London Freemasons have donated £5,000 to the charity JBVC Foundation, which helps to rebuild the lives of young people beyond gang culture and assist them to develop a sustainable career and future

Victoria Cross hero and fellow Freemason Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry is the founder of the charity. After receiving the cheque from Assistant Metropolitan Grand Master Andrew Manasseh, Johnson said: 'I believe that young people involved in gang culture deserve a fresh start, no matter who they are or the journey they've been on. I am truly grateful to my fellow London Freemasons, for their generosity in supporting my work.'

Johnson Beharry's mission is to help young people turn their backs on gang culture. His work in dealing with gang culture began with a life-changing moment in his life. After immigrating to London from Grenada in 1999, aged just 19, he found himself at the crossroads of life and had to establish a future worth living or, he had no future at all.

At 21 years he joined the British Army. While serving with the 1st Battalion in Iraq, The Princess of Wales Regiment,  his armoured Warrior came under attack. His colleagues were severely injured, and despite being exposed to the enemy fire, he bravely drove to safety saving their lives. Shortly after that incident, he was caught in another trap which caused severe head injuries to him and his crew. In a display of extreme gallantry, he drove out of the ambush before losing consciousness. While still recovering from brain surgery, Lance Sergeant Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross.

It was during his road to recovery that Johnson became committed to using the VC bestowed upon him to focus on helping youngsters in disadvantaged communities.

To accomplish his charity work, Johnson became a London Freemason joining London's Queensman Lodge, the London Lodge of the Queen's Regiment, which was an infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1966 through the amalgamation of the four regiments of the Home Counties Division. In turn, the regiment became part of Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment in a further merger in 1992.

In concluding his thanks, Johnson added: 'My work with the JBVC Foundation and London Freemasons helps me to encapsulates my ambition, confidence and passion for showing young people there are an alternative and positive future beyond life in a gang.'

Lonely and isolated older people in Holborn, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury will be helped back into community life, thanks to a grant of £77,827 from London Freemasons

The Holborn Community Association Befriending Scheme brings isolated older people together with volunteers from across the community to meet once a week, have a conversation and enjoy activities including sport, games and art. The aim is to help 120 isolated older people locally and build long-lasting relationships across the community. 

Loneliness is increasingly recognised as having a detrimental impact on people’s emotional, physical and mental health. Nationally there are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people in the UK. In the south of Camden, over 45 per cent of older people live alone, and some areas within the community rank in the top 10-20 per cent of lonely older people in the country.

The Befriending Scheme is part of Holborn Community Association's programme of work for older people. For 30 years, HCA has brought older people together through sport, drama and art activities for everyone over 55 as well as providing day centre care for older people with dementia.

Research has shown that one in five older people are lonely and identified that many older people who live alone rarely see friends, family or neighbours, sometimes going months without having a meaningful conversation with another person. Reports also suggest that loneliness is as bad for a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and those who feel lonely are also more likely to suffer from ill health.

The grant from London Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales. 

Paul Crozier, Director of the Holborn Community Association, said: 'We’re very grateful to London Freemasons for their generous grant, which will allow us to support people who are lonely and isolated in the middle of the UK’s largest city. Our Befriending Scheme gives older people the chance to talk and interact with others. It has a huge impact on isolated older people’s health, how they feel about themselves and how much they feel part of the community around them.'

Adrian Fox, from London Freemasons, said: 'I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help the Holborn Community Association with their excellent project. Loneliness can lead to depression and a range of physical and mental illnesses. It’s very sad to think that people living in the midst of a city of nearly nine million people can spend months at a time without having a single meaningful conversation with another human being.'

In conjunction with the Oral Health Foundation, London Freemasons are supporting the start of National Smile Month across London with a donation of specially designed children’s toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste to Whittington Hospital

London has one of the highest levels of tooth decay, in young children particularly, with many 3 to 5-year olds having to attend hospital to have rotten teeth removed under general anaesthetic.

Professor Nigel Hunt OBE, Royal College of Surgeons stated: ‘Child tooth decay is a major public health issue, and effects around a quarter of five-year olds across the country. Ensuring that Children brush their teeth regularly, and attend dental check-ups are essential steps in tackling a problem that is 90% preventable.’

