12 September 2012
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes
I have recently finished the two yearly Regional Conferences that I have with Provincial Grand Masters. These are relatively informal affairs and cover a wide range of subjects. I find them extremely useful and they are kind enough to say the same – but, of course, what else could they say!
One theme that ran through them all was a determination to see our numbers on the increase by 2017. Indeed, in one or two cases, this has already started. This means that perhaps we are getting some things right.
I have said frequently that we must not be looking for new candidates simply for the sake of increasing numbers, but if we can start this increase with the right candidates there should be a knock on effect.
Enthusing new members is of paramount importance and we heard from Brothers Soper and Lord at the September Quarterly Communication about the work of the Universities Scheme. Following that talk I have asked the Universities Scheme Committee to think about how best we can implement some of the principles that were mentioned, across the whole Craft.
Recruiting and retaining young candidates is our most important task and I am confident that those who have made the Universities Scheme successful can help us with this important challenge. However this is not just down to them and we must all pull our weight in this respect.
Brethren, in November I visited my Great Grandfather’s mother Lodge in Hertfordshire and a splendid occasion it was, with an almost faultless 2nd Degree Ceremony being performed. I can almost hear you all thinking that they would have spent hours rehearsing. Not so, as they didn’t know that I was coming.
The reason for mentioning this today is that in the Reply for the Visitors the Brother speaking referred to the Craft as an altruistic society. Altruism is one of those words that I have often heard used and possibly even used myself without having been completely sure of its meaning. The dictionary definition is “regard for others as a principle of action”. Rather a good description for a lot of what Freemasonry is about.
If we can instil this ethos into our candidates, we won’t be going far wrong. Of course it is not all that we are about, but it is not a bad starting point, as it should naturally lead to a practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, which in itself leads on to our charitable giving, which seems to be second nature to us.
During this year the Festivals for our Charities in our Provinces have raised a total of nearly £10m, of which Leicestershire and Rutland raised £1.7m for the RMBI; Warwickshire raised £3.16m for the MSF; Cambridgeshire £1.285m for the Grand Charity and Devonshire £3.836m for the RMTGB. In these troubled economic times this, Brethren, is remarkable and I congratulate all those concerned.
I hope that our membership, as a whole, are far more familiar with the activities of all our Charities than might have been the case 20 or so years ago. The promotion of their activities by the Charities is excellent and the Freemasonry Cares campaign has enlightened many people at home and abroad about what support is available.
Whilst 3 of our Charities are Masonic in their giving, and there is nothing to be ashamed of in that - quite the contrary in my view, the Grand Charity, of course, has a wide brief for giving to non Masonic bodies, provided that they are also Charities. Not everyone appreciates this aspect, or how much money is involved and we should be quick to point it out.
Brethren, since 2007 we have had excellent and amusing talks on the past at the December Quarterly Communication from Brothers Hamill and Redman and we should be proud of our history, but it is of paramount importance that we look forward and ensure that we go from strength to strength in the future in both numbers and our usefulness to the society in which we live.
Brethren, I wish you all a very relaxing break over Christmas, particularly if, like me, you will be having your Grand Children to stay.
Armed forces day out
It was a special day out for Richard Penelrick and his mother, Margaret, when they attended the Armed Forces Day national event celebrations on Plymouth Hoe, Devon.
Almoner John Pritchard and Master John Speak of Lord Roborough Lodge, No. 5789, Plymouth, in the Province of Devonshire, in partnership with the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF), arranged the visit.
Richard, aged 35, is the son of Allen Penelrick, who was a member of Lord Roborough Lodge. He has ataxia telangiectasia (A-T) and was presented with a special wheelchair with a power-pack from the MSF in 2009. Margaret Penelrick is also receiving assistance via the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care Advice Team.
Helping women in Bombay
During a recent visit to the District of Bombay, Richard Douglas, Masonic Samaritan Fund Chief Executive, saw clear evidence that Freemasonry does care. Richard witnessed an example of the help provided by local masons through Haig-Brown Lodge, No. 3829, which supports the Goa branch of the Association for Social Health in India, a refuge for women of all ages. Lodge members donated water puriﬁcation equipment and dried food for use by the residents.
