Youth agriculture

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

Friday, 07 December 2018 00:00

The launch of Solomon

Solomon the teacher: Fostering curiosity – developing understanding

The launch of Solomon, an online learning resource, is making daily advancement a reality in the Craft and Royal Arch

Sir David Wootton, Assistant Grand Master and Chairman of the Improvement Delivery Group, wrote in the last issue of FMT that the requirement to learn ritual by rote and then present it without any attempt at providing the most basic of context and understanding fails the candidate, because it overlooks the important messages that lie within.

Member surveys have highlighted learning as a major unmet need and a potential reason why members leave. Solomon has been created as an accessible online resource to stimulate interest and meet current and future needs.

WHO IS SOLOMON FOR?

Solomon will support the wants and needs of at least three groups:

  • Those who want to learn more about their masonry.
  • Those with programme planning or member development responsibilities in a lodge or chapter.
  •  Provincial or District Officers charged with promoting and providing learning resources and activities. 

Solomon will support personal inquiry or study, irrespective of experience or prior knowledge. It brings together material from many sources to help answer common questions and improve masonic knowledge and understanding. The online resource can be accessed on multiple platforms such as smartphones, tablets and computers and currently contains more than 350 items. 

Solomon is also designed to support the interests and requirements of lodges and chapters. The Lodge Mentor or Director of Ceremonies will be able to find material to help a member learn about or understand a topic or issue, or may introduce learning content into regular meetings. Solomon material comprises short ‘nuggets’, papers and demonstrations, as well as longer items for presentation and discussion. A regular presentation of these nuggets at meetings will stimulate a desire to learn more. 

Solomon materials will complement material collected locally by Provinces and Districts and will guide and support them in the advancement of their learning.

WHAT WILL I FIND?

Solomon is devoted to the Craft and Royal Arch. It is organised into three categories:

  • Seek & Learn: for individual exploration or presentation.
  • Share & Encourage: for use by lodges and chapters.
  • Support & Promote: for Provinces and Districts. 

The first two categories have eight modules covering the Craft, the Royal Arch and more general areas, such as symbolism and history. This arrangement will enable users to focus and drill down to individual nuggets, papers and presentations. It will also help to confine the inquirer to those areas appropriate to his masonic progress.

Once registered, you can login and enrol in one or more modules and explore Solomon to your heart’s content. It is intuitive and has been designed to foster curiosity and draw you in to seek answers. You can use various search tools to find and refine your inquiry. You may then read or download as much or as little as you wish. With smartphone access, Solomon can readily provide an answer to a question at a Lodge of Instruction.

Solomon provides a range of interesting material that will complement or even replace a ceremony

HOW WILL SOLOMON BENEFIT A LODGE OF CHAPTER?

Solomon complements the Members Pathway and individual mentoring programmes. These encourage a personalised approach to development. This approach should be extended to develop the interest and enjoyment of all members, enabling them to benefit from a deeper understanding of our ritual and traditions. The result will be improved performance of ceremonies, better mentoring and greater confidence in explaining Freemasonry to others.

Solomon provides interesting and accessible material that, if well chosen and well delivered, will complement or even replace a ceremony. It is designed to be popular, boosting attendance and interest. Ideally, learning activities will become an appreciated and regular feature of lodge and chapter meetings.

A ‘nugget’ is a five to ten-minute item of interest that can be presented by a member. It will easily fit into a meeting; perhaps to set the scene, or to act as a conclusion, or even when the candidate retires. It is also suitable for personal study and can be a resource for lodge quizzes. It may also lead to a presentation that expands on a topic of interest.

While there may be some who feel there is no time at a meeting, it’s hoped that by making time for learning, the benefits will become clear and members will increasingly value time devoted to it. A well-organised lodge or chapter will have a programme that reflects the needs and interests of all its members, one which they enjoy and which encourages them to attend. Learning may also extend beyond the regular meeting to a Lodge of Instruction or special masonic events.

HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?

As the success of the UGLE Learning and Development programme depends on local support, the Programme Support Team wishes to work collaboratively with Craft and Royal Arch Provinces and Districts. Solomon therefore includes resources to support local development. 

