Ostrea Lodge No. 8209, who meet at Wivenhoe, within a mile or two of the University of Essex Colchester campus, joined the University Scheme in 2010. Bros. Michael Egbuna, Salman Riaz (both University Students), newly-Raised Bro. Ian Taylor, along with Lodge Secretary, W.Bro Paul Fell PPAGDC, supported other Essex Masons for a press interview and photo session at the St Giles Masonic Centre, Colchester in April last week.
The interview was conducted by Tom King, chief feature writer for Echo Newspaper Group accompanied by a press photographer.
Bro Salman (a Muslim Brother) intends continuing his freemasonry in Pakistan when he returns home after graduation, whilst also continuing his association with Ostrea Lodge - his Mother Lodge. Bro. Michael is Nigerian and will divide his work and Masonic time between England and Nigeria. Bro Ian is an IT specialist living locally. All three were enormously enthusiastic about their membership and proved to be excellent ambassadors for the Craft when talking to the Press.
Tom King was shown round the Centre and was particularly impressed with the Temple, already prepared for a meeting of Abbeygate Lodge later in the day.
The interviews were given to enable the Features Editor to write about Freemasonry to dispel some of the myths and to explain the activities and intentions of Freemasons. The Echo Group of Newspapers, whilst based in Basildon, cover most of Essex.
Bringing it to bear
With Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes as its patron, Teddies For Loving Care is about to give out its millionth teddy bear. Anneke Hak charts its ten-year evolution
Back in October 1999, Freemason Ian Simpson took his wife, Angela, to Southend Hospital’s A&E unit after she had an allergic reaction causing her windpipe to swell and block. Anxious and frightened, the couple decided to do something to say thank you to the A&E staff and, with the help of Ian’s lodge, the Teddies For Loving Care appeal was born.
Teddies For Loving Care (TLC) is a simple idea. Freemasons donate money to their lodge’s TLC appeal, and the appeal (organised by each individual Province) donates teddy bears to the local A&E to be given to distressed children receiving treatment.
Ten years later, and Ian, now the TLC chairman, is about to see the millionth teddy bear donated to an A&E unit. Where that will happen, he’s not entirely sure, but TLC has been so successful that it could be anywhere from Essex to America, as the cause has gone global.
The appeal had much more humble beginnings, however. Firstly, Ian brainstormed the Thames Mouth Lodge in Southend, and along with Neil Beverley, Brian Procter and others, set a plan in motion. ‘When we started we were planning on only doing it here in Southend. Then we thought, “Hang on a moment, it’s probably something we could do over the whole of Essex,”’ Ian reveals. ‘We then got together to promote the concept and raise money to launch it.’
The first TLC bears arrived in A&E units in March 2001 and, as it was self-promoting, raising money for the appeal wasn’t too much hard work. ‘It wasn’t too long before somebody knew someone who had been given a teddy bear,’ explains Ian, ‘and so it was self-perpetuating, because people’s own children and grandchildren got help through the campaign.’
Before long the appeal had moved beyond the Provincial boundaries of Essex, much to the organising mason’s delight, and slowly over the past ten years nearly all the Provinces have joined in. The appeal has even moved abroad, catching on in Cyprus, Gibraltar and the United States.
From emergency staff’s testimonies, it’s clear how helpful TLC is to the practitioners working in A&E departments up and down the country. ‘They think it’s wonderful,’ says Ian. ‘An A&E consultant said publicly that TLC teddies were one of the attributable benefits that had given rise to a reduction in treatment times for children.’
Sarah Lewis, Emergency Matron Practitioner at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, has been using the teddies for a number of years and agrees about the benefits they bring. ‘It means so much to the nurses,’ she says. ‘It makes our lives easier and the children feel safer and it’s not so traumatic for them. The teddy system works so well because it’s such a simple idea. It’s something the children love and makes them feel special. The parents see that you really value their child, they’re not just another number and they’re being seen as an individual.’
creating a diversion
And the teddy bears aren’t just employed to comfort the child either; the nurses will quite often use them as a diversion technique in order to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. ‘Often we use the teddy to mimic the injuries that the child’s got,’ explains Sarah. ‘We’ll put a sticky plaster on the teddy’s arm if the child has hurt theirs, so we can use it as a diversion technique.’
