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I can still vividly remember my first day in what used to be called the Incubation Office, which would have been my office for the coming year, alone and away from everything and everyone with the knowledge that I was entrusted to create a new service and no plan yet how to go about it.

Fast forward eight years, HILA is now an established company encompassing three different successful services, with more in the pipeline.

Our latest model of care, Casal Nuovo, has just celebrated its one-year anniversary.  A model of care which was based on the Mental Health Strategy which recognises the need for specialised services, amongst them the need for rehabilitation and active support services through protected accommodation and independent living” as well as “giving clients dignity and autonomy, together with equal opportunities, offering them a choice on the best and most appropriate model of care for them.

Looking back at Casal Nuovo’s first year of life, the image that remains imprinted in my memory is the arrival of our first clients – the opening of the gates, and the arrival of our van, the clients descending into our gardens with big smiles on their faces to what is now their home.  Since then, it has been a roller-coaster of events; a new challenge that proved to be quite tough, especially in the first few months.  Even though we had a wonderful team, with systematic processes, and procedures in place, caring for and supporting people who had spent so much time in institutions—in some cases, for the majority of their lives—presented numerous difficulties for both carers and clients.

Getting used to a new place and new surroundings; getting to know new people and learning to trust them, and starting a new lifestyle was not easy for them.  De-institutionalisation is not only moving a person physically away from a big building but it’s about moving the person out of an institutionalised lifestyle towards a structured yet inclusive way of life.  It took time and patience but, through hard work, resilience, and dedication our team has achieved many successes in the past year.

Julian Tudor Hart, in The Political Economy of Health Care, describes kinship as “Solidarity, a belief that all humans are all of one species, that we are social animals who stand or fall together, who survival depends on helping one another, and whose genetic diversity is a strength rather than a weakness”

At HILA we give high importance to the concept of kinship, promoting the formation of an extended family between clients and carers.  The strength in walking and supporting each other on our journey to offer new services, together with our clients, their relatives, and other professionals, is key to achieving what is best for all.

The new project, Santa Rosa, will be yet another innovative service, one which will see HILA focusing more on children and adolescents.  It will be an extension of what we already offer at Casa Apap Bologna, but with a more targeted focus and with the introduction of new ideas and programmes.  Our aim is to always try and identify gaps that exist and services that are not available in the sector trying to address the needs of as many individuals as possible.

Casa Apap Bologna, HILA’s pioneer service, gave us the opportunity to reach out to many individuals and their families.  Through the years we have learned so much from them and this helped us in identifying what more we can do to reach out to our community.

The design idea behind our buildings is always innovative and fresh, I am always amazed at how talented our architects and designers are and the synergy with them is perfect – they translate my dreams into tangible realities.

Santa Rosa is planning to open its doors by the end of this year, and it will definitely be one of the highlights of my year and of HILA for 2022!

HILA has carved its way through an amazing journey and never looked back, something which was made possible through embracing change.  Personally, I am a huge driver for change, both in my personal life as well in my professional one.  I believe that change is healthy, makes you progress, creates opportunities, and improves your quality of life.

It’s the fuel that helps us to think outside the box and be creative and, consequently, helps us in being more flexible and also more emotionally powerful.

Many fears change, which is a hindrance to progress and new models of care proposed.  The unknown is something that doesn’t sit comfortably with many since it ‘disrupts’ the routine and creates more work, effort, and uncertainty.  But only through embracing change can new ideas be developed, and different services offered.

As I always emphasize, nothing we do would be possible if it wasn’t for the great teams we have – dedicated, passionate, and with a shared purpose that thrives us all to do our best.  What our teams at Casa Apap Bologna, Dar Bjorn, and Casal Nuovo achieve daily fills me with great pride – I feel humbled to be leading them through this amazing journey.

I want to conclude by sharing something I recently read in a very interesting book called Intelligent Kindness by John Ballatt, Penelope Campling, and Chris Mahoney: “When we are most vulnerable, the most ordinary acts of kindness have extraordinary effects – the clients recover some sense of trust in a world that seems harsh and unforgiving of weaknesses”.

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