In launching Solomon to Provinces, Stuart Hadler, the Programme Lead, emphasised the key importance of presenting and delivering material in an understandable and engaging way. This takes skill and so Provinces are being asked to identify suitable members to be presenters, to develop their skills and to promote their use. The skilled presenter will draw attendance and overcome the negative stereotype of the boring lecture. 

The team also wants to share good examples; these include specialist lodges and working with light blue clubs. A collaborative approach between the Craft and the Royal Arch is encouraged.

Solomon is still in its early stages and will expand in volume, range and diversity. There will always be a need to commission and source new and credible material and the team looks forward to receiving the views and suggestions of Solomon users. For able members eager to write material for inclusion, Solomon provides guidance on the style and other format requirements.

Early feedback on Solomon has been positive from new and experienced masons alike. David Pratt, Provincial Grand Master for Yorkshire, West Riding, remarked that the nuggets are ‘solid gold’, packed with interesting topics to educate even experienced Freemasons. ‘They are so easy to access and use. Any lodge member can lead the activity… I shall be strongly supporting and promoting the use of Solomon within my Province.’

To access Solomon, go to https://solomon.ugle.org.uk

Published in UGLE

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.

Freemasons’ Hall in Leicester hosted a wide range of charities and good causes from all over the Province of Leicestershire and Rutland, as £60,875 was presented to benefit the local community and those in need

The donations were presented by the Provincial Grand Master, David Hagger, who was accompanied by the Lord Mayor of Leicester, Ross Grant. 

Leicester-based Reunite International who provide advice and support to parents whose children have been abducted overseas or parents accused of International parental abduction, received a donation of £1,000 which will go towards the replacement of ageing telephone and computer systems. As explained by Reunites Holly Whatsize, Leicester is the largest city outside of London where child abductions in these circumstances takes place, with 22 new cases in Leicester this year alone. Holly added: ‘We take on average 500 to 600 new cases each year.’

Chris Gatfield, of the Dove Cottage Day Hospice, who provide day care respite for those suffering from terminal illnesses, was presented with a donation of £6,800 to help support over 100 families a week who are suffering from cancer and other long term conditions throughout North West Leicestershire and Rutland. 

Members of St Simon and St Jude Lodge No. 8279, who meet at the Masonic Hall in Hinckley, were pleased to join with the Masonic Charitable Foundation in presenting cheques totalling £5,800 to The Air Ambulance Service.

Brian Moore from the The Air Ambulance Service said: ‘The children’s helicopters transfer sick children from one hospital to another who specialises in that particular case.’

In closing the presentation service, the Lord Mayor said: ‘on behalf of the City of Leicester, I would like to thank the Freemasons’ for supporting all of the amazing charities here today.’ David Hagger summarised by thanking the Lord Mayor, all of the charities present and those Freemasons’ involved in the fund raising efforts.

John Harris is the predominant name in Tracing Boards and his designs are to be seen across the country and indeed the world

He lived from 1791-1873 and is best known for the Boards he painted for Emulation Lodge of Improvement (ELoI) in 1845. They measure six feet by three feet and are still used today.

In the 1850s, Harris suffered a series of strokes which left him blind. Unable to work, he and his wife Mary were some of the earliest residents of the first masonic Old People’s Home. Built in Croydon in 1850, it went by the name of the Asylum for Aged, Worthy and Decayed Freemasons, and was the prototype RMBI home.

A Croydon Freemason, Forbes Cutler, recently searched for and discovered John Harris’s unmarked grave in a Croydon cemetery. To his dismay, the grave was about to ‘reclaimed’ by the local council. To prevent this, he bought the plot from Queen’s Road Cemetery and lodges and chapters donated money to erect a fitting headstone.

On 18th September 2018, a service of memorial was conducted by the Revered Timothy L’Estrange and the headstone was unveiled. Croydon Masonic Centre was filled for a meeting to commemorate the life of the man whose work has influenced masons for the last 200 years. 