Susan Beaumont has been confined to a wheelchair for the past 10 years. Although she lives independently she remains, at 34 years of age, reliant on her parents for both physical and financial support. Susan has limb girdle muscular dystrophy – a progressive condition that causes weakness in her hip, thigh and shoulder muscles – making it increasingly difficult for her to manage in a self-propelled wheelchair. Her mother, as primary carer, spends the majority of each day with Susan, while her parents remain on call at night in case she is unwell or there is an unforeseen household emergency.
Paul Healey, Almoner of Susan’s father’s lodge, applied to the Masonic Samaritan Fund in the hope of securing a grant to supply a powered wheelchair. The application was successful and Susan is now enjoying a new-found freedom and increased independence without the need to rely on others to push her around. One of her first outings was to the Provincial carol service held at the Penistone Parish Church, near to her home. Susan is now hoping to acquire a car through the Motability scheme that can be driven from her wheelchair, thereby further increasing her independence and mobility.
One of the most difficult emotions to come to terms with after a life-changing event such as a partner suffering a stroke is the resentment one experiences after the shock wears off and the carer realises that their life has changed beyond recognition
In February 2007, Ray Abercromby-Little had a stroke. A year later he began suffering from regular debilitating seizures, increasing his needs dramatically. His wife Pat explains: ‘In 2009 I was close to breaking point myself when our lodge almoner, Len Goodyer, helped us approach the Masonic Samaritan Fund. Up until that time I was looking after Ray without any outside support.’
With the help of the Masonic Samaritan Fund, it is no longer a struggle Pat has to face alone. ‘I know several carers who have been looking after their partners for many years without a break. They are often bound by a cycle of resentment and guilt, which prevents them from seeking help,’ she says.
The application to the Fund was granted and Ray experienced his first stay in a comfortable respite care home before the end of 2009. Pat continues: ‘Although very anxious and reluctant to go there at first, he soon realised what a pleasant experience it could be and has returned on several occasions. The staff now know him well and he has always been offered the same now-familiar room and enjoys the attention of the carers and the company of the other residents.’
With six weeks of respite available annually, the support of the Masonic Samaritan Fund gives Pat and Ray an essential boost to their morale. ‘I normally try to arrange a holiday away from home. It’s a chance to recharge and get back in touch with who you really are!’
Pat admits that accepting what happened to Ray has been a huge struggle for the couple. ‘However, just having the peace of mind in knowing that Ray is being well looked after and that I can have the freedom to choose to do something that I actually want to do, has helped enormously. It’s an invaluable lifeline.’
More than six million people in the UK are carers – around one in eight adults. If you, or someone you know, is caring for a loved one and would value a period of respite, please get in touch with the Fund.
In recent months the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) has seen an increase in demand for support with the cost of respite care.
As local authorities across England and Wales are forced to reduce their budgets, carers requiring essential breaks are more at risk of being unable to access the support they desperately need. ankfully, the Masonic Samaritan Fund is able to help carers get the breaks they need during these difficult times.
Many people provide vital care for a loved one – a partner, a parent or a child. is will often involve helping someone with some of their essential daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, eating and moving around the home. Many carers have to reduce their work to accommodate their caring role, or give up work entirely, which will have a huge impact on their household finances and savings.
Caring for someone can be exhausting, expensive and have a serious impact on the carer’s health. All carers, whatever level of care they provide, need a break. Regular breaks can help to ensure that someone can cope with their caring responsibilities and provides the essential time and space needed to recharge their batteries.
The MSF can help in the following ways:
Residential respite care – where the person being cared for goes away to be looked after by someone else for a few days or a few weeks, for example in a care or nursing home;
Domiciliary care – where support is provided in the home to help out with some of the carer’s responsibilities for a few hours a day.
In 2010 the Fund helped 134 carers and their families with respite care breaks. If you, or someone you know, could benefit from a break from their caring role, contact the Grants Team on 020 7404 1550 to see if help is available.
EASING PRESSURE ON THE NHS
The NHS has been tasked with finding £20 billion of savings by 2014. is is likely to have an eff ect on a very large number of patients. However, the impact will be felt the greatest by the most vulnerable of our society – older people, and those with disabilities and mobility problems.
