Celebrating 300 years

In November 2013, the Philippines was struck by Typhoon Haiyan, the most severe storm ever to hit land. It caused widespread destruction, killing over 6,000 people and affecting a further 14 million people. Hundreds of schools and health centres were seriously damaged or destroyed leaving thousands of children with no educational provision and thousands more without adequate healthcare.

Published in The Grand Charity

Stronger than any disaster

It has been more than a year since one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded tore across the Philippines. Peter Watts reports on how Freemasons came together to help to rebuild the country’s shattered infrastructure

On Friday, 8 November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines with terrible impact. More than 6,000 people were killed when 195mph winds and storm surges flattened entire cities. ‘People were hopeless, desperate, traumatised,’ explains Cynthia Guerra, programme manager at Plan UK’s Philippines office. ‘Children were begging for food and money, unable to return to school. Houses were destroyed.’

One year later, things are starting to improve. The reconstruction work has included the rebuilding of fourteen classrooms and two health centres that were obliterated or badly damaged in eastern and western Samar, two of the worst hit areas. These rebuilding efforts were made possible by Freemasons, who donated £185,000 after seeing the scale of the devastation. 

‘The International Red Cross and Red Crescent launched an appeal for over £60 million so we knew it was a large disaster,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Non-Masonic Grants for The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, which considers emergency grants after major natural disasters. ‘It was the scale, affecting 14.1 million people. The extent of the destruction was awful.’

The Grand Charity sent £50,000 to help provide immediate relief in the form of hygiene kits, emergency shelter and medical aid, but many Freemasons wanted to do more. ‘The masonic community called on us to set up a dedicated Relief Chest,’ says Baker, and it was these donations that were used towards the second phase of the recovery operation. ‘Phase two is the transition from immediate assistance offered on the ground to long-term recovery work. The government, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and local partners conduct in-depth assessment of need in the area.’

The typhoon marked the seventh time a dedicated Relief Chest had been created by the Grand Charity, the first coming after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when the masonic community – individuals and lodges – insisted they wanted to help. With Freemasons contributing £185,000 to help the people of the Philippines, the Grand Charity passed on the money to Plan UK, a charity that specialises in working with children in some of the world’s poorest regions. 

‘We have three or four NGOs that we know are reliable and have worked with in the past,’ explains Baker. ‘We ask them each to submit a project, then the Council decides on the most suitable one. We like it to be something tangible, so people can see where their money has gone, but it also has to be something that is necessary. In this case, it was schools and health centres.’

‘The Grand Charity sent £50,000 to help provide immediate relief in the form of hygiene kits, emergency shelter and medical aid, but many Freemasons wanted to do more.’

In the Philippines, Plan UK consulted with village leaders, but also spoke to women, children, farmers and fishermen to ‘gather their priority needs’. Plan UK’s Guerra takes up the story: ‘Due to the magnitude of the damage, health services were not operational, which caused major problems,’ she says. ‘Education had also been hampered as more than 2,500 schools were damaged.’

Starting over

Known as Yolanda in the Philippines, the typhoon first hit land in eastern Samar. Sixty-six health centres were destroyed and thirty-five damaged in eastern and western Samar. Schools were also devastated, with more than two hundred damaged or destroyed in the two regions. Marie, a student in eastern Samar, gives an idea of what children and teachers faced: ‘Some classrooms were flattened; others had roofing blown out,’ she said. ‘Students were all in one room and standing as there were not enough seats. Our books were unusable.’ 

Plan UK was able to rebuild and stock several health centres and schools, something that will help around 4,720 people. These are permanent buildings with first-class facilities, built to withstand any future disaster. 

‘The health centres have birthing facilities including scales, blood-pressure apparatus, wheelchairs and examining tables with stirrups,’ says Guerra. ‘For schools, we provide blackboards, learning materials, tables, chairs and toilets. All the structures are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.’

Plan UK lets the Grand Charity know how things are progressing by sending regular updates. ‘Plan UK is a great organisation to work with,’ says Baker. ‘They get back to us immediately if we need to hear from the project, and report to us every three months. We can speak to people on the ground ourselves if needed, but we’d rather let them get on with the work.’ Baker notes that Plan UK is so engaged that it is still informing the Grand Charity of projects that were funded in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The message is that masons have contributed to projects that are built to last, ensuring short-term relief with long-term benefits for a hard-pressed community.

‘Children and communities have expressed so much appreciation,’ says Guerra. ‘The project both restores physical structures as well as bringing back dignity.’

Or, as one student put it: ‘We consider this an early graduation gift. Typhoon Yolanda may have been the strongest typhoon we have ever encountered, but together we are stronger than any disaster that may come our way.’

Published in The Grand Charity

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity 

11 June 2014 
An address by the President of the Grand Charity, Richard Hone, QC, and the Chief Executive, Laura Chapman

President (Richard Hone, QC):

Deputy Grand President and Members, welcome to the 34th Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity. At the end of this meeting, we bid farewell to a past President, Grahame Elliott; a Deputy President, Ian Johnson and a Vice President, Ian Macbeth. These senior officers have played pivotal roles in the efficient running of the Grand Charity and on behalf of the Council and members here present, I want to thank them most warmly for all that they have done for the Charity over a long number of years and also for all they have done to assist me in particular.

