Celebrating 300 years

Digital converts

Whether it’s paying bills or buying Christmas presents, we are increasingly being driven online to conduct sometimes complex transactions. Peter Watts finds out how masonic funding in Leicestershire is helping to close the digital divide for an older generation

Lindsay Prince volunteers as a Digital Champion, delivering technology support and advice for elderly people, and she never knows what to expect. It may be someone in their eighties wanting to log on to an online seminar, or someone in their sixties struggling to send their first text message.

‘Some can’t even use keyboards, but that’s what we’re there for,’ says Prince, who volunteers for Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland. ‘I feel strongly that anybody who isn’t online is disenfranchised from society. If they don’t engage with IT they are in danger of missing out. They can’t run a bank account, get tickets to an event or vote on Strictly. People are terrified by it, but once they take the first step they find they can get over that hump.’

It’s this belief in the importance of digital accessibility for social inclusion that has prompted the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to provide £65,000 for Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland, which has been running the project in the region since 2014. The charity holds drop-in sessions at care homes, Age UK facilities, shops and town centres where anybody can attend and receive support for their tablet, laptop or smartphone. The funding will allow the project to run for another two years, employ an administrator and coordinator, and train volunteers. Troy Young, assistant director of Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland, says they hope to reach 2,000 people in that period.

 THE DIGITAL LEAP

One beneficiary of the sessions has been Aileen, 86, who is now able to use her tablet to access a range of services. ‘It’s taken me months to believe that I can’t damage the tablet, so the digital sessions have been as much about confidence using the tablet as they have been about learning what I can achieve by using it,’ she says. ‘YouTube is marvellous because I can watch and enjoy seminars on a range of topics.’

Aileen’s story is one that the MCF and Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland hope will be repeated over the next two years. ‘What we like about this project is that it tackles social isolation from two angles,’ explains David Innes, Chief Executive of the MCF. ‘One is that in this age, where an increasing amount of our day-to-day activity takes place on the internet, there’s a large number of elderly people who struggle with the technology. They can’t manage money, access bus timetables or make GP appointments. It’s a real challenge and narrows their horizons even more.’

The other benefit is that in the process of gaining technology training, participants will have social interaction with the people teaching them. ‘The fact they are taking part in an activity will give them something to look forward to,’ Innes says.

Prince says that several of her regular attendees make a point of coming to sessions in part because of this social aspect. Many Digital Champions are young, and Prince – who is 70 and began volunteering after retiring from further education – admits sometimes she gets mistaken as a participant rather than a volunteer. But she believes that her age gives comfort to attendees, who see that age doesn’t have to be a barrier to new technology.

EARLY LEARNING

Having trained as a Digital Champion, Prince thinks it’s vital to go at the right pace and avoid scaring attendees with technical language. ‘It’s important to understand how different people learn,’ she says. ‘You need to realise you are working at somebody else’s level. It depends on the person, their attitude and what they did in their career beforehand. If you’ve never worked with machines, it can be difficult. You start by finding out what they want to use it for and you have to be careful you don’t overwhelm them.’

It’s also important that sessions are enjoyable, and Age UK’s Young says that feedback has been positive. The project has discovered hundreds of older people who were keen to go online but couldn’t find anybody providing the advice they required. ‘They were often worried they’d be made to feel stupid, and some of them have had negative experiences that made them feel out of their depth, but these are relaxed sessions that can be fun,’ he says. 

Older people came to Young explaining that they had signed up for evening courses but were being taught about how to use spreadsheets or make presentations. ‘They weren’t interested in learning in such a structured way – they wanted advice and guidance about all the wonderful new technology. We started rolling out engagement sessions so people could have a play with the equipment. People were also coming to us very confused about the range of what was in the market, and they wanted impartial advice. A lot of it is about demystifying and making sure that older people don’t find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.’

Young is intrigued by the potential of using digital technology to provide reminiscence therapy for people with dementia. He hopes that Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland will soon be able to find volunteers who have experience both with technology and dementia care. ‘I want to take this project to older people who might not use the technology but can still benefit from it,’ he says. ‘There’s been some very interesting stuff around virtual reality and dementia recently, where they use virtual reality to take people back to times they might remember and that have a calming, therapeutic effect.’

MAKING CONNECTIONS

As well as allowing the MCF to tackle social exclusion, the location of the project in the East Midlands allows the MCF to ensure masonic funds are evenly distributed.

‘We try to balance our grants, just as the masonic community is spread around the country,’ says Innes, who was previously Chief Executive at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and has experience of supporting elderly people.

‘I’ve seen for myself at the RMBI the difference that technology can make,’ he says. ‘Families are far more dispersed than they used to be, and with opportunities such as social media and Skype, you can connect to a family member anywhere in the world. In our masonic care homes, we provide connectivity to all residents, which has enabled older people to stay more in touch with relatives.’

