturity and passion. They are really active and open to learn new skills, experience new things and develop themselves”.