Celebrating 300 years

Continuing aid for Vanuatu

Following the Grand Charity’s £20,000 donation via the British Red Cross after a severe tropical cyclone hit Vanuatu in the South Pacific in March 2015, Warwickshire masons have also provided aid. More than £5,600 has been sent to the Vanuatu Recovery Fund thanks to 16 Warwickshire lodges, one very generous brother and the Province’s Masonic Charitable Association.

The Vanuatu Recovery Fund, managed by Lodge of Discovery on the island, has decided to fund the rebuilding of the library at Suango Mele Primary School, and to create a bigger and better structure than had previously existed. The school will now have a media centre within the library to ensure it meets students’ future study needs.

Picking up the pieces

After the smoke has cleared and the flood waters receded, teams of British Red Cross volunteers are now on hand across the UK to give victims vital emotional support. Sarah Holmes investigates how masonic funding has helped this service to roll out nationally

When the Telford family home caught fire in September 2014, Michelle and her five children got out with nothing but the pyjamas on their backs. ‘It was awful watching the black smoke billow out of the house,’ remembers Michelle. ‘All I could think was “What am I going to do? Where are we going to live?” ’

A plug in a bedroom sparked the blaze, which quickly engulfed the house along with a lifetime’s worth of possessions. Nothing could be saved. Fortunately, the family didn’t have to deal with the consequences alone. Within minutes, a British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS) vehicle – one of a national fleet part-funded by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity – arrived on the scene to offer the family hot drinks, clean clothes and a safe place to sit away from public view. ‘The volunteers stayed with us for a good couple of hours until they knew we had somewhere to go,’ says Michelle. ‘I was so grateful for their help.’ 

Michelle is just one of the many people who have received support from the FESS, which has evolved over the years to help victims through such emergencies as fire, flood and road collisions.

‘In an emergency situation, very few of the blue light agencies have capacity to look after the emotional needs of survivors,’ says Simon Lewis, head of emergency planning and response at British Red Cross. ‘Quite often, families are left to deal with the consequences alone. That’s where the British Red Cross comes in.’

‘The emergency services know they can rely on a Red Cross volunteer not to make silly mistakes or try to play the hero.’ Simon Lewis

On-call care

Founded in 1993 in Berkshire, the British Red Cross FESS set out to provide emotional and practical support for victims in the wake of a fire. It worked in cooperation with the national fire service, with volunteers trained in first aid responding to call-outs from the incident officer. The service relied on specially adapted vehicles that contained everything from a shower and toilet, to a telephone and household staples such as nappies. But at a cost of £50,000 per vehicle, most funders were reluctant to commit to the level of investment needed to help the service flourish. That’s where the Grand Charity stepped in. 

‘We heard about a service the Red Cross was hoping to trial, which would provide much-needed assistance to people in the aftermath of personal tragedy. It sounded exactly like the type of thing we wanted to fund,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Non-Masonic Grants at the Grand Charity. 

The Grand Charity provided an initial grant of £300,000 in 2000, allowing the Red Cross to set up 10 support services across the UK. ‘We used the money to buy 13 new vehicles and train 800 volunteers, so it essentially kick-started the service,’ recalls James Hickman, senior trusts and statutory fundraiser at British Red Cross.  

‘Rather than making do in a marquee, a Fire and Emergency Support Service vehicle acts as a fully equipped base for our volunteers to provide timely, high-quality care. It’s a fantastic presence at local events like the London to Cambridge Bike Ride, but crucially it allows the British Red Cross to respond to major incidents like the east coast storm surge in December 2013 when evacuees of the floods most needed our help.’ Simon Holmes, Cambridgeshire emergency response and resilience manager, British Red Cross

Serving changing needs

It was a starting point, but as the occurrence of domestic fires almost halved by 2011, the role of the British Red Cross service needed to change. Diversifying its remit, the FESS began to support NHS ambulances, providing assistance at major incidents with its fully equipped First Aid Units. Today, the Grand Charity’s UK, non-emergency grants have exceeded £650,000, and the Red Cross has been able to deploy 20 new emergency vehicles.

‘We’ve reached over 90,000 people, and that’s as a direct result of the Grand Charity funding,’ says Hickman. ‘It’s their flexibility that makes the partnership so valuable. They are responsive to our needs and willing to work with us to establish which region will benefit most from their support.’

Cambridgeshire is one region that benefited from a new First Aid Unit in 2011. Peter Sutton, the Provincial Information Officer, says: ‘We have raised £1.2 million for the Grand Charity, so our local Freemasons can feel real pride that we have contributed to making this support possible.’ 

The Red Cross is playing an ever-more vital role in the emergency response sector. Just last year, volunteers assisted communities devastated by the UK winter floods, helping to evacuate people as well as delivering food, blankets and first aid.

Lewis attributes the success of the service to its volunteers – who are trained in providing first aid and emotional support on joining the team – but also to the relationship between the Red Cross and the emergency services: ‘Trust is vital in any fast-moving situation. The emergency services know they can rely on a Red Cross volunteer not to make silly mistakes or try to play the hero.’