Young is looking forward to continuing his work with Digital Champions like Prince, thanks to the MCF. ‘We were so pleased to get this funding because the grant will keep it going for another two years,’ he says. ‘And that’s important because the technology isn’t going away – we have plenty of demand. We want to make our sessions as inclusive as possible and ensure that all older people will benefit.’

Find out more about the work of Age UK in Leicester Shire & Rutland - click here.

Encouraged by Freemasons’ engagement with the MCF over the past few months, the charity’s Chief Executive David Innes looks forward to the rest of this Tercentenary year

One of the major initiatives to commemorate the 300th anniversary of UGLE has been the MCF Community Awards – Tercentenary Fund. This unique initiative saw each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge select a number of charities within its borders to be eligible for a range of grants from £4,000 to £25,000. The masonic and non-masonic communities were then invited to vote, and we were staggered by the response, with more than 177,000 votes cast over the six-week period.

Thank you to all who voted and promoted the awards – you have made a tremendous difference to 300 charities across England and Wales. We know from our research that the awards have helped the public to gain a much better understanding of the philanthropic nature of Freemasonry, and this can only help us all as we move forward.

‘The Community Awards have helped the public to gain a much better understanding of the philanthropic nature of Freemasonry…’

Alongside the Community Awards, it has been wonderful to be part of many other celebrations. MCF staff have attended Tercentenary events across the country over the past few months, meeting many of you along the way. It has been a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the work that we do, reach out to those who may need our support and have some fun.

As we enter the final quarter of the year, one of our priorities is to ensure that our members have a greater role in our governance. As the voice of the Craft, it is vital we keep members at the heart of our decisions to ensure we remain relevant to our beneficiaries.

Those same members are our representatives in the Provinces and they do an excellent job raising awareness of us as an organisation. Our second members’ meeting, held in June, was a brilliant opportunity to exchange information and ideas.

Whether you’ve voted in our awards or donated to support our work, I thank you for all your efforts and hope you enjoy the rest of this Tercentenary year. Looking to the future, the new strategy for the MCF will be finalised by the end of 2017; I look forward to sharing it with you.

Perfect arrangement

Musicians such as Phoebe Gorry are bringing comfort to vulnerable adults right across the country. Masonic funding will allow Music in Hospitals to find an even bigger audience, as Matt Timms finds out

Singer Phoebe Gorry shoots a glance at her guitarist before turning to the audience: ‘This one’s my favourite. It’s called Tea for Two.’ Popularised by Doris Day in the 1950 film of the same name, it’s an unusual favourite for a 28-year-old jazz musician to have. Then again, this isn’t your usual performance. In a quiet corner of Surrey, Gorry is reeling off classics for elderly residents at the Royal Cambridge Home.

The concert is one of many that are taking place in care homes (including RMBI homes), hospitals and hospices across the country. They’re the work of Music in Hospitals, a charity that has brought live music to vulnerable adults and children for more than half a century. With the help of a £60,048 grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation – the latest in a line of donations from the masonic charities over the years – there is now funding for another 216 concerts over a three-year period.

‘Research has shown that live music can help to reduce levels of pain, stress and anxiety, as well as provide moments of joy for those who have lost their independence or feel isolated,’ says Emily Winchester, senior fundraising officer at Music in Hospitals, adding that music has an inherent ability to generate an emotional response in the listener. ‘Musicians like Phoebe provide stimulating and therapeutic enjoyment for hundreds of elderly people in care homes across the country.’

Judging by today’s performance, Gorry is a welcome addition to the home. There are singalongs and plenty of requests – particularly from a cheeky couple in the corner. There is also dancing between staff and residents, and an opportunity to revisit treasured memories while making new ones too.

‘The residents love it,’ says Gaye Wyeth, who is the housekeeper and activities manager at the home. ‘I’ve been here for 26 years and remember a time when there were hardly any activities at all – never mind this.’

Now there’s flower arranging, birthday teas and even a version of the Olympics – with straws and paper plates instead of a javelin and discus. Yet the Music in Hospitals concerts, according to Wyeth, are a house favourite because they’re so varied.

‘Live music can help to reduce levels of pain, stress and anxiety, as well as provide moments of joy’ Emily Winchester

SOUL MUSIC

‘We have some artistic residents here who have always appreciated music,’ says the home’s manager, Rory Belfield. ‘One of our residents, Joyce, loves today’s music, but we have plenty of diverse tastes. Some like jazz, some folk, others opera – the whole range.’

The music is enjoyable but it’s also therapeutic. Active participation serves as a form of physiotherapy, through clapping, tapping and moving in time to the music. Positive changes to patients’ mood and self-esteem can also make a real difference to their well-being. In addition, and most noticeably at this home, music sparks memories and emotions, meaning staff can understand more about an individual.

Gorry has been a professional singer for 10 years, since graduating from the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford, and was introduced to Music in Hospitals through a friend.

Music in Hospitals’ chief executive Steve Rowland-Jones says that potential musicians are assessed against their musicianship, breadth of repertoire and communication skills. Since 2013, auditions have been conducted within healthcare environments to gauge how musicians engage with audiences and deal with the vagaries of such settings.