I just want to endorse fully what the President of the Board of General Purposes has said about the unofficial and unauthorised history of Freemasonry being advertised with the improbable promise of half the net profit on sales being donated to the Grand Charity. I can confirm that we have had absolutely no contact with the publishers. The day job (if I may refer to it as that) reminds me that if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Next year, our Annual General Meeting will be held at the September Quarterly Communication because as part of the wider re-organisation of the four central Masonic charities, it has been agreed that all four should have the same financial year-end of 31 March. So next year I shall be reporting on a 16-month period rather than the normal 12.

When I proof read the 44 pages of the Annual Report and Accounts, it demonstrates a year of steady progress - but there are highlights. In November 2013, there was the general meeting in Berkshire where four local mayors attended, with our own RW Bro Anthony West representing the Lord Lieutenant. The Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Martin Peters, encouraged a terrific attendance of over 400 members with families and it was a marvellous opportunity to showcase our work and hear heart-rending stories from some of those who have been helped. You probably know that our areas of non-Masonic charitable support are Medical Research, Youth Opportunities, Vulnerable People and Hospices not substantially financed by the NHS. We know from the feed-back we have received that these are the most popular causes with you the members.

Since the formation of Grand Charity in 1980, which took over the work of Grand Lodge’s Board of Benevolence, we have enjoyed 28 Festivals which have raised a global total of no less than £57 million. With prudent investments, the annual contribution and generous legacies, we have been able to add to that £57 million and distribute over £120 million since 1981. Last September, the Province of Staffordshire held the 2013 Festival for the Grand Charity, which raised the stupendous total of £1.675 million from one of the smaller Provinces. I am so grateful to the Provincial Grand Master, RW Bro Sandy Stewart, who is also a member of our Council, for that tremendous support. Last year we gave grants totalling £6.6 million, first to distressed Freemasons and their families, and equally important to non-Masonic charities. With the other central Masonic charities, we donate over £20 million annually and that excludes Provincial and individual Masonic giving. It is a great story and the world should know that Freemasonry is and remains a truly terrific force for good.

May I turn now to the yellow paper of business on page 13, paragraph 18, and mention that after careful discussions with representatives of the Board of General Purposes we have decided to withdraw our recommendation for an increase in the annual contribution and that the amount for 2015 should remain as it. This situation will be kept under review between now and the next Annual General Meeting.

With that amendment, I now propose that the report of the Council on pages 10-13 be taken as read and adopted.

Deputy Grand President and members – unless anyone has any objections, I shall propose all these recommendations as one resolution.

In the absence of objection, I now move that the 19 Non-Masonic grants recommended under Agenda Items 3a. to 3s., which total £842,500, be approved.

Deputy Grand President and members – Item 5 relates to Emergency Grants. These are grants that, under the rules of the Grand Charity, may be authorised by the President without approval from the Council or from the membership, for either Masonic or non-Masonic purposes in cases of real or dire emergency. Such emergency assistance usually follows natural disasters in other parts of the world, but on occasions this country has its own emergency requirements. The business paper reports a number of grants that were made to assist flood relief operations earlier this year in the UK, and which the Pro Grand Master spoke about in his address to Grand Lodge last March. Since then, I have authorised an emergency grant of £30,000 to assist the three million people affected by flooding and landslides in the Balkans, where more than 100,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed. As is often the case when dealing with urgent aid in areas where the Grand Charity has no real appropriate contact, the British Red Cross has been given the money to assist us in seeing that it swiftly gets to where it is most needed.

I should now, with your permission Deputy Grand President, like to ask Laura Chapman, the Charity’s Chief Executive, to say a few words about further assistance that is given in the name of the Craft, but which falls outside of the normal reporting requirements.

Chief Executive (Laura Chapman):

Deputy Grand President and members. Almost ten years ago, whilst the majority of us were enjoying our Boxing Day lunch, a tsunami travelled 375 miles across 18 countries, leaving 1.7 million people homeless in just 75 minutes, eventually killing more than a quarter of a million people by the end of the day. As you may recall, the Grand Charity immediately made a grant of £100,000 on behalf of the Craft to assist with front-line relief efforts and I personally hand delivered that cheque to the offices of the Red Cross on the first day it re-opened after the Christmas break. In the next few days, before Freemasons’ Hall reopened, I received a number of telephone calls at home from Provincial contacts, asking if the Grand Charity planned to open a Relief Chest to receive donations from Masons and Lodges throughout UGLE who wanted to help the tsunami victims, but also wanted their donations to be associated with Freemasonry. The Grand Charity had never opened a Relief Chest before to receive donations for disaster relief, but it seemed to me to be a very reasonable request. So, even before FMH re-opened after the New Year, the Tsunami Relief Chest was up and running and receiving donations that would ultimately reach nearly £1m. The Trustees of the Grand Charity then approved a grant to Plan International to use the Relief Chest funds to help to reconstruct schools, health centres and other vital community services focussed on helping the children who had suffered so much.

