Over 70 young people in and around Swindon will receive a major boost to their education, thanks to a £50,000 grant from Wiltshire Freemasons
The grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, will pay for a Villiers Park Educational Trust learning mentor, as part of the social mobility charity’s Scholars Programme.
The Swindon Scholars Programme is for high ability students in Years 10-13, who face barriers – such as a low household income or eligibility for free school meals – that typically have the knock-on effect of putting them at an educational disadvantage compared to their peers.
As part of the intensive and personalised four-year scheme, students will have regular meetings with their learning mentor, who will provide advice, guidance and support in helping each scholar to reach agreed personal goals.. The programme, which operates in seven schools and colleges in Swindon, has been shown to improve exam results, raise aspirations and motivation and increase vital skills such as confidence and communication.
Villiers Park Educational Trust is a national charity providing support to 14-19 year olds to raise their academic, employability and personal skills. The Swindon Scholars Programme has been running in the area for eight years. Last year, 62% of Year 13 students on the programme achieved A*-B grades in their A-levels (compared to a national average of 53%) and over 64% went to university (compared to 33 % nationally).
Rosie Knowles, Deputy Director of Development at Villiers Park, said: 'We’re very grateful to Wiltshire Freemasons for their grant which will make a tremendous difference to the lives of the young people we work with. By providing support that’s tailored to their specific strengths, as well as areas for development, we know they will be helped to understand their options and accomplish their best.'
Philip Bullock, Provincial Grand Master of Wiltshire, said: 'The best possible start in life is to get a good education. By helping promising young people in our community to gain confidence and other vital skills, Wiltshire Freemasons donation will give them the opportunity to access top universities and transform their life chances.'
Children’s Hospice South West’s Little Bridge House hospice has been chosen to receive a grant of £746 from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire
The grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), and will be used to help provide respite care and support for the children and their families at the hospice in Fremington, North Devon.
This is just one of 237 grants to hospices around the country from Freemasons. In total £600,000 will be donated to hospices all over England and Wales this year.
This includes £300,000 which will be distributed to each hospice that receives less than 60 per cent funding from the NHS. A further £300,000 will be provided to individual hospices across England and Wales via Hospice UK, the national charity for hospice care. MCF is partnering with Hospice UK to develop and extend bereavement support services in hospices.
Devonshire Freemasons have been long-term supporters of Children’s Hospice South West and, including individual donations made by the 131 Devonshire lodges, have given grants totalling over £103,000 since it opened in 1995.
Ann Juby, Children’s Hospice South West’s major gifts, trusts and grants Fundraiser, said: ‘We’re very grateful to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Devonshire for their generous grant, which will help us to provide respite for the whole family, including a sibling service for brothers and sisters, emergency support, end of life care, and a bereavement service for as long as it is needed.’
Charles Yelland, Assistant Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire, said: ‘I’m very pleased we’ve been able to assist Children’s Hospice South West. They do an outstanding job helping children with terminal or life limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families through very difficult times for which we are equally grateful.’
Buckinghamshire Freemasons have donated £1,535 to Willen Hospice in Milton Keynes, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, and is part of a £600,000 grant made to 237 Hospices across England and Wales
The donation was made during Christmas last year, with Mike Clanfield, Buckinghamshire’s Provincial Charity Steward, dressed in a festive elf hat to mark the occasion. He said: ‘I’m very pleased we’ve been able to assist donating to Willen Hospice.
‘They do an outstanding job of helping people with life-limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families through very difficult times.’
Willen Hospice needs to raise £4.7 million a year to provide specialist end-of-life care and this donation will help the hospice to continue caring for patients, provides therapy sessions and support for friends and family.
A new, specialist bereavement service for families who are dealing with the grief of losing a child is being launched at Tŷ Hafan, the children’s hospice in Wales, thanks to a £20,000 grant from South Wales Freemasons
Tŷ Hafan, based in Sully, Vale of Glamorgan, offers comfort, support and care to life limited children, young people and their families throughout Wales. Care in the hospice focuses on making the most of the time families have together. The charity provides support and care for many years, from admission to bereavement and beyond, and ensures the child’s siblings, parents, carers and extended family are considered.
The grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and will allow Tŷ Hafan to create a dedicated bereavement support service, which will be based in a specially designed summer house near the hospice’s memorial garden. It will give families and individuals the support they need in their darkest hours, as they come to terms with the death of a child or with the knowledge that in the future, their child will die. The funding will also allow Tŷ Hafan to recruit a pool of bereavement therapists with specialist expertise who are the very best in their field.
Hannah Williams, Partnerships, Projects and Research Lead at Tŷ Hafan, said: ‘We’re very grateful to South Wales Freemasons for their generous grant. It will allow us to extend the care and support that families so desperately need, by creating an appropriate dedicated therapy space and recruiting a pool of experienced, specialist therapists to ensure we can offer a bespoke service based on individual need.’
Robert Payne, Charity Officer of South Wales Freemasons, said: ‘We’re very pleased to be able to help Ty Hafan, who are doing wonderful work helping families cope with the grief of losing a child. This is a hugely important project that will support people at their most vulnerable time.’
Brad Watson’s son Archie was referred to Tŷ Hafan in 2013 and sadly died when he was just two and a half. But Brad and his wife and children are still very much part of the Tŷ Hafan family.
Brad was pleased at the news of the grant from South Wales Freemasons: ‘As a father who has lost a child, it’s not easy. Coupling a visit to the garden to remember, plus having the opportunity to talk in an environment where there is total comfort will be incredible for the well-being of those who need this.’
Brad added: ‘With this funding, Tŷ Hafan can now provide an even greater support facility to ensure that we have a place to go to honour the memories we have of our children, cherish what we still have and make new memories with them. And if we need to open up, we can do so in dignity and privacy.’
Young people leaving the care system in Milton Keynes will be given the support they need, thanks to a £45,000 grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to the charity Volunteering Matters
The grant, which comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will fund the award-winning Grandmentors programme, which will see volunteers aged 50 and over trained to provide mentoring for young people leaving care during their transition into adulthood and independence.
Every year 10,000 young people over the age of 16 leave care in the UK. More than 60 per cent were taken into care due to abuse or neglect, and many have grown up without the significant personal and developmental benefits of a grandparent figure in their lives. The Grandmentors project is inspired by the accepting and nurturing relationship between a young person and a grandparent. This life changing volunteer programme is already running in six areas across the UK, and has now come to Milton Keynes.
The launch event for the project, held at Milton Keynes Civic Chambers, was in partnership with Computer Xplorers Bucks. Attendees got involved in Lego robotics and coding, which helped potential mentors and mentees to meet each other in a relaxed, fun and innovative way.
Oonagh Aitken, Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters, said: ‘We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant, which will help young people leaving the care system. Our vision is that every care leaver in the country has access to a Grandmentor, should they choose, and we’re deeply thankful to the Freemasons for helping us to work towards that vision.’
Phil Blacklaw, from Buckinghamshire Freemasons, said: ‘I’m very pleased we’re able to help fund the Grandmentors programme. Young people leaving care are already most likely to have been victims of neglect and abuse in childhood and they then find themselves on their own at 18 years of age with little or no help from anyone. Giving them someone to rely on at that crucial stage can be life-changing.’
Buckinghamshire Freemasons have presented Thames Valley Air Ambulance with a grant of £4,000
Thames Valley Air Ambulance provides emergency medical care 365 days a year, up to 19 hours per day, for around two million people who live, work and travel in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Their paramedics, doctors and pilots are highly trained and ready for any eventuality, delivering advanced care by road as well as by air, night and day, all year round.
Since opening in 1999, Thames Valley Air Ambulance has evolved from being a fast method of transporting patients to hospitals, to the current model of care which brings hospital level treatment to the scene of an incident. Equipped with the iconic red helicopter, four critical care response vehicles, specialist doctors, paramedics and pilots, cutting-edge technology and advanced medication, they are at the frontline of saving lives.