Often, musicians will take on the role of friend or listener as they chat to patients about the memories the music may have sparked. It’s an important part of the experience, and one that is welcomed by patients.

‘It’s intimate,’ says Gorry. ‘I can engage with an audience in a way I can’t do at, say, a wedding when everybody’s a bit drunk and I’m in the background. Over the past year, I’ve become a much better performer. It has changed the way I sing. Now I think about how to communicate a song simply, without overcomplicating it.’

SPECIAL MOMENTS

As well as in care homes, Gorry has performed in hospitals and special-needs schools. She says her experience with the charity has given her memories that will last a lifetime. One of the most moving was when a nurse in a children’s ward asked her to sing for an eight-year-old girl.

‘She hadn’t been responsive for a long time and, with her mum and sister by her side, my guitarist and I were able to wake her up and help make eye contact. At that point, her mum started crying. She said it was the most stimulated she’d seen her for a really long time. Moments like that make it all worthwhile.’

Close harmony

With the help of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Music in Hospitals aims to reach 5,400 elderly people. David Innes, CEO of the MCF, says that the benefits of the service are clear to see and the work itself is closely aligned with the masonic ethos:

‘At the heart of everything we do lies one of the basic principles by which all Freemasons conduct their lives – an ingrained duty to care for those who are less fortunate. From its earliest days in the 1700s, Freemasonry in England and Wales has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged, and this grant is a continuation of that principle into the modern day.’

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 40 WINTER 2017

Perfect arrangement

Sir,

We were interested to read your article ‘Perfect Arrangement’ in the autumn edition of Freemasonry Today. We are a husband and wife duo (keyboard player and female vocalist) who for the past four years have been entertaining in various venues and at masonic events in the Lake District and Lancashire. We also perform at care and residential homes and find it very rewarding.

We agree with the article that live music can be beneficial. Some of these homes specialise in dementia care and it is amazing how many residents remember the words to the music that we play. Staff and residents often end up dancing and clapping away.

We are now looking at working in homes for adults with learning difficulties.

Mike Langdon, Bela Lodge, No. 7576, Milnthorpe, Cumberland & Westmorland

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Ewan Gordon and Oxfordshire Provincial Junior Grand Warden Dale Osborne clocked up the miles in the name of charity, as they walked from Oxford to Freemasons’ Hall

The intrepid pair started their journey on Saturday 5th August along the Thames Path, managing around 20 miles a day, and have helped to raise £3,000 for the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) in the process.

Five days later and having completed their journey outside Freemasons’ Hall on Thursday 10th August, they were greeted by David Innes, MCF Chief Executive, and Les Hutchinson, MFC Chief Operating Officer.

You can sponsor the pair by clicking here

Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons have completed a four-day cycle ride visiting all the Masonic Centres in the Province before continuing to Freemasons’ Hall in London and back again

The 300 mile trip not only marked the 300th anniversary of Freemasonry, but raised over £21,000 to be split equally between the Rainbows Children’s Hospice in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The 23 cyclists ranged from 19 to 64 years of age and were from 15 masonic lodges based in Leicester, Oakham, Syston, Market Harborough and Ashbourne in Derbyshire.

They were waved off from Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Jim Buckle, and Helen Smith from Rainbows, and during the ride were welcomed by Brethren at the Masonic Centres in Loughborough, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Coalville, Hinckley, Lutterworth, Market Harborough, Uppingham, Oakham, Melton Mowbray and Syston. 

They were also warmly welcomed at Freemasons’ Hall, London, by the Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, David Innes. The cyclists made a quick detour in London to visit St. Paul’s Churchyard where the first Grand Lodge of England was formed 300 years ago in 1717 at the Goose and Gridiron ale-house.

W Bro Simon Oldfield from the Wyggeston Lodge and organiser of the event, said: 'We are all proud to have taken part in a great adventure and it's such an achievement by all the riders and support crew, with great team spirit and camaraderie to raise money for charity.'

The cyclists arrived back on schedule at Freemasons’ Hall, Leicester, where they were welcomed by the Assistant Provincial Grand Master, VW Bro Peter Kinder and a large number of family and friends.

W Bro Paul Simpson, Master of St. Wilfrid’s Lodge in Market Harborough, said: 'The whole experience was most enjoyable. This is what Freemasonry is all about - working together as a team to raise funds for charity whilst having great fun in doing so. I made friends that will be friends for life now.'

The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro David Hagger, commented: 'I most sincerely thank the cyclists and assisting crew on behalf of all the Freemasons and their families in Leicestershire and Rutland for the generous contribution they have made. It is truly a magnificent achievement.'

Tuesday, 13 June 2017 13:55

Your vote matters

As we reach the midpoint of this celebratory year, Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) Chief Executive David Innes urges you to vote in the Community Awards, and to encourage your friends and family to do the same

Between 12 June and 31 July, the masonic community and the wider general public will be asked to decide how they would like Freemasonry to support charities operating in their local areas. Across England and Wales, 300 charities will benefit from £3 million of funding, with a number of charities in each Province and London guaranteed a grant.

