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.

During one of many visits to St Michael’s Hospice in Hereford, RW Bro the Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master for Herefordshire, was recently given the most welcome opportunity of meeting and greeting hospice patient Colin Tudor and his wife Gill.

Colin, past Master of Delphis Lodge No. 7769, had for some time been a valiant and resolute supporter and fundraiser for the Macmillan Renton Unit and St Michael’s Hospice: following a period of chemotherapy treatment, Colin walked across Mid Wales for such charitable concerns.

David Bowen, accompanied by VW Bro Mike Roff, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire, presented Ruth Denison Fundraising Manager and Paddy Nugent Community Fundraising Manager, with the annual donation awarded to the Hospice by The Freemasons’ Grand Charity.

This year the award was for £3,343. Since 1984 The Freemasons' Grand Charity has donated rising £12m to the 245 adult and children’s hospices in England and Wales.

The Province of Herefordshire has also presented approximately £70,000 to St Michael’s Hospice over the years, and this support will be recognised within the £3.2m refurbishment of the original hospice buildings due to be completed within the next three months.

The Rev David Bowen pledged the continued support of Herefordshire Freemasons to the dedicated care the hospice provides, which is so highly valued by the local community. David Bowen had been Chaplain to the hospice in the past, and truly appreciated the work undertaken at St Michael’s.

The presentation took place in the new £8m In-Patients’ Unit – the most advanced and highly specified in the country. David Bowen emphasised how important it was to be able to show a continued commitment to the outstanding work of the hospice.

Sophie Countess of Wessex pays return visit to the Hereford Haven

Haven is a charity which provides emotional and physical support to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Countess of Wessex called the Hereford Haven a 'fantastic organisation', and thanked all the fundraisers gathered for giving their time and backing to the charity for which she is an active supporter.

While visiting the Haven Centre in St Owen Street, she met and greeted the Rev David Bowen, Provincial Grand Master of Herefordshire. She thanked him and his fellow Freemasons for their substantial and continued support of Hereford Haven. The Herefordshire Province is an official Guardian of the Hereford Haven. Earlier in the year The Freemasons' Grand Charity donated £30,000 to Breast Haven Cancer UK.

The Rev David Bowen, in conversation with Frankie Devereux, Manager of the Hereford Haven, said how pleased Freemasons were to be able to contribute to the work of the Haven, through the Grand Charity, the Province of Herefordshire and its individual lodges. He hoped that such support would be maintained well into the foreseeable future.

Monday, 09 November 2015 20:04

Blind Brother shows the way

A Past Master from Shropshire has walked a mammoth 11 miles in aid of Masonic charity this autumn – a praiseworthy but not especially remarkable achievement, perhaps, until you realise that the brother concerned, Clive Jones, is completely blind.

Clive, a former Welsh Guardsman and keen Mason, heard that Brethren from his lodge, St Mary’s Lodge No. 8373 were walking from Whitchurch to Market Drayton as part of a series of walks connecting all the lodges of Shropshire. These “Provincial Perambulations” are designed to celebrate and raise funds for Shropshire’s Grand Charity Festival over the next few years, and will culminate in a final grand walk from Shrewsbury to Great Queen Street in 2019.

Clive immediately insisted on being part of the Whitchurch event – indeed, with characteristic good humour he appointed himself official map-reader. Five Brethren set off from the North Shropshire Masonic Rooms on the morning of Sunday, 25th October, and after a brief unplanned diversion soon left the town behind them. After completing the 11.2 mile walk, they rested weary limbs before visiting St Mary’s lodge the following evening. Congratulations went to all of the Brethren who had taken part, but Clive in particular deserves special praise for completing the course in fine style and thereby raising sponsorship for this excellent cause.

Masonic Charitable Foundation – A new charity for Freemasons, for families, for everyone

The Pro Grand Master, Peter Lowndes has announced that a new charity called the Masonic Charitable Foundation is to be established, bringing together the charitable activities of the four existing central masonic charities.

At Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge on Wednesday, 9 September, the Pro Grand Master said: 

'The Masonic Charitable Foundation will continue to offer the same support and services to those Freemasons and family members who need help, as well as support for the non-masonic charitable causes that the Craft wishes to assist.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation will be one of the largest charities in the country and will rely on the generosity of Freemasonry for its funds.