Since then, for a number of catastrophic disasters, Masons have wanted to give more than the emergency grant that the Grand Charity invariably makes immediately after the disaster strikes. For these, the Grand Charity has opened a Relief Chest with the result that more than £1.25 million has so far been given by the Craft for 7 major disaster relief projects.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – the worst storm ever to have hit land – caused widespread destruction across the Philippines, affecting an estimated 14.1 million people and sadly taking the lives of more than 6,000. A President’s emergency grant of £50,000 was immediately made to the British Red Cross and in response to further interest from the Craft to help with the longer term redevelopment efforts, the Council of the Grand Charity announced that its special Relief Chest would once again receive funds to be dedicated to a special project to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan rebuild their lives.

To date, £185,395 has been donated to the Typhoon Haiyan Relief Chest, which will be used, once again with the help of the charity Plan, to re-establish vital services within affected communities through the reconstruction, repair and equipping of 15 classrooms and two village health centres in East and West Samar. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 people will benefit in the first year alone following project completion. The classrooms and health centres, which will be constructed using disaster resilient designs following stringent building codes, will provide safe and engaging learning environments and quality healthcare services for thousands of children and families for many years to come. 

This project, along with the schools in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, Aceh Besar, Indonesia, Leogane, Haiti, the donation to the emergency relief and recovery programme in Japan (2011), and the fishing boats jealously guarded by the women of Tamil Nadu, India, to make sure that their men did not sell them on to the highest bidder, have all been possible only because of the outpouring of generous support that Masons, throughout the Craft, have given to those who have suffered so much from these catastrophic disasters. 

On behalf of those whom you have helped, thank you.

Published in The Grand Charity

Good causes in pyjamas

Pupils at The Royal Masonic School for Girls, at Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire, have raised hundreds of pounds for BBC Children in Need and for the typhoon victims in the Philippines. 

Year Four pupils organised a cake sale and a non-uniform day to raise money for the BBC’s appeal, with many of the youngsters going to school in ‘onesies’ and pyjamas. Parents organised another cake sale in the playground after school to raise money for the people of the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

Published in Freemasonry Cares

In response to members of the Craft and the extent of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the Council of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has opened a dedicated Relief Chest

This centrally administered service is for those who would like their donation for victims of the typhoon, to be part of a co-ordinated masonic response for longer term redevelopment efforts.

This announcement follows an earlier decision by the President of the Grand Charity to approve the payment of a grant of £50,000 to the British Red Cross in support of immediate emergency aid efforts in the Philippines.

Any individual Freemason or Lodge wishing to make a donation via the Council’s Relief Chest and in support of the longer-term recovery efforts can do so by sending a cheque payable to ‘The Freemasons’ Grand Charity’ to: Relief Chest Scheme, 60 Great Queen Street, London, WC2B 5AZ and noting that is to be paid into the Philippines Typhoon Haiyan Relief Chest No. E0129C.

Tax payers wishing The Freemasons’ Grand Charity to claim tax relief on their donations, must complete a Gift Aid Donation Form which is available from the website here or you can contact the Relief Chest department on 020 7395 9246.

For more information about the dedicated Relief Chest visit: http://grandcharity.org/pages/typhoon_haiyan_philippines.html

Further Information:

For questions concerning The Freemasons’ Grand Charity’s support for relief efforts in the Philippines, please contact Caroline McHale on: 020 7395 9388

For further information on making a donation to the Relief Chest please contact the Relief Chest Department: 020 7395 9246

Published in The Grand Charity

Disaster relief in the Philippines

The President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has approved an Emergency Grant of £50,000 to the Red Cross to provide immediate disaster relief in the Philippines following the devastating Typhoon Haiyan

On Friday, 8th November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, struck the east coastal provinces of Samar and Leyte. It then headed west, sweeping through six central Philippine islands. It was the strongest storm ever to make landfall, and one of the most powerful ever recorded, with reports of winds over 190mph which have caused widespread damage.

Millions of people have been affected. Amongst these are those already left homeless by the earthquake that struck in mid-October. It is estimated that 10,000 people have been killed. Many towns have been affected by the typhoon. Tacloban, Leyte Province, largely flattened by a massive storm surge. Guiuan, Samar Province with a population of 40,000 has been destroyed. Assessments in the far north of Cebu Province, had shown that some towns had suffered 80-90% damage and Baco, a city of 35,000 people in Oriental Mindoro Province was 80% under water.

On 11th November 2013, the President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity approved an emergency grant of £50,000 to the British Red Cross to provide immediate disaster relief across the region for much needed Hygiene Kits for 8,500 families.

An online fundraising page has also been set up by The Grand Charity for the benefit of the Philippines Disaster Relief Chest. Donations can be made online using a Debit or Credit card from: http://everydayhero.co.uk/event/E0129C  

If you have any questions about this grant please contact the Grand Charity on: 020 7395 9388 

For more information about the dedicated Relief Chest visit: http://grandcharity.org/pages/typhoon_haiyan_philippines.html

Published in The Grand Charity

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