June will also see the next MCF Members’ Meeting take place in the Province of Nottinghamshire, at 11am on Saturday, 17 June. Attendees will hear about the work of the MCF as well as our future plans.

The Board of Trustees and staff are currently working hard to develop an effective strategy for the future of the MCF and later in 2017 we will present this to the Craft. The MCF is your charity and we are keen to keep you well-informed of our plans.

'We are working hard to develop an effective strategy for the future of the MCF. This is your charity and we are keen to keep you well-informed of our plans’

The MCF’s first impact report will be produced in the latter half of the year, providing the first formal opportunity to demonstrate exactly what the generous donations from the masonic community achieve.

So far the MCF has supported over 5,000 Freemasons and their family members, with thousands more in the wider community benefiting from £5 million in grants to charities. Enquiries for support are growing at an unprecedented rate and this, alongside the Community Awards, means that our impact on individuals and society will only increase over time.

Whether you donate to fund our work or spread the word about the help we offer, your support is invaluable, thank you.

THE MCF MAGAZINE

Issue 2 of Better Lives, the Masonic Charitable Foundation magazine, is now available; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to order your copy. Or to keep up to date with the MCF’s work, subscribe to the charity’s email newsletter at www.mcf.org.uk

Tea for one

Up and down the country, Sunday tea parties offer companionship to elderly people who might otherwise face loneliness and isolation. Steven Short discovers how the Masonic Charitable Foundation is helping

Who did you have dinner with last night? Your partner? Friends? Work colleagues? Perhaps you ate dinner alone. If you did, imagine what it would be like to eat alone tonight and every night, or not to speak to another human being for weeks on end.

Sadly, this level of isolation has become normal for thousands of elderly people up and down the country. It is estimated that a third of people over the age of 70 eat alone every day, and that more than one million older people haven’t spoken to anyone for weeks.

‘It’s so easy for an elderly person to become isolated,’ says Suzan Hyland at Contact the Elderly. ‘If someone can’t walk to the shops for a chat, or can’t get to the door quickly enough when the postman or milkman rings, they can go for days without speaking to another human being.’

To help to improve the situation, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) awarded Contact the Elderly £75,000 to enable it to provide more companionship to elderly and frail people aged 75 and over who live alone, something it has already been doing for more than 50 years.

The MCF grant will fund the role of a new national support officer, who will help to co-ordinate 700 of the 10,000 volunteers needed to organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties across the UK. These events provide a regular and vital friendship link for small groups of older and infirm people who live in isolation.

‘We currently have about 5,500 guests who we take out to a free tea every month,’ says Hyland. ‘But that is just the tip of the iceberg. We want to expand because we know the need is there. In most of our areas we have waiting lists of people wanting to join the groups.’

NOT ALONE

The grant will allow Contact the Elderly to grow the support it provides in difficult financial times with an increasing elderly population. Hyland, currently the charity’s only support officer working on a national level, highlights the reason for the heavy demand: ‘There’s a generation of elderly people who, because of the war and because of medical conditions associated with wartime and the period directly after, have ended up being alone.’

She explains that even if people do have family, relatives might only be able to visit two or three times a year. But living on one’s own needn’t mean always being alone, which is why the charity developed its tea party model.

On one Sunday of each month, a volunteer host invites a group of elderly people (typically aged 85-95) into their home for a free tea party. The same group meets 12 times a year – each time in a different home, with the host providing tea and refreshments from their own pocket.

GET TOGETHER

The parties offer guests not just tea, but also companionship. Organised by volunteers of all ages, they bring together people who may never otherwise have met, and help to foster fulfilling relationships.

‘It’s a great model because the older guests get a lot of things to look forward to throughout the year,’ says Hyland, who is currently responsible not just for supporting existing volunteers, but also for recruiting new ones. The model works well because each volunteer only has to host one party a year, which helps with retention – some volunteers have been with the charity for 40 years.

Erica, a volunteer from Surbiton, Surrey, says: ‘It’s rewarding because you get to know the older guests and talk to them about what they’ve been up to. Seeing how much they enjoy the parties and how much they look forward to them is wonderful.’

Summing up her first tea party, one guest said, ‘It’s so nice to have a chance to dress up and go somewhere. I can’t remember when I last had such a lovely time.’ For another guest, the events were a turning point: ‘I felt like I’d come out of a dark tunnel and into the light. Before I joined Contact the Elderly I thought my life had ended, and now it’s started again.’

Some guests have reconnected with people they used to know but had lost contact with. ‘We’ve had people who went to school together who haven’t seen each other for 40 or 50 years,’ says Hyland. Attendees regularly phone each other, and the more mobile members meet outside their Sunday calendar dates.