British Red Cross in the UK

While the foreign relief efforts of the British Red Cross are well advertised through its public appeals for funds, the charity actually spends more at home in the UK than it does abroad. In fact, in 2013 the Red Cross spent £28.1 million responding to UK emergencies compared to £25.7 million spent on overseas support during the same period. The relationship between the Red Cross and Freemasonry has always been a strong one, with Freemasons in the UK donating more than £2 million over the past 30 years – vital funds that have supported Red Cross services and relief efforts both at home and abroad.

Published in The Grand Charity
Friday, 05 June 2015 01:00

Grand Secretary's column - Summer 2015

From the  Grand Secretary

 As you read the summer edition of  Freemasonry Today, you will see that we have a great deal to be proud of and many successes to celebrate. As well as the numerous examples of charity on home soil, the Grand Charity was, as usual, quick to send donations in emergency aid via the British Red Cross to Vanuatu following the severe tropical cyclone in March, and to Nepal following the devastating earthquake in April.

The Pro Grand Master has stressed the importance of mentoring to retain members, not least to encourage initiates to talk openly about Freemasonry to their family, friends and acquaintances from the very outset of their membership. The Pro Grand Master also called upon lodges to work with their Provincial and District Grand Mentors.

To further support our collaborative approach, the Pro Grand Master’s Annual Briefing Meeting was an outstanding success. Our report on the proceedings presents the highlights and reveals ‘an organisation that is embracing transparency and taking positive steps to ensure its long-term future’.

While the future of Freemasonry involves modernisation, maintaining tradition is also important. Pastoral care has long been a key strand of our organisation, so we find out about the ongoing work of Ernie Greenhalgh and his team of almoners in West Lancashire. We also talk to Dame Esther Rantzen about her Silver Line charity and the importance of offering support and comfort to older people.

Dame Esther is not the only celebrity gracing the pages of this issue, however, with Benedict Cumberbatch visiting Freemasons’ Hall to read at Letters Live. Our feature on the star-studded event demonstrates a membership organisation that is happy to open its doors to the world.

Transparency was one of the motivating factors in forming the Devonshire Masonic Art Group. We interview its members to discover how painting and raising money for good causes is taking the message of Freemasonry to local communities across the region. In our cover story, creativity is also being used as a way to connect with others; we learn how masonic funding is helping disadvantaged young people to take their first steps in the music industry. 

Whether the beneficiaries are old or young, masons or non-masons, there are many stories in this issue of Freemasonry Today that celebrate the support we give. I hope they will make you proud.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

‘While the future of Freemasonry involves modernisation, maintaining tradition is also important, and pastoral care has long been a key strand of our organisation.’

Published in UGLE

Vanuatu disaster relief 

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity has donated £20,000 in emergency aid via the British Red Cross following the severe tropical cyclone that hit Vanuatu in the South Pacific in March. The donation helped to deliver emergency assistance in the areas of water, sanitation, healthcare and shelter. 

The cyclone caused widespread destruction to one of the world’s least developed countries. Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, appealed for immediate help, saying the storm had wiped out all development of recent years. Thousands of people were made homeless and left in need of food and water, with infrastructure severely affected as buildings, roads and bridges were destroyed. Communications were seriously impacted, with power, telephone lines and internet affected across much of the country.

Published in The Grand Charity

Red Cross receives generator

Members of Caversham Lodge, No. 3831, in Oxfordshire, have purchased a generator to enable the British Red Cross to run heat and lighting for an outdoor treatment post, which would be set up alongside a vehicle. 

This donation is in addition to the funds for a new Red Cross First Aid Unit for Reading, which launched last summer. The new generator means the First Aid Unit will be fully functional even in the middle of a field. 

Pamela Baggaley of the British Red Cross, Berkshire, said, ‘We are delighted that the lodge has donated the generator. It will enable us to provide the best first aid treatment to people wherever there is need.’

Shoring up in Somerset

Flooding in England and Wales caused widespread damage and disruption to many communities during the winter. Somerset masons, backed by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and other Provinces, came to the rescue with help for the Somerset Community Foundation.

Grand Charity President Richard Hone, QC approved a £20,000 emergency grant for the British Red Cross in support of its UK flood relief efforts.

The grant was backed by a special appeal among Somerset masons, who raised more than £175,000 for the Somerset Masonic Flood Recovery Fund, becoming one of the four main donors to the local appeal. Other Provinces also sent generous donations. 

The Grand Charity is working closely with masons in other affected areas of England and Wales to establish the best way to offer further support. In parallel with support for wider relief efforts, the charity will assist individual eligible masons who have been affected by events, and their dependants, by providing Masonic Relief Grants to relieve hardship.

Coming to the rescue in flooded areas

Working with the Provinces,  the Grand Charity has been  providing help to those in  need following winter floods

 The start of 2014 saw the wettest January reported since records began, and the severe weather continued into February, causing widespread damage. Entire villages were cut off and thousands of people had to abandon their homes and businesses. It is estimated that more than five thousand properties were flooded, with many underwater for up to six weeks. 