Sometimes, however, the child is too young to notice the presence of a new soft toy. It’s during these times that the parents draw comfort from knowing that they’re not alone in their ordeal. Louis Joslin was born 29 weeks prematurely in 2001, and he was the first child to receive a TLC bear after Ian Simpson met his grandfather while giving a presentation about the appeal. ‘Afterwards, one of the masons approached me and told me the story of his grandson, who was in an incubator and weighed less than two pounds,’ recalls Ian. ‘His chances of survival weren’t good. I was standing in the bar holding a prototype teddy bear, and I handed it over. I couldn’t just stand there holding the bear while I was being told about this poor baby.’
showing care and generosity
Thanks to the care he received, Louis survived. His father Steve is now a Freemason and he still remembers how thankful he was to receive the bear. ‘It helped to know that other people have an appreciation of the fact that you’re going through a tough time,’ he says. ‘You take things for granted so often, but not care and generosity.’
Steve also can’t believe how successful the project has become. ‘It’s quite stunning when you know that it’s come from such humble origins, from a few people having a chat one day and thinking it might be a good idea.’
While TLC isn’t intended to promote Freemasonry in the community, one of its side effects is that it makes people aware of the good work that the Freemasons continue to do. ‘Everybody has their own theories,’ says Sarah Lewis, ‘but I’ve found the Freemasons so warm and welcoming, and TLC shows how generous they are.’
Ian Simpson is also aware that generosity from individual Freemasons has secured the appeal’s success. ‘Whenever I talk about TLC, I tell them about the thanks we receive, the million teddy bears, but more than that I tell them that they did it,’ he says. ‘Without their raising over a million pounds we would never have gotten where we are today.’
Looking towards the future, Steve, who has helped with the appeal since becoming a Freemason, thinks things can only get better. ‘It’ll still be there just so long as Freemasons are willing to put a tiny bit of effort in. If we can spread a little bit of happiness then that’s what it’s all about.’
For more information or to donate to the TLC appeal please visit www.tlcappeal.org.uk
Launched in 1986, the Relief Chest Scheme provides administrative support for the fundraising activities of masonic units. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity operates the scheme for free, enabling masonic organisations to manage their charitable donations more efficiently by offering individual chests that can be used to accumulate funds for charitable purposes. The scheme maximises the value of charitable donations by pooling funds to ensure that they earn the best possible rate of interest and by claiming Gift Aid relief on all qualifying donations. By taking on this administrative function the scheme saves valuable time and resources involved in lodge fundraising.
The scheme is particularly useful to Provinces running charitable fundraising campaigns, including festivals, with Provinces able to request that the Relief Chest Scheme open special chests. ‘Following our very successful 2010 RMBI Festival, we decided to maintain the culture of regular charitable giving by making use of the Relief Chest Scheme, which had not been previously used by our Province,’ explains Eric Heaviside, Durham Provincial Grand Master. ‘The scheme is a very efficient way to generate funds, as it not only makes giving regularly easy but also provides the opportunity for tax recovery via the Gift Aid allowances. All of this is professionally managed by the Relief Chest Department in The Freemasons’ Grand Charity office in London.’
With over four thousand chests, the scheme is helping Freemasons give charitable support to the people who need it most. Grahame Elliott, President of The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, explains how the scheme has evolved over the years, ‘When the idea for the Relief Chest Scheme was announced in September 1985, it was hoped that it would provide a simple and effective way for lodges to give to charity. Lodges would be able to give practical proof of an ever-increasing attachment to the first two of the grand principles on which our order is founded – brotherly love and relief. Twenty-five years later, it is clear to me that the scheme has successfully met these aims, evolving as an excellent way of helping lodges to spend less time on the administrative work involved in processing donations, giving them more time to spend on other important activities.’