But there is still work to do. ‘It can be frustrating when there is a need. I look at an area sometimes and see the waiting list and think, “I will get round to that…” but it just takes so long,’ says Hyland. ‘My basic role is supporting existing groups. Opening new ones has, sadly, had to come second. Appointing a new officer will make those extra groups possible. Instead of thinking “we could have a group here, we could have a group there”, we’ll have the manpower to make it happen, which is fantastic.’

PRACTICAL SUPPORT

It is estimated that the new officer will support 55 groups across the country, giving some 450 guests something to look forward to each month. The MCF grant that is making this possible is not the first instance of the masonic charity supporting Contact the Elderly – some £100,000 has been donated since 2000.

‘Freemasons have always been active in the community and loneliness and isolation in old age are issues that they are keen to help with,’ says David Innes, MCF Chief Executive. ‘Contact the Elderly was an obvious choice for our funding.
The MCF is delighted to support the charity with a grant to help to grow the tea parties, which do so much to bring companionship to older people’s lives.’

That companionship is summed up perfectly by one happy tea party participant, who says that once a month she tells her walls, ‘I can’t speak to you today, I’ve got real people to talk to.’

The volunteer driving force

Contact the Elderly not only recruits hosts for its parties but also volunteer drivers, who transport the guests on the day.

‘I got involved three years ago as I wanted to do something worthwhile with my Sunday afternoons – and I’m particularly partial to homemade cakes,’ says Thomas, who currently drives guests to tea parties in Birmingham and – like all drivers – pays for the petrol himself.

‘The ladies I drive are all good fun and really appreciate our efforts, even though it’s only a few hours a month.’ Thomas is fascinated to hear all their stories about life in the early part of the 20th century and during the war. ‘At Christmas I drove us into the city centre after our tea and cakes to look at the Christmas lights, which they hadn’t seen for years – that quick 15-minute diversion made their month and it made my month making theirs!’

Quarterly Communication

14 December 2016 
An address by VW Bro His Honour Judge Richard Hone, President, and David Innes, Chief Executive

Richard Hone: Pro Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and brethren, I am delighted to address Grand Lodge for the first time, as President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, and I am very proud to be the first person to hold this position.

The launch of the Foundation marks a new era in the long and proud history of masonic charity that has been built on the increasing collaboration between the four charities over recent years.

Our new charity, which has been formed following the consolidation of the four central masonic charities, opened for business in April this year. The work necessary to establish the Foundation is now largely complete and it has been a significant undertaking to bring together four charities that have operated separately for many years, in some cases since the 18th century.

In recent times, the predecessor charities have supported 5,000 Freemasons and their family members each year, at an annual cost of around £15 million, and we anticipate operating on this scale, or hopefully higher, for the near future.

But behind these statistics, there are thousands of stories about Masonic families across England and Wales, whose lives have been blighted by unexpected distress. Each story is unique – some are affected by financial hardship, others by ill health, disability, or just plain old age! Some stories are brief, whilst others extend for many years.

But every story has three things in common. The first is that everyone involved is a Freemason, or his wife, widow, partner, child or even his grandchild. The second is that all of them have experienced some kind of challenge that has made their lives difficult. And the third is that we at the centre have supported them. It is this third commonality that, I believe, has been the main driver for establishing the Foundation and the area where the greatest benefit will be felt. With a single charity, it is now much easier to understand and access the support we provide.

An additional advantage, and one that is particularly beneficial to the reputation of Freemasonry as a whole, is that bringing the charities together has created a sizeable organisation within the UK charity sector. This will help us to raise our public profile and allow us to have a significant voice of influence within the sector.

Through the work of the previous charities, Freemasons provided support amounting to over £100 million in recent years to charities and medical research projects across England and Wales.

The Foundation is continuing this legacy and since our launch in April, 350 grants totalling over £3 million have been awarded to non-masonic causes, and more are planned before the end of the financial year.

Next year, in addition to our main grant-making programme, we will help celebrate the Tercentenary by awarding 300 additional grants totalling £3 million to local charities operating across England and Wales. Over the past two months Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Lodges have been nominating charities for these Community Awards. In January, we will be asking the selected charities to submit formal bids outlining the purpose and size of the grant they would like. Once the submissions have been reviewed and confirmed, we will be inviting everyone – both the masonic community and the general public – to vote for those charities that have been put forward.

Freemasonry will therefore be helping more charities than ever before during this important year and by involving the public in the voting process, many people will learn about the charitable nature of our fraternity.

Bringing the charities together has also allowed us to improve the way we communicate with those who make our work possible: Almoners, Charity Stewards and many others.

Last month, we hosted our first Provincial Grand Almoners’ Conference in Manchester under the MCF banner. One of the key themes was to provide guidance and training to those who are most closely involved in the application process. Similarly, we held a Festival Forum here at Freemasons’ Hall – a one-day conference, which brings together those running appeals so that they can share ideas, learn from one another and, as a result, raise more funds for our cause.

