Before joining CareMalta, Janet Silvio did not spend more than three years at one place of work. But 14 years since she joined the company, the HILA Homes CEO has even bigger plans for the entity born out of CareMalta eight years ago.
Janet Silvio joined CareMalta in 2009 following 18 months touring the world.
“I needed a break from a career in accounts and management as I had reached a point where I had no distinction between my private and my work life.
“After spending 18 months backpacking on a budget, and seeing the things I saw in countries such as India, I knew I would never again get satisfaction from just a money-making job.
“I needed to do something for someone. I wanted to wake up in the morning and go to work knowing I can make a difference.”
So when she returned to Malta, Janet applied for a CareMalta facility manager vacancy and soon got the job at the Bormla home for the elderly.
“Up until I joined Bormla home’s family, I had always spent a maximum of three years at one place: I would sign up for a job with the mindset that I will bring about some change, and then move on. I stayed at the Bormla home for five years, and to this day, it holds a special place in my heart.
“After around five years, Natalie Briffa Farrugia [former CareMalta CEO and today Vassallo Group chairperson] broached the topic of branching out into the disability sector, and she knew I was personally interested in supporting children.”
That discussion saw the eventual birth of HILA Homes Ltd (Home to Independence and Limitless Abilities) in 2017.
Following two years of business development between 2014 and 2016, Janet and her team walked in the footsteps CareMalta travelled 30 years ago.
“Just like CareMalta, we can sustain ourselves by generating profit that gets reinvested in the service.
“From the very beginning – during the business development phase – we worked with prospective service users: we organised live-ins with people who could benefit from a respite service, and involved parents in the design of the residences. We contacted experts in the field and went abroad to understand whether we could replicate models here.
“And just like CareMalta 30 years before it, HILA became a pioneer in providing respite tailored for people with disabilities.”
Since HILA’s launch and opening of Casa Apap Bologna (in collaboration with Aġenzija Sapport) to provide short- and long-term respite services to people with disabilities and their families, HILA opened Santa Rosa, a separate home offering residential services specifically for children and adolescents with disabilities.
HILA was also entrusted by the ALS Foundation to operate two residences for people with severe neurological conditions, as well as Casal Nuovo (through Mount Carmel Hospital and the Health Ministry) in Paola for people with mental health challenges.
“HILA, as CareMalta’s and my offspring, initially relied on CareMalta, but eventually moved away, gaining its own independence. Today, it has come full circle and continues to grow as demand prevails.
“On one hand it is nice seeing the service bloom, but on the other hand, as our waiting lists grow longer, you become increasingly concerned about the number of people who need a service but are not receiving it.”
HILA has managed to fill gaps in the social care sector, especially in the area of mental health where people who had previously not ventured out of a hospital environment were finally living in the community while still receiving care for their mental health challenges.
However, Janet believes this is still the tip of the iceberg. Over the next 10 years, she believes HILA will have specialised further in the mental health sector.
This comes on the back of a worldwide pandemic, which in itself brought about a lot of mental health challenges but also increased awareness about mental well-being, encouraging more people to seek support.
“I ventured into this sector because I wanted to make a difference to the life of vulnerable people, most especially children.
“Fifteen years on I’m still here and I’m still seeing change – including in sectors I never thought I would work in, such as mental health.
“I stayed on because CareMalta, and eventually HILA are truly the social conscience of the Group. We could easily make much more money with much less effort in areas other than care.”
“Why don’t we? Because this gives us purpose. At the end of the day, while we do need money to run the services, our main aim is to support the vulnerable.”