Sir Michael Snyder, Metropolitan Grand Master, commented: ‘Following the success of last year’s donation of 40,000, I am delighted that London Freemasons will be supporting The Oral Health Foundation’s ‘National Smile Month Campaign’ by distributing another 40,000 children’s toothbrushes each with a tube of toothpaste to hospitals and Emergency Departments across all of London’s boroughs.

‘Child tooth decay is a major public health issue in the capital, and London Freemasons are delighted to assist in this battle to improve the health of London’s children.’

Claire Robertson, Consultant in Dental Public Health, London, added: ‘I hope that this welcome initiative from London Freemasons will help support children form good dental habits from a young age and help prevent tooth decay in children.’

In honour of all English Freemasons awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross (VC), the United Grand Lodge of England’s (UGLE) Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, unveiled a unique Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone at Freemasons’ Hall on 27th June 2019

The Remembrance Stone was commissioned in 2016 by Granville Angell to commemorate all English Freemasons who were awarded the Victoria Cross. The VC is the highest award for gallantry that can be conferred on a member of the British Armed Forces and since its introduction in 1856, more than 200 Freemasons have been awarded the Victoria Cross – making up an astonishing 14% of all recipients.

The Remembrance Stone was carved by Emily Draper, who was Worcester Cathedral’s first female Stonemason apprentice, having been sponsored by local Freemasons. During the preparation stage of the stone, Emily also found out that her Great Uncle was a Freemason VC recipient.

The event was opened by Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, followed by readings from Robert Vaughan, Provincial Grand Master of Worcestershire (My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling) and Brigadier Peter Sharpe, President of the Circuit of Service Lodges (The Soldier by Rupert Chawner Brooke).

Over 130 guests were in attendance including serving military personnel, a group of Chelsea Pensioners and Sea Cadets, as well as Sergeant Johnson Beharry, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving the lives of his unit – Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – while serving in Iraq in 2004. Johnson is also a Freemason and a member of Queensman Lodge No. 2694 in London.

Music was provided by Jon Yates from the Royal Marines Association Concert Band, who performed the ‘Last Post’, a minute’s silence and the ‘Reveille’.

This was proceeded by the grand Unveiling and Dedication of the Remembrance Stone by The Duke of Kent, as a fitting tribute to the service and sacrifice of those Freemasons awarded the VC. The Duke of Kent also presented Emily with a stone carving toolset to aid her future projects.

The event was concluded with a speech by Brigadier Willie Shackell CBE, Past Grand Secretary of UGLE and Past President of the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

Dr David Staples, UGLE’s Chief Executive and Grand Secretary, said: “It’s been a huge honour to mark the dedication of this wonderful Victoria Cross Remembrance Stone and another significant milestone in our longstanding history.

“It is even more remarkable in the context that 14% of all recipients of the Victoria Cross have been Freemasons and I can think of no more fitting home than for it to be placed here at Freemasons’ Hall – a memorial to the thousands of English Freemasons who lost their lives during the Great War.”

Read Dr David Staples' speech here

Read the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent's, speech here

Read Willie Shackell's speech here

Published in UGLE

Officers and Past Masters of London’s Lodge of Nine Muses No. 235 presented a charitable gift of £1,000 towards the National Trust’s Stowe renovation project on 8th May 2019

This presentation was made following a general appeal publication sent out in 2018 by the National Trust to all their members and visitors for any help, reference and information relating to Apollo and the Nine Muses. The Trust is in the process of restoring the Gardens of Lord Viscount Cobham at Stowe, Buckinghamshire, renovating the temples, monuments and replacing lost sculptures.

Past Master of Lodge of Nine Muses David Connell said: 'I contacted the National Trust at Stowe asking them if they had any knowledge of the existence of the Lodge of Nine Muses set up in 1777, not long after the formation of the gardens.

'I also informed them that we had a book of engraved illustrations of Apollo and the Nine Muses going back to that period. This was exciting news for them, and they asked to see these illustrations and be given background information on the Lodge. I mentioned that there is some discussion whether the lodge was named Lodge of Nine Muses following the setup of these gardens.

