Pictured above: The Duke of Edinburgh presenting the Gold Award to Charles Cilia during a visit to Malta in 1968
With Malta set to host the 11th Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Forum next month, between 21 and 25 November, the focus turns on the local organisers, the President’s Award Malta Committee.
Over 60,000 Maltese have obtained the President’s Award, whether Gold, Silver or Bronze, in the past half century according to Charles Cilia, who chairs the local National Committee. Mr Cilia has been active since the Award Programme was introduced in Malta in 1961 by Lord Hunt (of Mount Everest fame) as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme. This happened just five years after the Award was launched in the UKin 1956. Malta was one of the first Commonwealth countries to take up the programme outside the UK.
The local committee is also composed of Kenneth De Martino, as vice-chairman; and the directors of the Six Pathways – Finance (including fund-raising), Quality Assurance, Communications, Promotion and Development of the Award, Training and International Relations.
“All those involved in the Award are hands on,” Mr Cilia said. “There are 75 units with a participation level of 3,000, the largest being the group from St Aloysius Sixth Form, who have made the Award part of their extra-curricular activities. Other participants come from various State schools, the Scout and Guide movements, the Salesian Boys’ and Girls’ Brigades, the Sea Cadets, religious organisations, sports clubs and Local Councils.”
The Award has always been run on a voluntary basis, with Mr Cilia paying tribute to the involvement of the Gold Award Holders Association, with their youth, energy and talent. Notable Gold Award holders include Professor Edward Scicluna, MEP, Dr Michael Asciak, MP and Professor Joseph Cacciattolo.
Mr Cilia was one of the first five students at the Lyceum to join the Award and he went on the first Gold Award expedition along the Bruce Trail in Canadain 1967, at the age of 17. “A reunion of the participants from various Commonwealth countries who went on the 170-mile bush walk with Forest Rangers then, was held in Ontario in 2010, with practically everyone turning up,” Mr Cilia added.
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh himself presented Mr Cilia with his Gold Award when he visited Malta in 1968. In 2005, during the Commonwealth Heads of States Meeting held in Malta, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, conferred on Mr Cilia the MVO (Member of the Victorian Order) during a private audience at San Anton Palace. In line with his long-serving dedication to the Awards, it is interesting to note that his wife Marion is also a Gold Awardee as are his two children, Keith and Alison, and Keith’s wife, Judith.
After obtaining his Gold Award, in the 1960s, Mr Cilia was called to sit on the National Committee representing the Boys’ Sub-Committee. “My job, in conjunction with the late Paul Galea, was to organise residential courses and other activities for Award participants” he said.
He also promoted the Award in various youth organisations, including the Sea Cadet Corps during the 1970s. The first non-military Chair of the local Award Committee, Mr Cilia was preceded by Col. Joe Abela, Brig. George Micallef, Major Alfred Briffa and Col. Eric Parnis, whom he succeeded in 1991.
After pursuing his career as a teacher in state primary and secondary schools, Mr Cilia was awarded a scholarship from the Department of Education to pursue studies in the Management of Resource Centres in Bromley,England. On his return to Malta in 1990 he was transferred to head office in charge of the Documentation Centre.
He was appointed Education Officer in 1993 with a brief to introduce teaching and learning resources to teachers. He was involved in the upgrading of courses for instructors and teachers. In 2003 he was appointed Assistant Director of Education for Planning and Development, retiring at the end of November, 2009.
Apart from being involved in the President’s Award, as it has been known locally since 1985, Mr Cilia has also been active with the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Association as a member of the International Council for over a decade. He was first elected to a three-year term in 1998, re-elected in 2001 and 2004, and as Vice-Chairman in 2009.
He has attended International Fora, held every three years, in Mauritius,New Zealand, South Africa,Barbados and Scotland, and International Council meetings in Canada, Hong Kong and Kenya. He introduced the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Slovenia and Turkey, and reviewed the Award Programme in Jordan,Israel and Portugal.
As a very active member of the EMAS (Europe, Mediterranean and Arab States) Region,Malta has organised a number of Award Regional Meetings – ranging from holding an International Council Meeting to participant and leader training, to promote and network with like minded people from the Award World. “Malta has been at the forefront of Award promotion and consolidation both in the EMAS region as well as internationally,” Mr Cilia said.
“Thanks to the experience we have all gained, I am confident the upcoming Forum is going to be one of the top events ever held by the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Association. This is in part also thanks to the support of the Government, which has been on board in a big way,” he said.
Mr Cilia will be stepping down after over 20 years as Chairman of the President’s Award Malta Committee at the beginning of the Forum and will be handing over the reins to Mr De Martino, who joined the committee in 2004 and has served as Deputy Chairman since. Mr De Martino has accompanied Mr Cilia at various international meetings, including in Australia, when Malta successfully bid to host this year’s Forum.
For more information on The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and to find out how you can get involved visit www.intaward.org. For more information about the Award in Malta visit www.presidentsaward.org.mt.