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CONVENTION 2000 - Part Four

The Fouth Day of the Convention, Friday 28th January 2000 at the Emigrants’ Commission, Castille Place, Valletta.

Fourth Session - Youths and Their Achievements:

The topics were:

  • Statistics about second/third generation Maltese and their interests
  • How successful have they been in their role?
  • How much do they participate in Maltese activities?
  • What other ties do they still have with their mother country?

How can we attract them to take more interest in Malta?

 

The Keynote speaker was Dr Carmen Dalli, a lecturer in Victoria University of Wellington of New Zealand.

Other delegate speakers were:

Miss Pauline Calleja - Australia
Mr Joseph Portelli - Canada
Mr Bernard Scerri - U.K.
Ms Claudia Caruana - U.S.A.

Dr Carmen Dalli opened the session on Maltese origin youth and their achievements with a keynote address, which considered the topic from the broad perspective of ecological theory. She noted that one cannot make easy generalisations on this topic. Research on migrant communities generally has shown that second generation migrants often grow up with parents undergoing acculturative stress. This has been associated with both positive and negative psychological and social outcomes for migrants’ children. Psychological theory also suggests that a sense of identity, and a sense of belonging, are central to how people live their lives, and thus what they can achieve. In addition, in sociological studies the achievements of different groups of people, such as specific migrant groups, have been found to be associated with societal messages about what it is possible for them to achieve. Dalli argued that these dynamics must all be taken into account when trying to understand the achievements of second and third generation Maltese as well as their interest in Maltese activities and culture.

The second part of Dalli’s presentation was based on data gathered through a survey of second and third generation Maltese origin people living in New Zealand. The survey had four sections which focused on the Maltese background of the respondents, continuing ties to things Maltese, schooling, study and work achievements and views on religion. The population of Maltese in New Zealand officially appears as 369 (1996 census figure); of these, 354 were born in Malta. A total of 72 survey forms were sent out to Maltese families through the Malta Society of New Zealand based in Auckland, and known Maltese families based in Wellington and Christchurch. 33 survey forms were returned, a response rate of almost 50%.

The main findings of the survey were that second and third generation respondents felt that they had experienced less acculturative stress than their older family members. Facility with the English language, which most had acquired as their first and dominant language, appeared to be an important factor in this finding. Respondents to the survey showed a generally high level of qualifications with 11 of the 29 respondents having a university degree or above. The occupational choices of the respondents in paid employment indicated that these people were achieving in a range of fields including being self-employed in the building trade, or as an electrician, working in the telecommunications and sales industries, teaching at various school levels, accountancy and freelance publishing work. In terms of attitude to Maltese culture and organised events within the Maltese community, the respondents generally had a positive attitude and appeared most interested in the social events organised within the community. Overall, the data suggested that interest and affiliation with things Maltese was still quite strong in this group of Maltese origin people living in New Zealand. At the same time, there was also a clear sense that New Zealand had become the practical home of these people. In other words, the 2nd and 3rd generation Maltese people who responded to the survey are living their lives in New Zealand without feeling a constant pull to connect to Malta. Dalli concluded that from a developmental perspective, this is an adaptive response on the part of second and third generation Maltese origin people even if for 1st generation people this response may be a more difficult one to make.

Miss Pauline Calleja is a young second generation Maltese in Australia and, quite exceptionally, she is closely involved with the Maltese community as an organiser and advisor in a local organisation. She greatly impressed the audience with her well-prepared speech, which was delivered to the Convention on behalf of all the Maltese born youths residing in her area.

Miss Calleja began by confirming that there are no known statistics relating to youths, and particularly about their interests and achievements or any noticeable problems. She referred to a collection of names produced by Professor Maurice Cauchi of Victoria with evidence of individuals who were published in the local media as an asset to the Maltese-Australian community and indeed to society at large. The main common factors with all these youths was that they integrated well in their own environment and have contributed to several aspects of normal community life in Australia. Hereunder is a summary of what they achieved.