The grant, which was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation, will go towards funding the service, enabling their helicopter and critical care response vehicles to reach more people across Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire. They provide advanced training for their paramedics and doctors, using specialist equipment such as a state-of-the-art simulation suite and real-life manikins.
The simulation suite enables the crews to practice treating patients in a variety of different emergency scenarios, replicating the conditions they would find in real life including noise, weather and smells.
Hugh Douglas-Smith, Buckinghamshire’s Deputy Provincial Deputy Grand Master, Phil Blacklaw, Assistant Grand Master, Andrew Hough, MCF Representative, and Mike Clanfield, Provincial Charity Steward, attended the Air Ambulance office based in Stokenchurch. Adam Panter, Director of Operations, then gave them an insightful demonstration of the simulation suite, explaining how the service works and who they help.
Focused on helping secondary school students at risk of exclusion, Jamie’s Farm brings together farming, family and therapy. Alex Smith takes a trip to the charity’s new site in Monmouth to find out how a grant from Freemasons is helping to cultivate change in disadvantaged children
Thirty-five children will be excluded from school in the UK today. Of those, more than 99 per cent will leave without five good GCSEs and so will struggle to be accepted for post-16 apprenticeships or training. Each of these will cost the taxpayer £350,000 during their lifetime.
The figures come from the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Ministry of Justice, but Jamie’s Farm wants to change the status quo, ‘to enable disadvantaged young people to thrive academically, socially and emotionally’. The charity was founded in 2005 by Jamie Feilden, a former history teacher at Manor School in Croydon. Frustrated with the bad behaviour of some pupils, Jamie conducted an experiment. He brought in some lambs from his family farm in Wiltshire, set up pens in the playground and tasked his students with looking after them.
Amazingly, the worst-behaved seemed to benefit the most, becoming calmer and more focused. So several months later and helped by his mother, Tish, a psychotherapist who’d worked with children all her life, Jamie’s Farm opened its barn doors for the first time.
Thirteen years on, the charity has grown into a national organisation, with facilities in Bath, Hereford, London and Monmouth – and a fifth opening in East Sussex in April 2019. A lot has changed in the last few years, but according to Ruth Young, education manager and resident mother hen of Jamie’s Farm Monmouth, the curriculum is still the same.
‘We have three principles: farming, family and therapy,’ says Young. ‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they arrive. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, with others it’s better wellbeing or more self-belief.’
ROUTINES AND RELAXATION
Once the young people have signed a contract forbidding mobile phones and sugary snacks, the week-long residential begins in earnest. The farm hands start at 7:30am, their first task being to prepare breakfast, often using ingredients from the farm garden. Once they and their teachers have eaten together, they start the first activity, which could be anything from feeding animals to chopping wood. Then it’s time for lunch, followed by an hour-and-a-half walk, dinner, evening entertainment, and finally, bed.
It’s a strict routine, but the children are given time and space to communicate their feelings. This is often done during group sessions, with students giving ‘shout-outs’ to others for commendable actions, such as bravery, or simply doing something they didn’t want to. For more sensitive issues, one-on-one conversations are offered by the farm’s therapy coordinator. They’ll often talk about what’s going on at home; what’s bothering them. This information is shared with the child’s teacher, who follows it up with appropriate parties to provide support. After the residential, there’s a follow-up programme, including visits to the child’s school, to ensure each student achieves their potential.
‘Each school identifies specific objectives for the kids before they come here. Sometimes it’s better self-regulation, for others it’s better wellbeing or better self-belief’
THE POWER OF RESPONSIBILITY
The results have been extraordinary. From 2017 to 2018, more than half of Jamie’s Farm participants stopped being at risk of exclusion just six weeks after going on the residential; 56 per cent showed increased engagement and 66 per cent showed improved levels of self-esteem. And six months later the percentages are even more impressive.