It is anticipated that the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be registered with the Charity Commission as soon as possible and that it will begin making grants from 1 April 2016. The proposals remain subject to the approval of some existing charity members.

A shadow board of trustees comprising individuals from the existing charities is overseeing the creation of the new charity and the transition into a single organisation. 

Further information about the Masonic Charitable Foundation will be made available over the next few months.

Please visit mcf.org.uk for more information.

You can also find the Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

9 September 2015 
An address by Richard Hone, QC, President of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

The main change is to reduce the membership from the present 180,000 members to a single charitable company whose own 124 members – comprising the trustees of the new charity, plus members appointed by the 47 Provinces and the Metropolitan Grand Lodge. Experience has shown that 180,000 members are too many and the vast majority do not even know that they are members! Good governance is better achieved by a smaller number. The present members of the Grand Charity will become Supporters of the new charity and, in the rare case of dissent, can either contact their Provincial or London representatives, alternatively they can attend a general meeting and make their views known.

I want to inject a note of enthusiasm here because I am delighted to report that we have made significant progress in our overall aim to have the new, fifth, overarching charity up and running by 1 April 2016. As you will all know by now, over the past five years the four Presidents and Chief Executives of the central masonic charities have been meeting regularly with a view to making masonic charity a more coherent operation.

The present division between the four charities has become illogical and inefficient in the sense that there is now considerable overlap and duplication of function. Over the five year period of the review much has already been achieved.

There is unanimous agreement between the Presidents, the Chief Executives and all four trustee boards that the best way forward for masonic charity is to incorporate a new overarching charity with the widest charitable objects. This will optimise the resources of the four existing charities and ensure an improved service to our masonic and non-masonic beneficiaries.

This has been the most detailed review of masonic charity since the Bagnall Report in 1973 and builds on recommendations endorsed by the Provincial Grand Masters’ Forum in 2008. We have consulted widely.

At a meeting in October 2014 the PGMs supported the changes. My letters to members in March and July 2015 explaining the changes to Grand Charity have been distributed through Provincial and Lodge Secretaries. I have had half-a-dozen letters from individuals and lodges raising questions which I hope I have answered to their satisfaction. In general the response has been overwhelmingly supportive.

At the General Meeting in Norfolk on 15 November I was able to seek the views of those attending, and they indicated approval. In July 2015 there was a large meeting of Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Charity Stewards in Manchester with almost every Province represented and they were positive and enthusiastic. These proposals have been accepted by the Grand Master’s Council, the Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee and the Grand Master himself, in his capacity as Grand President of the four central masonic charities.

Although significant, this change is neither rocket science nor revolutionary. The four existing charities will remain in name and will hold their restricted funds, but their functions will be assumed by the new charity administered by a single Trustee Board of 20 members with a single Chief Executive, rather than the four existing Trustee Boards with their separate committees and administrations. Masonic charity is an extraordinary, but largely untold, story and truly is a terrific force for good. The four charities collectively distribute over £25 million each year and we are expecting to improve on that.

I am delighted to announce that the new charity has now been incorporated with agreed Articles of Association. This has been quite a complicated task and we are all extremely grateful to the Grand Registrar who has mediated differences of views with consummate forensic skill and tact. There is now in place a shadow Board of Trustees for the new charity, drawn from the existing trustees of the four charities and working alongside the existing trustee boards. It is a most impressive group and I have no doubt that it will be ensure a smooth transition and a first rate administration from its operational date which is 1 April 2016.

All that remains is for the new charity to be registered with the Charity Commission and for an agreed Memorandum of Understanding between the existing charities and the new charity.

But we do need you, the members, to support this exciting work and vote in favour of this resolution. I now have great pleasure in proposing that the amendments to the Trust Deed and the Regulations of Grand Charity, subject to meeting the conditions specified, be ratified and that the Report of the Council be approved.

[The amendments were approved]

Thank you. As this is the last AGM of Grand Charity, I would like to pay tribute to the 139 trustees who have served over the 35 years of Grand Charity’s existence. I am delighted to see over 20 Council members present today. Also present are three former Presidents, Sir John Welch, Raymond Lye and Grahame Elliott, who have done so much to bring about the changes you have just approved. I mention the late Iain Ross Bryce who as Deputy Grand Master started this whole process moving and was a driving force. He is greatly missed. 