Those present included Ian Chandler, Provincial Grand Master for Surrey, and Dr David Staples, Grand Secretary and CEO of UGLE. Graham Redman, Deputy Grand Secretary of UGLE and a senior member of ELoI, brought with him one of ELoI’s original 1845 Harris Tracing Boards. John Harris was, belatedly, given the send-off he merited, surrounded by his lodges and chapter and in the company of Freemason he so loved.

The deeds of the plot now belong to Freemasonry, the headstone has been erected, and John Harris and his wife Mary will continue to rest in peace.

Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £15,000 to the County’s Cricket Foundation to help fund a programme to develop wheelchair cricket, enabling people with a disability to take an active part in the sport

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), will enable the Essex Cricket Foundation to help develop the skills of disabled cricketers, particularly children and adapt the cricketing environment for all levels of ability.

The grant will particularly cover the cost of a specialist Wheelchair Cricket Coach who will be employed to run the sessions for the project. Currently, there are between four to 10 players attending regular sessions and the aim is to get a core of 10 to 12 taking part each week and to gets sessions going at further locations in Essex.

Rodney Bass, OBE, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: ‘We have seen through the Invictus Games that wheelchair users are capable of anything which is why I am particularly delighted to have been able to make this donation on behalf of our members.

‘It will help those with disabilities to overcome obstacles that have previously prevented them taking part in the sport and I hope that wheelchair users who enjoy cricket will take advantage of this opportunity to learn the more practical skills via the Essex Cricket Foundation.’

Wheelchair cricket is a new format of the game played indoors. The game is designed to be played all year round by participants who require sport wheelchairs. Essex Cricket Foundation is now looking at venues across the County that already have these chairs to encourage as many as possible to take part.

Patrick Ward, Community Engagement Manager for Essex Cricket, added: ‘The basic equipment for wheelchair cricket includes plastic stumps, a compound rubber ball, fielding aids, cones and an adapted bat.

‘The bat is a shorter version of a standard cricket bat and the handles will be such that it will suit both one handed and two handed batsmen. The bat can also be lightweight and will reduce the degree of difficulty for the batsmen to score runs. Now that we have this Grant from Essex Freemasons it will help us expand the sport to wheelchair users and make a huge difference across the County.’

Wheelchair cricket sessions will be held at established sports centres which are fully accessible. The Foundation will seek to work in partnership with centres, when setting up sessions, to keep the costs of hiring the venues down.

The Foundation does not currently charge for sessions to avoid excluding children who might otherwise not be able to afford to take part and while that may change in the future (to cover hall hire costs) this grant will enable the Cricket Foundation to continue to offer free sessions for the foreseeable future to encourage people to try the sport.

Around 200 West Lancashire Freemasons and their partners enjoyed a ‘grand day out’ at a charity event staged at the very top of their Province, in the town of Grange-over-Sands, and raised £2,500

The very appropriately named Cumbria Grand Hotel was taken over for the evening with the ticket price including overnight accommodation, which was supported by the Provincial Grand Master of West Lancashire Tony Harrison, together with his wife Maureen.

The themed ‘Black and White Ball’ started with a ‘Fizz Reception’, followed by a four-course dinner, a spectacular firework display and then dancing into the early hours to the ten-piece band, ‘Soul Survivor’. To keep the party goers on their feet till late, a ‘Lancashire Hot Pot’ supper was served around midnight.

Organiser Richard Wilcock, who is the local charity steward, was delighted with the success of the event and paid tribute to the immense help given to him by his wife, Jackie. He said: ‘We’ve had yet another fantastic night, well supported not only by our local members but also by our friends from across Morecambe Bay in the Lancaster masonic group.

‘This year the event has raised at least £2,500 for charity and has been so popular that we are considering extending it to run over two nights next year.’

The Province of West Lancashire is currently hosting a festival in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, ending in 2021.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018 00:00

Swindon celebrates 200 years of Freemasonry

A blue heritage plaque was fitted to the side of the Goddard Arms Hotel by Swindon Heritage to mark 200 years of Freemasonry in the town

Swindon’s first Freemasons met at the High Street pub in May 1818. The Royal Sussex Lodge of Emulation No. 355, which initially consisted of just 10 members, continued to meet at the Goddard Arms until 1875.