‘It’s about giving responsibility to young people who’ve never had it before,’ says Young. ‘A lot of them have never seen the countryside before, let alone a farm. But they love it,’ she says, pointing to Hannad, a student trying – successfully, in the end – to catch a chicken.
‘It’s been fun; we eat together and talk about how we’re feeling and give shout-outs to people who we’ve seen doing good work. I was a bit nervous at first, but we’ve all bonded now. I feel more confident talking about myself,’ explains Hannad, a year-11 student at Harris Academy in Battersea, London.
‘Even within the first day, we notice a change,’ says Dave Pearson-Smith, senior visit coordinator at Jamie’s Farm. ‘By the end of the week, the difference can be like night and day. They stand up straighter, they look healthier – it’s extraordinary.’
On a tour of the farm, Young points out the garden, kitchen, equipment shed and woodworking area – much of which has been facilitated by the £39,000 grant from Monmouthshire Freemasons, which came through the Masonic Charitable Foundation. ‘Wellies, overalls, waterproofs, gardening tools – a lot of this is down to the grant,’ says Young. ‘Some young people arrive at the farm without proper clothing, but thanks to the Freemasons, we can say, “We’ll take care of everything.” We’re very grateful for their support.’
‘The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic’
MONEY WELL SPENT
‘It’s made a massive difference,’ says Katie Francis, fundraising and volunteer manager for Jamie’s Farm. ‘The grant will cover all our student activity costs each year, such as games and clothing for the young people, pet food, seeds, art materials, woodworking tools… but it’s also our running costs. The grant has paid for a lot of what the young people interact with on the farm. It’s fantastic.’
Richard Davies, Provincial Grand Master of Monmouthshire, says that supporting Jamie’s Farm was an obvious choice. ‘I visited the farm with the Deputy and the Provincial Treasurer, and we were so impressed with what we saw,’ he says. ‘We pledged that we will give them whatever support we can.’
In the last 20 years, Monmouthshire Freemasons have given over £600,000 to local causes, and are always looking for new ways to support their Province. ‘We noticed some dilapidated beehives on the farm,’ says Richard, ‘so we’re funding their replacement and offering training so the staff can maintain their bee stocks, perhaps producing their own jars of honey with the masonic logo on them.’
As for Jamie’s Farm, it will continue cultivating change in children who need it most. ‘When my teacher mentioned Jamie’s Farm I thought, “I’m not going to enjoy this… no phone, no sugary drinks, no TV,”’ recalls Ellie, a year-11 student from Harris Academy. ‘On my first day, I was like, “What am I going to do?” But I’ve enjoyed it so much. Before I came here I always felt like I had someone on my back, but now I feel like most of my worries have gone. I’ll just look at a view and think… it’s all so beautiful.’
For more information and to make a donation, visit www.jamiesfarm.org.uk
With the number of people experiencing loneliness in later life on the rise, the Masonic Charitable Foundation is committed to tackling the issue, as Chief Executive David Innes explains
We’re approaching the end of another year during which Freemasons have supported each other and members of their local communities through charitable work at both lodge and Provincial level, as well as through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). This year, your charity has supported around 5,000 Freemasons and their family members alongside 500 local and national charities – all thanks to your enduring support and generosity.
I hope that for most of us, the festive season means spending cherished moments with our families and catching up with friends. As diaries fill up, it can sometimes be a challenge to visit everyone we would like to see before the New Year. In contrast, for many older people, Christmas can be blighted by a deep sense of loneliness.
A HELPING HAND AT CHRISTMAS
Almost one million older people will spend Christmas Day alone this year, with only their television for company. The population is not only growing in size but also ageing; this means the number of people experiencing loneliness as they get older is increasing. More than half of people aged 75 and above live alone and 200,000 of them will not have had a single conversation with a friend or family member in the last month. As well as age, factors such as poor health and disability can also contribute to a sense of isolation.
Through grants to local and national charities, Freemasonry is committed to tackling the issues of loneliness and social isolation in later life – and that doesn’t only apply to Christmas. We are excited to announce a new partnership between the MCF and 13 local Age UK branches that will support 10,000 people. It is our hope that the older people supported by this new initiative will live happier, healthier and more sociable lives.