Published in Speeches

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity 

9 September 2015 
An address by Laura Chapman, Chief Executive of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

Deputy Grand President and members. Those of you who attend Quarterly Communications and the AGM of the Grand Charity will know that typically I speak about the Charity’s non-masonic grant making. Today’s AGM is, however, not a typical one and if members approve the resolutions set out in agenda item 5, these will pave the way for a total restructuring of the management and administration of all four of the central masonic charities. The Grand Charity will cease to operate as it has in the past, although the vital support it gives will continue.

I hope I may, therefore, take this opportunity to comment outside the normal script of an AGM as there will not be another opportunity to remind you of the critical role that the Grand Charity has played in the development and organization of the Craft’s charitable activities and of the excellence of its work. 

As a non-mason, an outsider to the Craft, I believe that I can speak more dispassionately and objectively about the Grand Charity than others. It is indisputable that the Grand Charity has made a vital contribution across a wide range of charitable activity – support for masons, for non-masons and for masonic charity overall, through grants to other masonic charities and the services of the Relief Chest Scheme which has done so much to encourage charitable giving throughout the Craft. The Grand Charity has donated approximately £70m to masonic causes and approximately £60m to non-masonic charities since it was established in 1981. Significantly, the Grand Charity has filled the gap identified by the Bagnall Report, to contribute to the wider community in a manner befitting the importance and scale of English Freemasonry. It has made groundbreaking and extensive contributions to wider society, demonstrating that Freemasonry is both a philanthropic leader and an outward facing, inclusive organization and it has received national public acclaim for its work.

I have been enormously privileged to work with you, who have supported the Grand Charity so generously, and to assist the trustees as they have honed the Grand Charity to achieve the tremendous positive impact that it has. I regularly debated with one of the past presidents of the charity as to which were the best jobs in Freemasonry, and we were both convinced that we were amongst those who held them.

Change is, however, inevitable and the planning for the new world of one central masonic charity is well advanced. As the president will emphasize in a few moments, the creation of the proposed overarching charity will deliver a greatly enhanced level of service to our beneficiaries, more efficiently and more cost-effectively. This new central charity will embody the very best principles of Freemasonry and will be one of which the Craft will be extremely proud. The success of the future depends very much on the strength of the past, and the new charity will build on the firm and carefully crafted foundations laid by the Grand Charity, and the legacies brought by the other central masonic charities, in some cases over many more years, as Freemasonry moves to the next era in its very long and proud tradition of charitable support.

Deputy Grand President and members of the Grand Charity, thank you for allowing me to say these few words – and thank you for all the support that the Charity’s staff and I have received from you over the years.

Published in Speeches

Annual General Meeting of The Freemasons' Grand Charity

9 September 2015

The following individual non-masonic grants were approved:

Medical research

a. £45,000 to Cure Parkinson’s Trust to fund research into targeting new treatment
b. £50,000 to Diabetes UK to fund the development of a Vaccine for Type 1 diabetes
c. £40,000 to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to fund research into inflammatory bowel disease
d. £65,000 to Moorfields Eye Charity to fund research into age-related macular degeneration
e. £20,000 to Restore – Burn and Wound Research to fund research into skin allograft acceptance for burn injuries
f. £60,000 to UCL Cancer Institute Research Trust to fund research into the immunology of lung cancer
g. £32,000 to University of Leicester to fund research into the role of visual crowding in reading difficulty across the lifespan

Youth opportunities

h. £7,500 to Armonico Consort Ltd to fund workshops in Special Educational Needs Schools
i. £22,000 to Canterbury Cathedral Trust to fund an apprentice stonemason
j. £10,000 to Farms for City Children to fund a week on a farm in Devon for inner city children
k. £10,000 to Groundwork UK to fund three Green Teams across the UK
l. £25,000 to StreetGames to fund the ‘Us Girls’ Empowerment Project

Vulnerable people

m. £15,000 to AbilityNet to fund IT services for older disabled people
n. £20,000 to The Back-Up Trust to fund the salary of the Schools Inclusion Co-ordinator
o. £40,000 to British Lung Foundation to fund the Singing for Lung Health Programme
p. £47,750 to British Wireless for the Blind Fund to fund the replacement of old wireless internet audio players
q. £50,000 to Canine Partners to fund a residential building at the new training centre in Leicestershire
r. £30,000 to Carers Trust to fund the salary of the Policy and Development Manager
s. £15,000 to Jubilee Sailing Trust to fund the Buddy Bursary scheme
t. £25,000 to Listening Books to fund the expansion of the Books for Hospices mini-library service
u. £7,500 to The National Deaf Children’s Society to fund workshops helping deaf children and young people
v. £37,250 to National Star Foundation to fund specialist residential accommodation for people who have severe and complex disabilities
w. £20,000 to The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory to fund an employability consultant
x. £43,000 to Victim Support to fund a volunteer team for the helpline
y. £40,000 to WellChild to fund a Children’s Nurse