Whilst part of our yearly income comes from the Annual Contribution, the MCF, like its predecessor charities, will continue to rely on the festival system for the majority of its income. For the next few years, festivals are still in place for the separate charities and this year the Provinces of Norfolk, Cumberland and Westmorland, Cheshire, and Hampshire and Isle of Wight have all successfully concluded appeals, with the latter setting a new record of £7.7m raised. A remarkable achievement!

This year, the first appeals for the MCF have been launched in Essex – who I’m told have Hampshire’s total in their sights, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, with West Lancashire and Worcestershire to follow very soon in the New Year. 

We are extremely grateful to all our donors and fundraisers and I hope that, at the end of this short presentation, you will agree with me that these donations are being well spent and carefully managed.

Whilst it is my privilege to be able to represent the MCF as its President here today, I cannot claim credit for the work that has taken place to get the new charity off the ground. Led by my Deputy President and Chairman, the Trustees and, of course, the staff of the MCF have taken on much of that responsibility.

They have all worked very hard over the last year or more and have achieved an enormous amount, as you will hear from David Innes shortly.

Looking ahead, I believe that we have – to all intents and purposes – realised our vision of creating a single charity that can support the next generation of Freemasons.

To tell you more about Foundation’s work so far this year and our plans for the future, I’m delighted to hand over to its first Chief Executive, David Innes.

David Innes: Pro Grand Master, brethren all – good morning. It is a huge privilege for me, as the MCF’s first Chief Executive, to helping to shape the next chapter in the proud history of masonic charitable support and I’m really enjoying the challenge.

At the time of my previous address to Grand Lodge in March, Leicester City sat at the top of the Premier League, David Cameron had no intention of leaving No. 10 this year and Donald Trump seemed far from securing the Republican nomination, let alone winning the Presidential race! Clearly a lot can happen in 9 months and that has certainly been the case within the MCF.

Back in March, you may recall that I spoke about a three-phase consolidation process to create the Foundation during this year.

The first stage was ensuring that the required legal and governance foundations were in place to underpin a new, integrated organisation with the appropriate structure and systems for the future. I’m pleased to report that this phase, which also involved the transfer of all CMC staff to the MCF and RMBI staff to the new RMBI Care Co, was completed successfully on 1 April.

The second phase, which took place during the summer months, was the actual reorganisation itself and the physical relocation of staff into their new teams, albeit in temporary locations. Again, this has been completed successfully and all staff are now in their new posts with new contracts.

The final phase is still ongoing and involves a period of bedding in, during which the policies and procedures of the MCF are being finalised and the necessary systems needed to run the charity are becoming fully operational, such as our new grant-management software. We have also undertaken a major job evaluation exercise to ensure that every employee, irrespective of their former charity, is paid on a fair and equal basis, and that salaries are set in line with the sector.

I am delighted with the way all our staff have approached this potentially unsettling process. They quickly grasped the concept of what we were trying to achieve, and have willingly embraced new ways of working. Several members of the team have worked for the charities for over 20 years and many more in excess of 10 years, and I’m pleased that we have been able to retain so much experience and expertise as the new organisation takes shape. The bottom line is that they have been fantastic!

From my own perspective, I handed over responsibility for RMBI Care Co to the new Managing Director, Mark Lloyd, in October. Since then, I have been able to focus fully on the MCF. I have formed a Senior Leadership Team comprising directors and heads of department which meets monthly to assist me in running the charity. The majority of the day-to-day management for grant-making and fundraising lies in the very capable hands of Les Hutchinson, our Chief Operating Officer.

We have recently appointed our first Finance Director, Charles Angus, who brings a great deal of experience and is settling in very well. Charles has taken over from our Interim FD Chris Head and, Pro Grand Master, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for all that he has done to help get the MCF up-and-running during the past 10 months.

The finance function was undoubtedly the most complex to integrate and, together with the Finance Committee, chaired by Mike Heenan, the team has put in a huge amount of work to create a unified accounting system that is both fit for purpose and statutorily compliant.

The only major element of phase three outstanding is the reconfiguration of our office accommodation, most of which is two storeys directly below us. During this two month project, which began on Monday, we have set up temporary office accommodation in the Gallery Suite on the Ground Floor of Freemasons’ Hall, but plan to move back downstairs in early February.

The refit will further remove barriers – both physical and psychological – and enable the staff to work together far more efficiently within a shared culture and working environment. It has also served as an excellent spring-cleaning exercise!

At the current time, the Trustees and staff are working hard to ensure that everyone is aware of the changes that have taken place, and to firmly entrench the single charity concept and our new brand into the consciousness of the Craft.

Many visits have been made to Provinces by our Trustees and senior management to spread the word, and we are extremely grateful to all those PGMs who have given us the opportunity to speak in their Provinces.

All of us involved in the consolidation process have stressed that there should be no adverse effect on the charitable services we provide to those in need. As far as we are aware, that has been the case. Indeed, following our launch, enquires for support have increased with over 1,200 received within the last three months alone.