The MSF is well placed to help those facing lengthy waiting times for operations and care on the NHS during these difficult times. Support is available towards the cost of many medical treatments, including surgery for cancer, heart problems, replacement hips, knees and joints, spinal surgery, cataract removal, prosthetic limbs and many other serious and painful conditions. In 2010 medical grants were awarded to over 300 people to help them get back on their feet – literally!
If you, or someone you know, has been assessed as needing surgery or treatment on the NHS, but face a wait and cannot aff ord the cost of private treatment, please contact the Grants Team.
Matthew Scanlan reports on a pilot scheme
The comedian Bob Hope once quipped, ‘If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.’ And as every Freemason knows, Freemasonry places great emphasis on a generous heart and charitable giving, even though not every member is aware of the charitable help that is available to both himself and his loved ones. Therefore, in the wake of a recent pilot scheme which was specifically launched to help raise awareness of the work of the masonic charities, Freemasonry Today decided to speak with those involved to see how the initiative went.
In September 2009 the four main masonic charities – the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund – launched a joint pilot scheme called Freemasonry Cares to try and better inform members about their work.
For seven months the provinces of Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Durham and Yorkshire West Riding piloted the scheme, which focused on informing members and their dependents, as well as lapsed members (those who may have fallen on hard times or who have become too infirm to attend meetings), about the wide range of charitable help and support that they are eligible to apply for in times of need. And in all instances the message was simple: if you have a masonic connection and you are experiencing financial or healthcare problems, contact Freemasonry Cares.
In the words of Eric Heaviside, the Provincial Grand Master of Durham, ‘One of the most surprising things we discovered with Freemasonry Cares was just how many brethren and their families were totally unaware of the potential guidance and assistance available to them. Many simply go to their lodge and afterwards put away their regalia, and that’s it. And many in the province didn’t realise what they were entitled to; for some it never occurs to them to even seek advice in this regard.’
To tackle this shortfall in knowledge, a specially produced booklet was distributed throughout the four pilot provinces to members and widows of deceased masons. The booklets addressed commonly posed questions relating to both eligibility and the type of help available; help that typically ranges from purely financial related issues such as funeral costs or education support, to healthcare and family support, including hospital treatment, respite care and child maintenance. And in every province the booklets seem to have proved an unqualified success.
A key initiative of the scheme, information about which was also featured in the booklets, was the setting up of a confidential helpline number and this also appears to have won universal approval. For as Eric Heaviside once again explained, ‘One of the problems we frequently encounter is that a lot of our people are very proud people and they don’t want to call on charities. But we have tried to explain that it’s Anyone who wishes to contact Freemasonry Cares should ring the confidential helpline number: 0800 035 6090 more of an entitlement and not charity as such, and that appears to have helped somewhat’.
John Clayton, the Provincial Grand Master of Yorkshire West Riding, also noted that because calls made to the helpline number are dealt with in strict confidence, a greater number of masons have been encouraged to come forward and enquire about possible help, far more than was the case in the past.
He also pointed out that in the case of Yorkshire West Riding where there were already wellestablished charities such as Provincial Grand Master’s Fund, which in 2009-10 donated £425,662 principally to non-masonic charities, they have noticed an upturn in charitable applications by as much as sixty percent since the launch of the Freemasonry Cares scheme in the autumn of 2009. Therefore it was generally agreed that even in provinces such as this, the new initiative can not only better inform masons and their dependents about the good work of the charities, but it can also provide a boon for public relations.
The conclusion of the Provincial Grand Master of Cambridgeshire, Rodney Wolverson: ‘the initiative was very good, well presented and well thought out, and overall it was received very well, but most importantly, it also shows that Freemasonry really does care’.
This optimism is also borne out by the facts. For during the pilot year the number of grants awarded in the four test-case provinces saw an increase of thirty-six percent on the previous year, compared to a thirteen percent average increase across the rest of the country. Consequently, the initiative is now being rolled out nationally and over the next eighteen months provinces across England and Wales will be invited to introduce Freemasonry Cares in the hope that the pilot success can be repeated across rest of the country.