Religious buildings

z. £5,000 to Blackburn Cathedral to fund the restoration of the Cloister Garth building
aa. £5,000 to St Davids Cathedral to contribute to the upgrade of the seating facilities at the Cathedral
bb. £10,000 to Winchester Cathedral Trust to contribute to the new Learning Development Centre

The following amounts were approved for disposal by the Council of the Grand Charity over the coming six months:

a. £1,261,000 for major non-masonic grants
b. £150,000 for non-masonic grants of £5,000 or less
c. £600,000 for grants to hospice services in 2015 (£500,000 for allocation to adult hospices and £100,000 to children’s hospices)
d. £192,000 for grants to air ambulance and similar rescue services in England, Wales and the Crown Dependencies in 2016

The following Emergency Grants made in the past nine months were reported by the President:

£30,000 to the British Red Cross for relief work following flooding in the Balkans
£20,000 to the British Red Cross for relief work following cyclone Pam which struck Vanuatu
£50,000 to the British Red Cross for relief work following an earthquake in Nepal

Published in The Grand Charity

Change of heart

By completing the first non-beating heart transplant in Europe, consultant surgeon Stephen Large could radically reduce the time for those on the donor waiting list. Sarah Holmes discovers the part Freemasons have played in this medical breakthrough

 A heart attack in 2008 was the beginning of Huseyin Ulucan’s slow decline into heart failure. By 2014, his condition had deteriorated so severely that he could barely walk. Placed on the transplant list, he joined a long queue of urgent cases. Of the 250 people a year in need of heart transplants in the UK, fewer than half will find a viable organ in time. 

While the chance of Ulucan finding a new heart seemed low, everything changed in March 2015 when he was put forward for a bold new transplantation procedure that would reduce the wait for a donor heart from three years to just four months. Traditional transplants only use hearts from donors who have been declared brain-stem dead but still have blood pumping around their bodies. This new procedure used a non-beating heart that had been reanimated in the donor’s body after death.

Using a groundbreaking technique, surgeons kept the heart beating in the donor body for 50 minutes to test its function, before transporting it on a three-hour journey to Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, for transplant into Ulucan. The procedure was the first of its kind to be performed in Europe, and looks set to revolutionise the field by opening up a new supply of donor hearts previously thought unusable. 

‘This procedure could increase heart transplantation by 25 per cent in the UK,’ says Stephen Large, the consultant cardiothoracic surgeon (opposite) who oversaw the operation. For three years, he and a research team at Papworth have worked tirelessly to fine-tune the techniques needed to restart and restore a non-beating heart. ‘It means that instead of accepting one in five hearts offered, surgeons will be able to accept two or maybe even three.’ 

The operation’s success has transformed attitudes towards donation after cardiac death, with Papworth now receiving at least one referral per week. It’s a remarkable feat given the longstanding belief that non-beating hearts become irreparably damaged during the process of death. This breakthrough proves that by re-establishing a fresh supply of blood within 30 minutes of death, the heart can restore its energy supplies enough to start pumping efficiently again.

Life-giving funds

A £200,000 donation from The Freemasons’ Grand Charity and the Masonic Samaritan Fund allowed Large to establish the project in February 2013, paying for costly organ-care technology as well as the employment of Simon Messer, the cardiothoracic transplant registrar who helped to develop the technique for restarting the heart.

‘It’s difficult to determine whether an organ will function properly once it’s been transplanted. With a heart, it’s even more challenging because it has to be beating,’ says surgeon Charles Akle, a member of the Non-Masonic Grants Committee of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity. ‘The fresher the organ, the better the chance of a successful transplant – there have always been problems with maintaining the quality of a heart, especially one that’s already stopped beating, until it reaches the recipient.’

