Joseph Stafrace is the new Chairman of the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation. He was elected to the MGDF Board for a four-year term after being the sole candidate nominated by the three founding partners of the foundation, the Malta Society for the Blind, the Torball Society of the Blind and the Gozo Aid for the Visually Impaired (GAVI).
The new board is composed of Francis Tirchett, Vice-Chairperson and MSB representative; Lilibeth Cachia, Hon. Secretary; Charlotte Cilia, Hon. Treasurer; Malcolm J. Naudi, Public Relations Officer; Dr Kevin Cutajar, Legal Advisor and GAVI representative; and Alfred Reale, Torball representative.
“I have a lot of projects in mind for the foundation,” Mr Stafrace said in his initial comment following his election, “and I wish to see it grow.”
Mr Stafrace, 46, works with the Ministry of Education, providing services for visually impaired students. He is currently studying for a Higher Diploma in Disability, a three-year course at the University of Malta, which he hopes to complete next year, and he has the option to continue for another three years to obtain a BA in Disability.
His first job was at Playmobil. In 2010 he worked on an EU project and then joined Aġenzija Sapport. He is married to Angelica, his wife for 17 years, and they live at Mtarfa. He has a guide dog, Mazzi, who is 12 years old and due to retire. “He is still going strong and I intend to keep him as a pet when he retires,” Mr Stafrace said. “He deserves all the love and attention after the work he has done.”
Mr Stafrace has been involved in many NGOs and was one of the founders of the MGDF, with the late Ron Colombo. When Ron passed away, he spent a year as chairman, after which Leone Sciberras was elected to the role for the past six years. A nature lover, among Mr Stafrace’s hobbies are diving, photography, art, cycling, music and travel.
The MGDF was set up in 2006 and its principal aims are to:
a. ensure equal opportunities for all, in particular for blind and visually impaired persons;
b. provide specific mobility services for blind and visually impaired persons where and when the need arises, especially the provision of guide dog services;
c. ensure that all public and private services in the Maltese Islands are accessible to all, including blind and visually impaired persons; and
d. provide all necessary services for blind and visually impaired persons to achieve the maximum quality of life.
The foundation has provided guide dogs for free to the visually impaired either by importing them or raising them locally and having them trained. It has an internationally training guide dog and mobility instructor (GDMI) and an orientation and mobility (OM) specialist. Its services are provided free thanks to the generosity of its sponsors, foremost among which are the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), which funds all the costs related to transportation of the dogs, their health-related costs and other costs related to the training in Australia of the GDMI.
Other sponsors for which the MGDF is grateful include Borg Cardona & Co Ltd, who provide all pet supplies, the P. Cutajar Foundation, and the Alfred Mizzi Foundation.