Sports:
Young Maltese hold records in athletics, women hockey in World and Olympic games, Soccer (Australian football), horse racing (jockeys), rugby, boxing and other championships.
 
Arts:
There are young Maltese participants in the film and television industry, comedy shows, singers, music industry, opera productions and ballet dancing.
 
The Media:
Many are those young Maltese involved in photography, journalism, newspaper correspondents, national broadcasters, radio stations and television channels producers. Some also work on international basis.

Participation by youths in Maltese activities included Maltese bands and Soccer clubs. They also perform actively in productions, affiliate as active members in community organisations, and even hold positions at committee level.

 

The challenge is ongoing and needs to be tackled regularly. Parents are often urged to instil in their children the love for Malta and its heritage. The Maltese Government could assist and meet half way by establishing special rates for youths to travel to Malta and facilitate their appreciation of our lovely Islands.

Mr Bernard Scerri replaced the absentee Mr Robert Hero who was originally assigned to speak on youths in the United Kingdom. He presented the theory of assessing the role of the youths today generally and that of an immigrant in a foreign country. Without any statistics provided by the UK, it is practicable to ponder on what is evident around us.

The speaker analysed the phases experienced by our young people that are often detected by their behavioural responses to different situations and conditions in their lives. It must be remembered that the world is never static, but always in progress, good or bad. This affects the youths from one generation to the next.

He divided the term "young people" into two sections, namely from childhood to teenage, and from teenage to young adulthood. The first are "compliant "because they always follow their parents wherever they go, such as to social and religious activities. These also move about to new schools, accommodation, holidays and other places wherever the family goes. The other group, however, seem to be "rebellious" (non-compliant) because they are allowed to make their own choices even at a young age. They stop following the ideals of their parents. In our time this is regarded as progress and should not be undermined by the adults simply because they feel that their teenage relations are too independent. The trust given to youngsters by our political society has proved that youths are capable of planning their own achievements. This trend exists also in the immigrants including the Maltese.

An astounding fact has been observed that once they attain their young adulthood stage, many come back to being attracted to their roots and values of their ancestors. In our case, they even increase in their love for Malta and its culture. When they have their own children they want them to become aware of their grandparents heritage. So one can say that we should build on this factor and enhance the ties that are still inherently existent in the minds and hearts of our young community. Let us not, therefore, let this opportunity slip away by insisting too heavily on the need for full integration into the host country, with a detrimental result of losing the identity of our children as people of Malta.

The delegate concluded that by exposing our children to the Maltese culture and heritage on a continuous and regular basis while they are growing up, we can be assured of the seed sown in them to sprout and flourish later on in their lives. If this can be achieved, then it can also be a good advert for Malta abroad.

Ms Claudia M Caruana is a teacher in the U.S.A. and specialises in social issues and cookery. The title of her speech read: "Malta Memories of a Second-Generation, Maltese-American Women".

The study of emigration, including the process of this Convention, will constitute in itself a section of our Maltese history. The Maltese-American population is small, and often they merge into the larger community like a melting pot. Other immigrant communities, like Italians, Germans, Hungarians and Chinese, are a lot more numerous and noticeable. The Maltese are hardly known at all and rarely included in statistical data. It is estimated that there are about 17,000 Maltese in New York (for us it is a lot). The only known Maltese business is a baker company selling frozen pastizzi to some local food shops in Astoria. This is, therefore, the general picture.

 

In spite of the situation, importance of the family and continuation of culture remain an element of need in order to sustain the immigrant Maltese population in the Americas, wherever they are settled. Family is a priority in most people’s lives. The language is maintained when relations gather together and exchange news and views. The youngsters can join in the conversations with the help of someone who is willing to translate to them. Maltese traditional food is cooked and eaten within the family as their traditional nourishment. Even in an ultra modern place like the United States, the idea of holding on to family ties contributes largely to a safe and secure upbringing where the family members enjoy a deep sense of belonging to one another. And this is utterly important for an immigrant family in such a vast community of people from diverse countries and cultures.