Looking to the future, the Foundation will continue to provide its wide range of grants for Freemasons and their families experiencing a financial, health or family need as we have always done. But having a single charity with broad objects provides us with opportunities that go far beyond just financial grants. We now have the chance to adapt our charity to be more responsive and to offer new services to meet the needs of the masonic community, now and in the future.

Whilst the Craft will spend much of next year celebrating the remarkable milestone of the Tercentenary, our thoughts are already turning to the longer-term – as we look to build a new charity for a new generation.

Now that the Trustee Board and the Committees that serve it are up and running and working well, over the next few months they will be looking to formulate a forward-looking strategy for the Foundation that will dictate the direction of travel during the next five years.

We are keeping a very open mind about what we could do better to support those in need and are willing to explore all manner of proposals, however radical they may appear.

I would like to reassure you that the views of the Craft will be sought and represented in our discussions. Our first members’ meeting and AGM takes place later today, at which two nominated members from each Province and London will be provided with an update about our work, and the opportunity to comment and question our activities. We are looking forward to welcoming the Deputy Grand Master.

We plan to share an overview of our strategy with the Craft towards the middle of next year and this should provide you with a sense of what the Foundation will look like in the future.

For now though, and with only the final few weeks of the year remaining, I am delighted with where we are and am confident that your charity is well placed for the future.

Brethren, on behalf of everyone at the Masonic Charitable Foundation, I wish you a happy Christmas and thank you for all that you are doing to support our work.

Published in Speeches

Spreading the word

The Masonic Charitable Foundation’s Chief Executive David Innes reflects on how the charity is progressing in its goal to make support simpler to understand and easier to access

In the months since the Masonic Charitable Foundation launched, a great deal has already been achieved towards our ambition of a unified central masonic charity. Our staff have now come together as a single, stronger team, all the while continuing to deliver the same level of service that the masonic community expects and deserves.

In the first three months of operation we received almost 1,000 applications for support from Freemasons and their family members with a very high percentage (85 per cent) being approved. But we want to do even better – we want every masonic family to know we are here to help. 

The purpose of bringing together the four charities was to make our support simpler to understand and easier to access, with straightforward eligibility criteria and clear processes.

Our representatives have been delivering talks across the country for the past few months, our new website is now live and we have distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets. We are working hard to ensure that our message is heard, and we are relying on Freemasons to spread the word and make sure that no potential cases fall through the cracks.

‘In the first three months of operation we received almost 1,000 applications for support from Freemasons and their family members.’

Staff appointments

The staff structure for the Masonic Charitable Foundation has begun to take shape, as follows:

Relief Chest Director – Suhail Alam
Head of Community Support and Research – Katrina Baker
Head of Masonic Support – Gareth Everett
Head of Strategic Development and Special Projects – John McCrohan
Head of Communications and Marketing – Harry Smith
Provincial Support Programme Lead – Natasha Ward
Grants Manager – Gill Bennett
Financial Controller – Philip Brennan
Donations Manager – Sue George
Advice and Support Manager – Maggie Holloway
Marketing Manager – Rachel Jones
Digital Communications Manager – Heather Crowe
Fundraising Manager – Alison Lott
Legacy Manager – Duncan Washbrook
Administration and Support Manager – Sarah Bartel

Following the launch of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), Laura Chapman and Richard Douglas, Chief Executives of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund respectively, left the team during the summer. Everyone at the MCF would like to thank both Laura and Richard for their years of dedication and wish them all the best for the future.

Annual General Meeting

The first Annual General Meeting of the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be held on Wednesday, 14 December 2016 at Freemasons’ Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, London, from 3:15pm to 4.45pm

Wednesday, 14 September 2016 01:00

Rebuilding education in Nepal

Strength and resilience

When Nepal was hit by a violent earthquake last year, Freemasons rallied to provide funding to replace a school that had been demolished in the village of Jyamire. Glyn Brown catches up with the relief efforts

Nepal is a beautiful, still relatively undeveloped, landlocked country of 28.5 million people. Bordered by China to the north and India to the south, it sits amid the breathtaking Himalaya mountain range, which includes the mightiest peak on earth, Everest. It is also a fragile country struggling with high levels of poverty and the difficult political transition from a monarchy to a republic. Its income is dependent on carpet making, tea and coffee production, IT services – and tourism.

On 25 April 2015, Nepal was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8, an intensity classed as ‘violent’, and which was followed by multiple aftershocks. With the epicentre 81 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu, it was the biggest quake to hit Nepal in 80 years. Centuries-old buildings at UNESCO World Heritage sites, vital for tourism, toppled; roads cracked and electrical wiring was ripped loose; and almost 9,000 people died, with about 22,000 injured. At least 500,000 homes were destroyed, although some aid agencies put the figure significantly higher. 

Relief aid came within hours of the news being broadcast; The Freemasons’ Grand Charity donated an immediate £50,000, although Freemasons would later donate on a bigger scale via the international children’s charity Plan International UK. 