'A presentation to the lodge was proposed and arranged and Gillian Mason and Alaina Cornish - in charge of the Stowe Gardens Renovation Project - visited the Lodge on 22nd January 2019 at Mark Masons' Hall. They were very interested in seeing our treasures going back to 1777. We had a White Table festive board that evening because of this presentation, attended by members, friends and family of the lodge.'

Following this presentation, the donation of £1,000 was given at Stowe Gardens by members of the lodge. As part of the Stowe Landscape Programme, the National Trust intends to return replica statues and recreate this setting as close to the original as possible.

London Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation have donated £50,000 to London-based specialist charity Autistica, to aid research and testing in the home environment of a widely used tool to help young autistic children communicate at school

This new study is the first of its kind, led by parents, to assess the use of PECS, the Picture Exchange Communication System, in the home. The project celebrated recently with a visit to Queensmill School in Shepherds Bush, West London, a leading school for autistic children.

More than one in four autistic people speak few or no words. PECS, a series of picture cards, is widely used in schools for children with communication problems, and can help children make requests for important needs. This study is part-funded by London Freemasons, in addition to funding from a major donor and other small trusts and foundations. 

Jo, whose son Freddie struggled to speak when he was younger, said: 'We knew that intervening early was key to improving his communication skills, but it felt like time was ticking to find something that worked. There was a lot of trial and error. I hope this research will mean other parents won’t have to face the same lack of guidance we did.'

Sixty four young children will take part in the study led by Dr Vicky Slonims from Evelina Children’s Hospital and King’s College London. Half will use PECS, half will not. Parents will record requests made by their children in an app and a small body camera will be worn by the child to show researchers how they are communicating. If PECS is found to be effective, it could become part of crucial early intervention training offered to parents of children with speech delays.

Dr. James Cusack, Director of Science at Autistica, explains: 'We’re very grateful to London Freemasons for their generous grant. When minimally verbal children reach school age, they can show very little improvement in speech of communication skills. It’s therefore essential that we give parents and children the evidence-based tools they need as early as possible.'

Adrian Fox, from London Freemasons, visited Queensmill School with Autistica to celebrate the launch of the project, said: 'I’m really pleased we’ve been able to support this excellent project from Autistica. This is essential research that could transform the lives of thousands of autistic children and their families across the country and around the world.'

After the huge success of last year’s event, Lifelites Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy is once again taking on an epic nationwide road trip to raise money for life-limited and disabled children in hospices

Simone left the office on Great Queen Street on the morning of 10 May 2019 in a London Fire Brigade BMW i3, kindly organised by the Metropolitan Grand Lodge of London. She was also accompanied by Widows Sons outriders and a classic Ronart.

Dubbed ‘Lift for Lifelites returns’, the 3,000 mile trip will see Simone visit a landmark in every Province in England and Wales in a variety of weird and wonderful modes of transport provided by Freemasons, Widows Sons and other volunteers.

Landmarks will include Bleinheim Palace, Goodwood and the National Space Centre, as well as some slightly quirkier venues such as the British Lawnmower Museum. Confirmed modes of transport so far include a Tuk Tuk, a steam train, a Lamborghini, a quadbike, a DeLorean, a classic Rolls Royce and many more.

All the money raised will go towards the charity’s work donating and maintaining life-changing technology to life-limited and disabled children in hospices across the British Isles. This technology gives them the opportunity to play be creative, control something for themselves and communicate, for as long as it is possible.

Simone said: 'We are a very small, but very hard working charity and are determined to do all that we can to impact the lives of children who don’t have the same opportunities that we do due to the confines of their condition. Every moment is precious for these children and their families, and we want to make sure they can make the most of every second. This is only possible with the support of the Provinces.

'We were absolutely blown away by the support we received last year. Provinces pulled out all the stops and we can’t thank them enough. Will this year be even bigger and better?'

You can see the full route plan on the Lifelites website, as well as support Simone and donate to Lifelites by clicking here.