Without a formal arrangement made to cultivate the younger generation in the immigrant community of Maltese, it is quite hard to pass on and maintain the Maltese culture and heritage among them. The language gets forgotten quickly. The Maltese Centre in Astoria endeavours to provide regular Maltese language classes for children with an aim to give them a special identity and instil in them the pride of their ancestors. It is unfortunate to observe that Maltese families refuse to speak the Maltese language among their own folk at home. How can the children be made aware of their mother tongue then?

In her own experience, the speaker felt that by simply visiting Malta, the place of her roots, it brings to her the nostalgia and affection for Malta. Going about to see different places and travelling all over the Islands of Malta and Gozo are an adventure in itself. But seeing the people and tasting the products are an experience that cannot be gained elsewhere. Even passing by a cemetery can bring to mind that the people interned there may be your relations or ancestors. Having been born of an educated Maltese family, Ms Caruana certainly upholds that any least action that can be taken to generate a love for Malta in our youngsters is a lot more worthwhile than placing an emphasis on bringing up our children as a community of migrants who have integrated into a larger country nd have lost their own identity.

At lunchtime we paid a courtesy call on His Grace the Archbishop of Malta at his Palace.

In the evening we attended a reception at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We were treated to a cocktail party by the organisers of the Convention.

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Since the local government funds Maltese Language classes there is a growing number of students interested in learning to read, write and speak Maltese with the aim of achieving a relevant qualification.

Other ties with Malta are intended to be achieved through extended international tours to Europe (and Malta) by young students according to their financial means. But primarily, ties with Malta should be generated through family relations and the sowing of the seed of Maltese patriotism by parents into the minds and hearts of their young ones. The teaching of Maltese heritage is of great importance to maintain these ties. It is often said, "If you can’t educate, legislate". Although it is not feasible to institute laws to attract anyone into loving one’s heritage, yet it is still possible to make facilities available to generate enough interest and voluntary attraction towards Maltese traditions, heritage, practices and language use.

The young delegate concluded by highlighting the achievements of older youths in her community who have succeeded in making a name for themselves through scholarships and relevant courses which can be an effective means of attracting our young people for future achievements.

Mr Joseph Portelli is a young lad who was chosen to address the audience on behalf of youths in Canada. He exposed the situation of the Maltese-Canadian Youth and their Achievements, and stressed that in Toronto it is common to see people of different cultures and religions interacting with each other on a daily basis. The United Nations had already ranked Toronto as the most ethnically diverse city in the world, and the Maltese community is one of these. The church of St Paul the Apostle is the centre around which the Maltese Canadian community operates as an ethnic parish. Many organisations have cropped up in the area and these promote the Maltese culture on a very high profile among the many thousands of Maltese people in those surroundings. However, the worrying factor is that many hundreds move out of Toronto each year.

A survey on youths between 14 and 26 years of age has brought the following results:

Education:
Many youths are still in the stage of completing their high school or post secondary education. Three quarters of these aim at further qualifications in business, nursing, teaching and technological studies. Only a small number ceased to proceed with their education in favour of obtaining unqualified jobs.
 
The MalteseLanguage:
About one tenth of the youths speak Maltese and a few more manage to understand the language. More than half of these said that their parents never speak to them in Maltese. There is a Maltese Heritage Programme where the language is taught, but many do not participate.
 
MalteseCommunity:
There is a general interest in youths. Many activities are geared at involving the youths both in the parish and at social events. The clubs also aim at attracting young people. Social activities are run through the Maltese Band Club, Soccer Club and other organisations. There are also annual features of L-Imnarja Picnic, concerts, Maltese Dances and Miss Malta. These are starting initatives for holding the Maltese Community together.