In our busy lives it’s very rare to take some time to stop and think. I believe in living in the here and now and, during the pandemic, that was the only way to remain mentally intact.

Yet I knew I had to take stock of what the pandemic brought with it and what it has left in its wake. I didn’t have the luxury to think about myself when we were going through it; I couldn’t afford breaking down, so no thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow were allowed, but just taking stock of what had to be done today – another day of keeping everyone safe, of following rules, of ensuring the well-being of our clients and our teams.

It was exhausting yet worth every step of the way. When I exited operations last March, I felt like entering a vacuum. I felt totally disconnected from my emotions and my new reality. Being back at the office filled me with bittersweet feelings. While missing being in constant contact with the clients and my team, I felt a surge of excitement bubbling inside me. It meant being finally back in my role as executive director – it was time to resume chasing our dreams.

Many exciting projects that were kept on hold and could not materialise due to the pandemic could now be given the attention they deserved. The first one was undoubtedly Casal Nuovo – a dream which we had for years – bringing mental healthcare and support to the community.

Officially opened by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne on June 10, Casal Nuovo has so far welcomed 44 clients. Our thorough research of the sector and attention to design detail were translated in the welcoming and soothing effect Casal Nuovo has proven to have on its clients. Our team is excited to start implementing the myriad ideas and initiatives which will slowly take shape and materialise as time goes by.

The easing of pandemic measures, together with the vaccination process, also saw our clients both at Casa Apap Bologna and Dar Bjorn finally regain their well-being. It was wonderful to finally be able to start reintroducing a sense of normality, even if slowly and with all necessary precautions still in place. Short visits in open areas with relatives, the breaking of bubbles, resuming attendance to day centres… every small step brought an element of intense joy not only to our clients but also to our dedicated teams.

We should never dwell on the past. However, I believe we need to keep close the memory of how this pandemic has changed us. It was a reality check and an eye-opener, a realisation of the strength present in each and every one of us and an understanding of the importance of cherishing precious moments in our lives. It is finally time to look ahead. ○



Casal Nuovo in Paola – a 50-bed facility operated by HILA – was officially inaugurated on June 10 by Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Chris Fearne as part of the 2020-2030 National Mental Health Strategy. It was a special day for HILA as its journey to offer specialised care continues, this time with a focus on mental health. Here are a few snapshots of some of the residents who were relocated from Mount Carmel Hospital enjoying their new home – right in the heart of the community.