National Award For Self-Achievement: B’ĦILTI WASALT.

Her Excellency presenting the award

May 6, 2015

Combatting Poverty and Social Exclusion

The John XXIII Peace Lab, Hal Far is happy to announce that Karmenu Grima is the winner of the first edition of the National Award for Self-Achievement (B’HILTI WASALT), The award  was presented by her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta on Wednesday 6th May  at the Palace Valletta.


You will unlikely give him a second glance if he passes you by in the street. His face is not known from the media. He was born 71 years ago in St. Paul’s Bay, the second child (and first male)  from a large family of eleven, who were farmers in Wardijja. From an early age, he had to work hard and against all odds to make ends meet, especially when his father died young. But Karmenu Grima does not know how to give up. And if you look straight in his ever twinkling eyes, set in a face hardened with exposure to the elements… you will understand why.

Slowly Karmenu began distributing fruit and vegetables to customers in the area, including hotels in the 60s and 70s and as a result

Karmenu Grima
Karmenu Grima

of hard work and diligent as well as innovative management of his business he became a successful businessman. And throughout all this, there was Doris his wife, that through her incessant support  he managed to overcome so many obstacles in life. In the first four years of their marriage, a garage had to do for a house. They had three children who often had to be left unattended at home, while Doris and Karmenu made their early morning deliveries in their first van. Doris recounts the following anecdotal story: Once, Karmenu was so much in a hurry to make his deliveries in time that he applied the brakes to their old van too eagerly, and as a result,  a whole box of fresh eggs ended on Doris’ head. As she was dripping with eggs all over, she could not take this any more and burst out crying, wanting to be taken back to her house to her unattended children. Just a simple snap-shot of a hard life, still told by Doris with misty eyes.

Building a Community Centre in Guatemala
Building a community centre in Guatemala

Now their children are grown-ups, all well-established in their own professional lives. When Karmenu decided to retire from work, he asked Doris whether they should go for a holiday-cruise. They deserved this. However they ended instead, in Africa doing mission work with the Mission Fund of Malta. This was the start of a new adventure for the couple. Since then and over the past 15 years they did a great deal of voluntary work having worked in Tanzania, building a hospital, in Kenya (Pechetoni) building a school, and having been in Guatemala for three or four times building a community centre, fish-farms, etc… Karmenu also organises a lot of fund-raising activities in Malta to help raise funds for such projects abroad.

These are the kind of unknown and unsung people, who never give up, whatever difficulties life cares to offer them. 

This National Award which is being financially supported by APS Bank, is aimed at identifying and acknowledging outstanding efforts made by individuals who were within the poverty-risk sector, and who through their own initiatives and mainly self-help, managed to ‘make it’, economically. Moreover, such individuals should be able to show that in improving their economic status, they were empowering other people, and showing evidence of social solidarity with their fellows.

Through such a National Award we would like to project to the general public the idea that many of the people living in poverty are not necessarily ‘laid-back and lazy’ who are only interested in getting a ‘free lunch’.  Furthermore, this award would be a national celebration of the necessary spirit of enterprise and self-help, coupled with solidarity with one’s fellows, rather than with an egoistic approach towards advancement in life.

This initiative is another ‘experiment’ by the Peace Laboratory that still is in its first phase of development. Nonetheless, as may be judged from the quality and quantities of nominations received, such first results are quite encouraging.   We wholeheartedly would like to thank all those who have contributed to such initiative.