“We all have a role to play” – Patrick O’Brien, iGaming Idol Charity Ambassador
Interview by Giselle Scicluna
Patrick O’Brien welcomes me warmly into the lobby of Exante’s offices, located on one of Portomaso’s vast, airy floors. Looking dapper despite the staid if beautiful business suit, Patrick instantly exudes the warmth and charm he is well-known for, and which has taken him far beyond the remit of his role as Director of Communications at Exante.
An acclaimed journalist and a guru in PR circles, Patrick’s charity work is unprecedented, serving as a link between the ever-growing gaming sector and local charities, namely the Malta Community Chest Fund. Working closely with H.E. The President of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, his tireless work has brought about a number of initiatives aimed at involving the gaming sector and its contribution towards local charities, giving a new meaning to corporate social responsibility.
We decamp to Patrick’s bright office to better understand the man behind the sector’s charity ambassador. Between his work at Exante, covering business news for The Sunday Times of Malta, as well as regularly contributing to the same paper, interviewing various heads of state for international publications and visits with H.E. The President, it’s a wonder how he manages to stay on top of things while still retaining such a sunny disposition.
Hailing from Ireland, Patrick settled in Malta eight years ago and says he was instantly “taken by how similar the Irish and the Maltese are and how accessible everything is.” In what I will come to find as his signature facetious take on life, he states that his only gripe is that being an Irishman in Malta, he tends to stand out, “all these suntanned, beautiful people and come summer, immersing themselves into all sorts of water sports. And you know, Irish people are so not into those things.” He claims that trying to remind himself that he was not on a long-term holiday, was also an issue at first.
I ask Patrick about his involvement with the Community Chest Fund and how it came about. “I went to the first MCCF event held under the patronage of the new President and was simply shocked by just how friendly and open she was. She made such a huge impression, that I actually wrote an article, ‘Malta’s most affable President’ for the Mail,” he recalls, “I got to know more about her work and basically wanted Exante to get involved. I believe in companies having a corporate social responsibility, giving something back to the islands, especially since the country has been so good to us.”
Describing the myriad of social cases he encounters through his charity work he says, “The problem is that homelessness, drug abuse, disability and other social issues here in Malta have remained quite hidden, lulling one into believing that these problems are inexistent, which is far from true.” A major MCCF project which is close to his heart is ‘Il-Gardina’; a garden for people with terminal cancer to be built on the site of the oncology unit. This will provide patients and their families with the peace and privacy they sorely need during their time at the same unit.
So, what does his role as charity ambassador for Igaming Idol entail? “With Malta acting as a hub for the sector, the gaming community is huge, with people from all over making Malta their home. I am a great believer in the art of networking and communication, so basically, I bridge the gap between MCCF and the gaming sector,” he says, before continuing, “people in general want to help, but they need to know how and why, which is where I come in. I introduce the companies to the charity, and find the best way for them to contribute.”
He goes on, “Take for instance iGaming Idol – the industry’s top brands together in one room, not only does it generate a lot of funds for MCCF, but it also creates awareness as to its workings, creating a ripple effect and getting people interested even in organising their own events towards such a good cause. I believe that every donation is a good donation, whether financial or simply through voluntary work itself.”
His charity work coupled with the day job must leave him exhausted, “Of course, but when you have a head of state like H.E. The President, working all hours of the day to reach those in need, whether breast cancer patients, patients suffering from depression or children living in not so ideal circumstances, when in reality she has more than enough on her plate with her presidential duties, it drives me to work harder and harder for such a noble cause,” he says adamantly.
Patrick’s schedule is inevitably choc-a-bloc with event invitations, which he believes are a gateway to bridging brands and people to his charity work. At a particular event, Patrick was introduced as ‘Malta’s Kim Kardashian’ just because he is always present at every event! What does he say to this? He tells me with a laugh, “It’s true! I’m a great believer in the art of communication and networking. It doesn’t matter whether you’re chatting to a CEO or customer service agent, both deserve the same attention. H.E. The President leads by example – she is always inclusive, in every situation and scenario.” On a more serious note he continues, “I am grateful for the level of trust I am consistently shown. It makes my work that much easier.”
From an outsider’s point of view, how can things regarding charities be improved? “I believe we all have such a huge role to play. With regard to gaming companies in Malta, for us to continue as a hub we need to be more involved in the community which is hosting us. Fine, the sector is pumping millions into the economy, but we should all give back something. It’s not just about giving financially, but even other initiatives could contribute greatly towards the community. I think it’s important for the government to push for foreign companies to get involved, perhaps through a few incentives,” he says.
Despite having to juggle so many roles, in so little time, what does he view as his next pet project? “Wherever I go, Malta is always on my radar and having visited my gran, who is a hundred and one, back in Ireland a few months ago, I kept thinking of visiting local old people’s homes on my return. It was so distressing! People who have worked and contributed for the best part of their lives, left to sit out their last days without anything to look forward to. So many able-bodied young people, both local and foreign, who can make such a huge difference to these people’s lives! This is what I believe is the way forward…it’s not only about the money,” he says.
A journalist, PR guru and a charity ambassador to boot; why does he believe he has managed to be successful in all his roles? “When your motivation is genuine and you are always true to yourself, without pretending to be someone or something else, I think people value that,” he concludes with a smile before moving onto his next project of the day.
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Currently employed within an iGaming company based here in Malta
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Lives the majority of the year in Malta i.e. Malta is their base
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