‘It’s difficult to determine whether an organ will function properly once transplanted. With a heart, it’s even more challenging, because it has to be beating.’ Charles Akle

Keep the rhythm

To this end, the team at Papworth used a revolutionary new technology, the TransMedics Organ Care System, to give the donor heart a steady supply of warm blood. Known as normothermic perfusion, this technique keeps the heart beating as it would inside the body after it’s been removed, so it doesn’t suffer further damage during the journey to the recipient. It’s an essential support system for non-beating hearts, which have already suffered a prolonged lack of blood supply and wouldn’t survive the traditional method of preserving donor organs on ice. 

‘TransMedics really takes the heat out of the situation,’ says Large. ‘It allows us to travel greater distances with a “live” heart, and gives us the time to properly assess whether a donor organ is being matched with the right recipient.’

In Ulucan’s operation, the decision to continue with the transplant fell to Steven Tsui, the clinical director of transplantation at Papworth. Watching him mull over his thoughts while the donor heart pumped away on the TransMedics was, Large admits, the most nerve-shredding moment of the procedure. 

‘After years of research, that was the final hurdle,’ he recalls. ‘I said to him, “You need to wrestle with your demons here, but this I’m sure is a great heart.” ’ Within minutes, it was being stitched into its recipient and just four weeks later, Ulucan was back at home enjoying his new lease of life. ‘That’s an outstanding recovery by any standard. It must have been a phenomenal heart,’ says Large.

Opening up the donor pool

Without the support of the Freemasons, Large’s research could never have translated into the successful clinical programme it is today. ‘One of the greatest challenges of research is realising the funds to do it,’ says Large. ‘Competition is fierce, and translational programmes like this struggle to attract funding from the Medical Research Council.’ 

As both a researcher and fund-giver, Charles also understands the challenge. ‘We get pulled in so many different directions at the Grand Charity. It’s impossible to prioritise one research project over another. They are all worthy,’ he says. ‘But we do tend towards applications with a more methodological process, something that’s likely to have a good result that can be developed to benefit other conditions.’

Large’s funding application ticked all the boxes. 

‘It provided an immediate and flexible solution for heart transplantation that opened up the donor pool,’ says Charles. ‘It also laid the groundwork for further research into preserving donor organs for as long as possible.’

For Large, the research is only just beginning. ‘Snipping out dodgy organs and stitching in new ones is a replacement therapy. It’s up to the next generation to find out why organs deteriorate and how we can regenerate them organically. I just wish I had another lifetime to see it, because that will be such fun.’

‘A great challenge of research is realising the funds to do it. Competition is fierce, and programmes like this struggle to attract funding from the Medical Research Council.’ Stephen Large

Heart-shaped box

Developed in the US, the TransMedics Organ Care System pumps warm, oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood through a heart, allowing it to keep beating from the moment it’s removed from the donor until it’s implanted in the recipient. A transparent chamber fixed to the top of the machine allows surgeons to watch the attached organ pump blood as it would in a body. Dubbed the ‘heart-in-a-box’, it has also been used to transplant livers and lungs.

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Making new connections

Scientists hope the knowledge gained from vital research will offer new clues for the treatment of Alzheimer’s

Every four seconds, there is a new case of dementia in the world. The condition is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases such as Alzheimer’s, which affects half a million people in the UK. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary but typically include memory loss, confusion, disorientation, and mood and behavioural problems. 

As Alzheimer’s progresses it can alter a person’s life entirely, robbing them of their memories and independence, causing them to require constant support. There are currently no treatments that slow or halt progression of the disease – something that it is hoped can be changed through research.

The Grand Charity and the MSF recently joined forces to provide a £175,000 donation to Alzheimer’s Research UK, to help fund efforts to identify new targets for treating the disease. This research is taking place at the University of Cambridge and seeks to understand the chain of events occurring at the onset of the disease. Over the past 30 years, the central masonic charities have donated £855,000 towards dementia research, while also caring for people living with the disease. 

One of the difficulties researchers face is finding participants for studies; at the same time, many members of the public are looking for studies to take part in, but don’t know where to find them. A national service, Join Dementia Research, tackles the problem by connecting participants with researchers, helping to recruit the right volunteers for the right study. The service is open to all – those with dementia, their carers and anyone who wants to improve the lives of people living with the condition. 

If you are interested in helping to find a cure for dementia, the National Institute for Health Research is currently inviting people to take part in clinical research studies. To find out more, please visit www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk 

Published in The Grand Charity
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