Noel Beauchamp of Swindon Heritage said: ‘This blue plaque is important because it marks something that happened in Swindon pre-railway. People know Swindon as a railway town, whereas in fact people have been living up here on the hill for a thousand years, if not longer. It brings into context how old Swindon is.

The Provincial Grand Master for Wiltshire Philip Bullock said: ‘This lodge has been associated with Swindon for 200 years and Freemasonry is as strong now as it was then.’

Philip was helped in unveiling the blue plaque by another long-standing Freemason, Past Provincial Grandmaster for Worcestershire Richard Goddard, who is also a relative of the family that owned the nearby Lawns estate for hundreds of years. ‘It was a great honour to unveil the plaque,” he said. ‘Freemasonry has always been about three great principles: brotherly love, relief and truth. That could be translated as friendship, generosity and integrity.

Newly appointed Assistant Provincial Grand Master Simon Leighfield added: ‘Just as this plaque is in the heart of Swindon's Old Town, Freemasonry is at the heart of the community.’

The heritage plaque is the seventh to be installed around Swindon. Others mark the birthplaces or homes of actress Diana Dors, whose father was a Freemason, Votes for Women campaigner Edith New and Swindon Town Football Club hero Sam Allen. The eighth plaque will commemorate local poet Richard Jefferies. 

East Kent Freemasons have donated £4,000 to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service

As an independent charity, they strive to save lives by providing the best possible medical care every minute of the day, every day of the year, which means every donation they receive is vital. Last year alone, they were called out to help over 2,000 people in life-threatening conditions.

On 30th October 2018, the Provincial Grand Master of East Kent, Neil Johnstone, presented a cheque to the Kent Surrey Sussex Air Ambulance service at Rochester Airport for £4,000. The grant was donated by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) and has brought the total Masonic support given to the Air Ambulance Service to over £4 million since 2007, supporting over 22 Air Ambulances across England and Wales.

Presenting the cheque to the Air Ambulance crew, Neil said: ‘Words will never truly describe the life changing differences that you make to the people of our local communities who call upon your services. I am certain that many people today are grateful to you and we are glad that we can help to support the service now and in the future.’

The grant from the MCF was co-ordinated through the main charity for the Masonic Province of East Kent, the Cornwallis East Kent Freemasons' Charity. Supporting Neil from the charity were the CEO Peter Rhodes, Chairman Pat Thomas, and the Head of Charities for East Kent, Mark Bassant.

A donation of £4,000 from Lincolnshire Freemasons will help more people survive life-threatening injuries and illnesses because of the work of the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance and its crew

It costs an average of £2,500 every time the Air Ambulance scrambles for another life-saving mission from its base at RAF Waddington.

Lincolnshire’s Provincial Grand Master David Wheeler said: ‘The Air Ambulance provides a vital service in our largely rural Province, and we are pleased to say that by helping to fund it with our donation we have played a small role in ensuring that there will be people alive tomorrow who might otherwise have passed away. 

‘We see ourselves as part of a community, with a duty to help everyone in it. Support for the Air Ambulance is a positive way to do that at life-changing moments for patients and their families.’

The £4,000 grant came from the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), and was part of the latest round of Air Ambulance funding, which totals over £4 million since 2007. This year, 20 services will share in £192,000 from the MCF, which administers funds raised through personal contributions from Freemasons.

The Lincs and Notts donation was handed over by Provincial Charity Steward Peter Tong, who said: ‘The Air Ambulance service in our region has been there to help more than 192,000 people since its inception in 1994.

'It already flies two or three times a day, but the organisation’s ambition is to make itself available to fly to where it’s needed on a 24/7 basis. That could lift the number of missions to five a day, which is a tremendous financial commitment. We wanted to play a small part in helping to make that happen.’

Sally Crawford, the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance head of Fundraising and Communications, said: ‘Thank you so much for supporting the Lincs & Notts Air Ambulance; £4,000 is an incredible amount of money and we are most grateful. The critical care we provide gives people their very best chance of survival and recovery. We receive no direct Government funding, and are not part of the NHS, so your donation really is essential in helping us to save lives.’

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