Published in Lifelites

London Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation have donated £60,000 to London-based charity Coram Voice, giving thousands of disabled children and young people in the care system a chance to be able to have a say in how they live their lives

Through Coram Voice, children and young people with disabilities are provided with a specialist advocacy service enabling them to be heard and to exercise their rights. With highly experienced, independent advocates, Coram Voice is able to represent the feelings and wishes of young people, ensure the service is accessible using specialist methods of communication and train professionals through specialist courses and expert disability casework support.

The grant from London Freemasons will allow the charity to help an estimated 2,000 more young people over the next three years, giving children and young people with disabilities equal access to advocacy as other children in the care system.

More than 75,000 young people in England are currently in care. Those with disabilities are especially vulnerable to abuse of their rights and to their voices not being listened to. Children with disabilities are also three times more likely to be abused, but thanks to this new funding, Coram Voice can continue to work to alleviate these risks.

Andrew Dickie, Head of Services at Coram Voice, said: 'We’re very grateful to London Freemasons for their generous grant, which helps us make a positive, life-changing impact for more children and young people in care. Every child should have a voice and disabled children have as much right as other children to express their feelings and contribute to key decisions about their lives.'

Adrian Fox of London Freemasons said: 'We’re proud to have supported such a worthwhile cause. The trust and familiarity that Coram Voice builds with the people it works with is inspiring, and changes a lot of lives for the better. Their work is vital to so many vulnerable people, and our grant will help them to reach more children without a voice.

'This is another example of Freemasons supporting the London community.'

A vital advice and information service which helps women with breast cancer to cope with financial problems arising from their condition will continue, thanks to a £47,000 grant from London Freemasons

The grant of £47,000 comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, and will allow Breast Cancer Haven's Welfare, Benefits and Money Advice Service to carry on for another year, helping cancer patients across London and beyond. This service has been extremely popular and has made a huge difference to the lives of many vulnerable patients and their families.

People like Breast Cancer Haven visitor Ramila Parma, from Wembley, received invaluable support from the Charity following her breast cancer diagnosis. Since the Money Advice Service first began in May 2012, it has helped 853 cancer patients and secured close to £450,000 for them.

There are an estimated 55,000 people diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, including 350 men. Four out of five of them will be affected financially, these financial pressures come at the worst possible time, as patients are coping with a life-threatening illness as well as trying to keep life as normal as possible for children and other family members.

Investigating entitlement to benefits, filling in forms and appealing against decisions is an exhausting process, which is often combined with pressure from banks and mortgage lenders.

The grant from London Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Hannah Daws, Fundraising & Communications Director at Breast Cancer Haven, said: ‘We’re very grateful to London Masons for their generous grant, which will make a huge difference to the lives of many vulnerable patients and their families.

‘Having cancer is hard enough, but when you are living on very little money and not knowing where to turn, it can be desperately tough. Our new Welfare Benefits and Money Adviser is providing vital individual money advice and information, available free to cancer patients across the UK.’

Adrian Fox, from London Freemasons, said: ‘I’m very pleased we were able to help Breast Cancer Haven. Thanks to them, people can concentrate on dealing with the problems of cancer rather than the problems of poverty.’

London Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation have donated £5,000 to support East London-based charity, It’s Your Life, to improve life chances of children, young people and adults through three innovative and proven programmes delivered by inspirational mentors

One Programme, called the It's Your Community Project, engages with women from BAMER backgrounds who are taught to sew and practice their English skills, and to gain a certificate in citizenship and local democracy. One woman said that It's Your Life has 'helped show us how we can encourage our children to learn and to do something in the future – we want to show them they can learn anything'.

Another programme, It's Your Future, gives young people the social and emotional skills that promote engagement with learning, prevent exclusion and reverse poor attainment at school. One boy said 'It's Your Life has completely changed my confidence and I wish I could have stayed longer'.

Frankie Taylor from the charity said: 'We are really grateful for the support of London masons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is helping us to support some of the most marginalised and vulnerable families and young people.'

Tony Shields, Metropolitan Grand Lodge Charity Steward, commented: 'Our members are delighted to support this very worthwhile charity as it provides opportunities for those who are vulnerable and marginalised to gain the skills they need to lift themselves out of poverty and disadvantage.

'This is another example of Freemasons supporting the London community.'

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