A special edition of CareNet, a magazine featuring CareMalta’s COVID-19 lockdown journey from March 16 to May 25, was officially presented to Dr Charles Farrugia, CEO of the National Archives of Malta, as a record for posterity.

The presentation was attended by Nazzareno Vassallo, chairman of the Vassallo Group, Natalie Briffa Farrugia, CareMalta’s CEO, and Simonne Schembri, the magazine’s editor and CareMalta’s communications executive.

“The idea to collect and document our personal experiences of the COVID-19 crisis was especially inspired by Memorja – The Pandemic 2020 Experience, a project launched by the National Archives. This is what we set out to do from day one and CareNet is the result – our own story, from beginning to end,” Ms Briffa Farrugia said during the presentation in Rabat.

On March 13, CareMalta, with the full backing of its mother company, the Vassallo Group, was the first to go for a complete lockdown in the homes it operates in order to safeguard the well-being of all its residents. CareNet tells the story of the 10 weeks that followed – a long and tiring, yet beautiful and emotional, journey.

“Looking back, these 10 weeks felt like 10 years. Each employee who took part in the company’s lockdown initiative surely lived up to our values and I Care mission – more than could ever be imagined,” says Ms Briffa Farrugia in her CareNet message.

“Even though the plan we implemented was carried out with the intention to avoid what was happening in other countries, ultimately, COVID-19 could have taken us over. I feel blessed that it did not.”

Dr Farrugia thanked CareMalta for CareNet, saying the Memorja Project had been successful in attracting participation from the community. “We commend the initiative taken by CareMalta not only to protect vulnerable people but to document the challenges this process brought with it,” he added.

After the presentation, Dr Farrugia led the guests into the library, where they had the opportunity to take a close look at some of the official records and old documents – especially those dating back to the 1813 Plague and the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 in Malta.

In a short address, Mr Vassallo once again thanked all the teams who lived with the residents 24/7 in a bid to keep them safe, saying the pandemic had been one of the toughest challenges the Vassallo Group has had to face in its 74-year-long history.

“The lockdown was nothing short of a heroic gesture that entailed a lot of sacrifice and resilience. CareMalta has truly been a star player throughout this journey.”

The magazine features interviews with CareMalta’s and the Vassallo Group’s top management, articles by Health Minister Chris Fearne and Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci, as well as messages by Dr Michael Falzon, Minister for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity, and Silvio Parnis, Parliamentary Secretary for Active Ageing and Persons with Disability.

It also covers a series of reflections by CareMalta’s frontline team leaders, 10 weekly blogs in the form of a diary, as well as heartfelt interviews with elderly residents about the coronavirus and their recollections of the war – in line with this year’s 75th commemoration of the end of World War II.

A number of human stories by staff members and carers, some of whom spent the entire lockdown period with the residents, capture both the suffering and joys experienced during this difficult time.

The magazine ends on a positive note, with pages full of remarkable pictures of special moments together – a feast of happy expressions on the teams’ and residents’ faces, even though they were separated from their loved ones for so long.