Aftershocks

Wonu Owoade, trust funding officer in Plan International UK’s Philanthropic Partnerships team, explains the immediate needs in the aftermath of the tremors: ‘Plan has staff based in Nepal, so we were able to react virtually instantly. And we had to act fast, because the monsoon was on its way and families were living in the cold and wet under makeshift tarpaulins. Knock-on effects included health problems, both physical and mental, and disease that comes with sanitation issues.’ 

The level of donations meant Plan International UK could distribute sturdy tents and ropes, food packs, blankets and mosquito netting, and get hygiene problems under control. The most pressing focus then was mothers with newborns, and childcare. The future for any country is in its young, and many children of Nepal were not only deeply traumatised but also bereaved or homeless – schools had been reduced to rubble, leaving a million of them without education.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, masons were determined to help. David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, explains: ‘We have very close contact with aid agencies across the world, so we can respond quickly to calls for international disaster relief. Freemasons knew we had made a donation, but we began to receive huge numbers of emails, letters and calls from our members, saying, “We want to do more.” So in May 2015, a Relief Chest was allocated for this purpose.’

‘Within days of the chest being opened, we had £76,650. We were talking serious money.’ David Innes

Bringing relief

The Relief Chest idea is an inspired one. ‘It’s a simple, secure and efficient way to bring together donations from Freemasons across England and Wales,’ says David. ‘And because it’s a recognised charitable scheme, we’re able to claim tax relief on donations, so for every pound donated, HMRC gives an extra 25p, which means a donation of £100 is worth £125.’

Masons were as good as their word. ‘Within days of the chest being opened, we had £76,650. We were talking serious money,’ recalls David. The funds were donated to Plan International UK’s Build Back Better project, to rebuild the devastated Bhumistan Lower Secondary School in one of Nepal’s hardest-hit areas. 

The original infrastructure was pretty poor, so the idea was to replace the school with first-class facilities and what’s called ‘future disaster resilience’ – because of course lightning can strike more than once in the same place.

One trustee of the Grand Charity, retired GP Richard Dunstan, already had fond feelings for Nepal, having driven to India in 1970 with some pals. ‘We split up for a week and I went to Nepal on my own, and it was just the most magical country, a true Shangri-La. The people were gentle, peaceable, it was very agricultural, with no roads, no traffic…’ Fast-forward and, having been chairman of the committee that allocated the Relief Chest funds, Richard travelled with wife Tessa to Nepal again in April 2016, on the anniversary of the earthquake, to see where the new school would be built. 

While Nepal was still a stunningly beautiful country, Richard noted that much of the country was in disarray. ‘The government has money to spend on rebuilding, but there’s so much to do. The emphasis is to rebuild with new, safer planning, and each of these plans must be approved. So families are still living in tents and shacks.’

The school is in the village of Jyamire and, says Richard, ‘the original building was right on the hillside’. He explains: ‘We went to see what was left and could hardly climb up to it, the path was so steep. When it collapsed, it must have been terrifying. The villagers are just relieved the earthquake happened on a Saturday and the children weren’t there.’

‘They’ve been through something appalling, but they were smiling, positive, happy.’ Wonu Owoade

Determination

A temporary school is in place for now, although ‘it has a corrugated iron roof, which is incredibly hot in the sun’. But the site for the new school has already been cut in a much safer location. Richard was there to hand over the Freemasons’ cheque and met children, parents and teachers at the ceremony. ‘The commitment of the village to the education of their children was palpable; you could see clearly they were keen to get on with it,’ he says. 

Owoade of Plan International UK was at the ceremony too, and also saw the determination Richard noticed. ‘Because of the economy in Nepal, it’s very common for children, especially girls, to stay at home and concentrate on domestic duties, or go out to work,’ she says. ‘But when we visited Sindhupalchowk there was a real desire to educate the children – in a safe, secure building – so they could rebuild their lives and go on to better things.’

Owoade says that the new school is something everyone is pinning their hopes on. ‘They see it as part of a greater reconstruction of the whole country, the start of further rebuilding in the area: hospitals, homes... the impact will be incredible.’

Best of all, Plan International Nepal is about to sign a mutual agreement with the government to begin construction, so building can start once the monsoons are over in early autumn, and could be completed in six to eight months. 

And how did the children strike Owoade, on the visit? ‘There’s a real sense of strength and resilience there,’ she says. ‘They’ve been through something appalling, but they were smiling, positive, happy. They were glad to be able to continue learning in the temporary building, but they’re more than ready for their new school – they’ve asked for a science lab, and computers – and so excited. Once something stable is in place, it will also give them back a sense of normality and routine.’

Which couldn’t be better news for David. ‘While in the army I worked with many Gurkhas from Nepal and have huge respect for them and their country, as I’m sure many Freemasons do. To be able to help those less fortunate, whether part of the masonic community or not, is incredibly gratifying.’

Published in Freemasonry Cares
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