Within the masonic community, we are lucky to have a fantastic system of almoners looking out for those who are lonely, as well as those who are struggling with financial, health, family or care-related issues. Their work and our own is bolstered by a dedicated network of Freemasons including charity stewards, Visiting Volunteers, fundraisers and Festival Provinces, working together to help us spread goodwill this festive season and throughout the rest of the year.
Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to thank you for making our work possible, to remind you that we are your charity, and to urge you to get in contact with us should you need help.
Our online impact report celebrates all that Freemasonry and the MCF have achieved together this year. You can view it now at www.mcf.org.uk/impact
Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £40,000 to YMCA Thames Gateway to help fund an 'Early Years' project designed to help hundreds of children with learning difficulties across the Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Havering
The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will be used to cover the salary of a Family Inclusion Officer, a key member of staff who will help deliver the programme working alongside the Early Years Team.
The YMCA, based in Romford, provides accommodation and health and wellbeing projects as well as training and education to young people and the wider community. Through its Early Years Services, the charity currently works with over 500 children through different pre and after school clubs across the Boroughs and in Kent.
‘We support a significant proportion of children with high levels of additional needs in our after-school clubs in Havering and Barking and Dagenham', said Emma Middleton, Fundraising Manager. 'A large percentage of children accessing our Romford YMCA after-school club have a range of special needs including speech and language impairments, complex behavioural difficulties or universal delayed development.
‘This £40,000 grant from Essex Freemasons will make a huge difference to our work allowing us to pay for staff experienced in this kind of work who will ensure that we can maintain support for disadvantaged children and their families.’
Through the Early Years programme the YMCA aim to improve children’s educational achievement and development and support them to achieve greater outcomes. The scheme is tailored to the individual needs of each child, focusing on four key areas: better physical health, language development, understanding and expressing emotions and mathematics.
The programmes are offered free of charge to families and incorporate a range of accessible, fun activities, workshops and resources for children with specific needs identified by the Early Years staff team.
Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘I am delighted that we have been able to make this grant to the YMCA to allow it to continue and expand its Early Years programme.
‘Such donations are a key part of our desire to work more closely with the community across Essex to provide charitable funding where it is most needed. Our members donate more than £1 million every year to good causes particularly in those area where we can really make a difference. This is one such example.’
As well as covering staffing costs the funding will also enable the YMCA to engage parents in workshops and produce newsletters and learning materials tailored to their children’s needs. This will provide parents with the essential tools to support their children’s educational development, more effectively engage with them in their home environment, and support their children’s developmental needs.
Buckinghamshire Freemasons have donated £1,300 to the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust, which will be used to purchase a fully computerised ‘Modes’ system to enable them to document and record exhibits preserved in Buckingham Old Gaol Museum
Andrew Hough, Buckinghamshire’s Masonic Charitable Foundation representative, presented the donation from the Bucks Masonic Centenary Fund to Lt Col Simon Wilkinson, Chairman of the Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust, who also received a further donation from Mark Buckland of Grenville Lodge No. 1787.
The grant will allow the trust to meet Arts Council Accreditation requirements and enable those interested in stored items to access them and increase knowledge and accessibility for the public.
The Buckinghamshire Military Museum Trust exists to preserve and perpetuate the traditions of the former County Regiments raised in Buckinghamshire, including the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry/ Hussars, The Royal Bucks (King’s Own) Militia, The Buckinghamshire Battalions and other auxiliary military forces. It does this to contribute to the understanding and appreciation of their role in the cultural heritage of the county.
It is interesting to note that Buckinghamshire’s first Provincial Grand Master, the 3rd Lord Carrington, was Colonel of The Royal Bucks Kings Own Militia from 1881 to 1886. In fact, Carrington Lodge No. 2421 is named after him.
The Masonic Centre in Buckingham was part of the Royal Bucks Hussars headquarters and is still decorated with 19th century Royal Bucks Hussars musicians’ swords.