Maltese authors Charles Casha, Joseph Debono, Rita Saliba and Trevor Zahra recently received the Nazzareno Vassallo Award 2021 organised by CareMalta as part of the Vassallo Group’s 75th anniversary. The ceremony took place at San Anton Palace under the distinguished patronage of President George Vella.

The NV Annual Award for Initiatives in Elder Care – the  first edition of which was held in 1998, five years after CareMalta was founded – honours the achievements of individuals or organisations whose initiatives improve the lives of older persons physically, emotionally and psychologically.

For this year’s edition, the call for nominations focused on initiatives that made a difference to the lives of older persons during the pandemic. The four authors left a huge positive impact on the lives of older persons during the pandemic through the wonderful worlds of books and literature.

Some of the stories, which the authors narrated online, were read with a humouristic touch, or written specifically for COVID-19 times. Others brought back nostalgic memories of the past. To many older persons, especially those with a passion for reading, these reading sessions were like manna from heaven. It was also wonderful for them to interact with the authors, create new friendships and learn more about books.

The selection board, chaired by former prime minister Lawrence Gonzi, included former journalist Keith Demicoli, who also compered the event, MCAST lecturer Sharon Balzan, Rudolph Cini, chief nursing manager at Mater Dei Hospital, and Claudette Gauci, president of the Maltese Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics.

In his report Dr Gonzi noted that there was a particular emphasis on reading in this year’s edition as opposed to previous awards. “This is a reflection of the fact that books and literature provided vulnerable older persons with solace and company during the difficult moments of solitude, having been physically separated from their loved ones,” he said.

During this occasion, messages by President George Vella, Nazzareno Vassallo, chairman of the Vassallo Group, and Natalie Briffa Farrugia, CEO of the CareMalta Group, were also delivered. Pio Vassallo, CEO of the Vassallo Group, and James Sciriha, director of CareMalta, were also present.

The other award nominees and organisations were Kenneth Abela from Naxxar’s parish centre, Tarxien mayor Joseph Abela Galea, Dianne Giordmaina from Malta Libraries, the Department of Active Ageing & Community Care, Connie Bonett from Siġġiewi’s Active Ageing Centre, Missio, Dar Saura’s manager, Josiah Grech, Malta Libraries, Mission Fund, Simblija Care Home, the University of the Third Age and WasteServ Malta Ltd.