With over £14 million donated to charitable causes via the Scheme in 2010, it is hoped that this success will continue, assisting the masonic community in its charitable giving for many years to come.
To find out more, go to www.grandcharity.org
| Provincial supporters
Provincial Grand Masters from around the UK give their experiences of working with the Relief Chest...
‘We opened our Relief Chest in the name of the Provincial Benevolent Association principally to take advantage of the Gift Aid tax reclaim facility. In addition, by utilising the expertise of the team we have been able to develop a much more efficient and thorough analysis of donations. The Province looks forward to our continuing association with the Relief Chest team and thanks them for their ongoing advice and assistance.’
Cambridgeshire Provincial Grand Master
‘Relief Chests have proved an immense boon to London charity stewards and treasurers in easing the administration of charitable giving. For our big appeals – the RMBI, the CyberKnife and the Supreme Grand Chapter’s 2013 Appeal – the support given by the Relief Chest team is vital.’
Metropolitan Grand Master
‘The record-breaking success of the 2011 Essex Festival for the Grand Charity was not only due to the generosity of the brethren, but also to the support we received from the Relief Chest Scheme. The scheme’s online reports and personal support made the tracking of donations, interest accumulated and Gift Aid recovery
a seamless operation for our administration.
That information enabled us to keep the lodges and brethren informed of their totals.’
Essex Provincial Grand Master
Relief chest breakdown
Who can receive a donation from a Relief Chest?
• Charities registered with the Charity Commission
• Any organisation holding charitable status
• Any individual in financial distress
The benefits provided by the Relief Chest Scheme:
• Interest added to your donation: A favourable interest rate is earned on funds held for each Chest and no tax is payable on interest earned
• Tax relief: The Gift Aid Scheme means HMRC gives 25p for every £1 donated to a Chest, where eligible
• Easy depositing: Make donations by direct debit, cheque and the Gift Aid Envelope Scheme
• Ease of donating to charities: Once a donation is authorised, the payment is made by the Relief Chest Scheme
• Free: There’s no direct cost to Relief Chest holders
• Easily accessible reports: Annual statements are provided, plus interim statements and subscribers’ lists are available upon request
• Additional help for Festival Relief Chests: Comprehensive performance projection reports and free customised stationery are available
This year, six Provinces were represented, with a team of 10 Provincial Stewards from Essex taking part. The ride, which included non-masons,
is known as the Master’s Ride. A main charity is selected each year to receive at least £100 from each rider. In addition, riders are encouraged
to support any charity selected by their Master or Province.
This year’s main charity was WheelPower, which helps disabled youngsters participate in sport and lead a more fulfilling life. Other worthy causes included the Mark Festival, the Essex Festival, the British Heart Foundation, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Cancer Research UK and the Barford Court Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution Care Home. Some of the riders cycled the final part of the journey with children and grandchildren.
Paul Sully, from Middlesex, has organised the event for the past seven years, and the £30,000 pledged for this year’s event brought the total raised to more than £140,000. Next year’s ride is planned for Saturday 23 June. As the Paralympics will follow shortly after, it has been decided to run the event again in aid of WheelPower, who are the main charity sponsoring British wheelchair sport. Further details are available on the Middlesex Provincial website at www.pglm.org.uk.
Ostrea Lodge No. 8209 has become the designated lodge for the Masonic University Scheme in the Province of Essex in a ceremony held in the presence of the Assistant Grand Master David Williamson, Provincial Grand Master John Webb and regional co-ordinator for the scheme, Dr Richard Lewin.
Ostrea Lodge is the 37th lodge to become part of the scheme and experience in other areas showed that membership was gained from students, whether graduate, undergraduate or postgraduate. The Alumni Society at Essex University was showing interest in the scheme and two possible applications had been received through the provincial website. The scheme itself would have a website in the near future.
Provincial Grand Master John Webb said that other local lodges could assist with the scheme in due course and long term it might become possible to form a university lodge. The lodge was reminded that, under the scheme, members under the age of 25 paid only half the Grand Lodge and Charity dues.