Richard Hone, QC, President of the Grand Charity, said: ‘The thousands of people whose homes were flooded have had their lives turned upside down. Not only do they face financial hardship as a result, they also face tremendous emotional difficulties as so much of what they held close to their hearts may have been lost. Months of living in temporary accommodation while they coordinate repairs to their homes will take a tremendous toll on their well-being. We should not forget how damaging the floods have been to people’s lives, and why it is so important that we help.’

 Provincial network

The Freemasons’ Grand Charity liaised with Provinces in affected regions to work out the best way to deliver support. Provincial funding efforts in Somerset, Berkshire, Devonshire and West Wales were matched with grants totalling £12,500. In addition, two emergency grants were issued in February 2014. 

The first, for £25,000, was donated to the Somerset Community Foundation via the Provincial Grand Lodge of Somerset. A second grant of £20,000 was awarded to the British Red Cross to help fund its relief efforts across England and Wales. 

In addition, Freemasons across the country rallied together and generously contributed to fundraising efforts in the Provinces of Essex and Somerset, whose appeals have so far raised more than £185,000.

 The supporting role  of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity

The charity’s grants are given to assist communities in desperate need of help due to disasters such as the major earthquake in New Zealand in 2011, the typhoon in the Philippines in 2013 and monsoon flooding in India in 2013. The Grand Charity has also consistently supported relief efforts for flood victims with emergency grants, while hundreds of thousands of pounds have been donated through the Relief Chest Scheme thanks to additional support from Freemasons nationwide.

To find out more about emergency grants for disaster relief, go to www.the-grand-charity.org

Published in The Grand Charity

In response to an urgent appeal launched by the British Red Cross, the President of The Freemasons' Grand Charity, Richard Hone QC has today approved a £30,000 emergency grant in support of their flood relief efforts in the Balkans

In response to an urgent appeal launched by the British Red Cross, the President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, Richard Hone QC has approved a £30,000 emergency grant in support of their flood relief efforts in the Balkans.

Since 13th May 2014, strong winds, low temperatures and extremely heavy rains in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) have caused large-scale flooding. So far, 44 people have been reported killed, although government officials expect this figure to increase as the water recedes. 

Speaking about the donation, Richard Hone QC, President of the Grand Charity said: 'With so many people facing hardship and danger in the Balkans, we know that Freemasons are eager to support the emergency relief efforts of the Red Cross. Hundreds of their staff and volunteers are already providing life-saving support in the region, and we hope that this donation will make a real difference to many of the people in need of assistance.'

Ben Webster, Disaster Response Manager for the British Red Cross said: 'The Red Cross is delighted to have received such a generous donation from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. Three million people across Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have now been affected by the floods, which are the worst ever recorded in the region. 

'These funds are a valuable contribution towards the Red Cross response, helping us provide food, water, and shelter to some of the tens of thousands of people who have had to leave their homes and in the long term, support them to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.'

The floods have triggered more than 3,000 devastating landslides, which have buried houses and disturbed landmines laid during the regional conflict in the 1990s. More than 350,000 people in the region are estimated to be without water or electricity, and more than 100,000 homes are thought to have been destroyed. This means that hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and urgently need hygiene kits, mattresses and blankets. The emergency grant from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity will help with the provision of thousands of these supplies.

Visit the British Red Cross Balkan flooding Appeal page for more information.

Find out more at the Grand Charity website here.

Published in The Grand Charity

As flooding continues to affect many areas of England and Wales causing widespread damage and disruption to many communities, the President of the Freemasons’ Grand Charity, Richard Hone QC has approved a £20,000 emergency grant for the British Red Cross in support of their UK flood relief efforts

This emergency grant from the Freemasons’ Grand Charity is in addition to £30,000 previously donated to support relief and recovery efforts in the badly hit area of Somerset. The Somerset Community Foundation received £28,500 and the Burnham-on-Sea Area Rescue Boat received £1,500.

Speaking about the donation, Richard Hone QC, President of the Grand Charity said: 'As gale force winds, torrential rain, tidal surges and flooding continue to affect large areas of Britain, it is clear that people in the affected areas need urgent support. Freemasons care deeply about their local communities and we hope that this donation will assist many of the people whose lives have been devastated by this ongoing disaster.'

The British Red Cross have been providing a great deal of support in the affected areas by providing emergency shelters, food, first aid, advice and emotional support.

Simon Lewis, head of UK emergency planning and response, said: 'Our teams of emergency response volunteers have been on a heightened state of alert to support any requests for help. The severe weather is set to continue so we will monitor the situation and are always ready to help when called upon.'

The Grand Charity is also working closely with Freemasons in the affected areas of England and Wales to establish the best way to offer further support. In parallel with support for wider relief efforts, the Freemasons’ Grand Charity will be assisting individual eligible masons affected by events, and their dependants, through Masonic Relief Grants which are given to relieve hardship.

Published in The Grand Charity

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
Page 1 of 2

ugle logo          SGC logo