Moving together

An innovative competition run by Buckinghamshire Freemasons is confronting stereotypes by giving young people the chance to show why they care. Sophie Radice reports from the ihelp finals

The atmosphere in Beaconsfield Masonic Centre is buzzing with excitement. Five youth groups from Buckinghamshire have made it into the ihelp finals. Over the afternoon each team will make a presentation to a panel of judges to convince them that they deserve the top prize of £5,000 to fund their community project. 

Each team is different. There’s Misunderstood, a street dance group who have raised £4,000 to build a youth club. The Leon School team has been making beautiful bird feeders for a local old people’s home and 1st Stokenchurch Scout troop has been running respite camping weekends for young carers. 

Jan Smith from Leon School explains how much being a finalist means to the competitors: ‘Most of our kids have difficulties with learning, and presenting the project to the panel is particularly challenging for them. But being a finalist has been such a boost and the responsibility of putting their case forward has really increased their self-esteem.’

The ihelp project is the brainchild of Buckinghamshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master Mike Stimson and ihelp’s president Eugene Matthias. Three years ago, the two Freemasons found themselves talking over a pint about the mismatch between the young people they knew and the poor image the press gave them.

‘There were so many negative articles about the behaviour of youths and it just seemed so unhelpful. We thought about how great it would be if there was a Britain’s Got Talent-type contest to showcase the good things that young people do for their community,’ says Mike. The idea fitted in well with initiatives set up in 2006 by the then Provincial Grand Master Ray Reed to promote the work that Freemasons do in the community, as well as talk more freely and openly about their fraternity.

Turning an idea into ihelp

With approval from Ray and Deputy Provincial Grand Master Clifford Drake, Mike and Eugene worked together in conjunction with Provincial Information Officer John Poulter and Chris Coombs to roll ihelp out across the Province. ‘We thought up the slogan “Turn Hoodies into Goodies” and reached out to Scouts, Girl Guides, Air Cadets, Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme participants, youth clubs, church groups and schools. The response was amazing,’ remembers Eugene.

Mike explains how the ihelp idea fitted in with the concept of promoting Freemasonry within the community. ‘We already had a big display explaining the Craft, which goes round the local fêtes and community events. So ihelp was the next step,’ he explains. ‘We wanted ihelp to be different. We wanted to encourage youngsters to be the leaders of tomorrow and the successful projects were those led by the kids themselves, whether they’d been running for a while or just got off the ground. Overall, we wanted to ensure that each project embodied our values of friendship, decency and charity. That’s the modern way of explaining brotherly love, relief and truth.’

With the ihelp team constantly being asked to give talks about the project, there has been a great deal of interest in ihelp from local authorities, district councils and local businesses. Freemasons in other counties are now considering taking up the competition and there has been support from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who visited Buckinghamshire in the summer of 2010 to see Freemasonry in the Community projects.

Promoted around the Province through town and village shows, the ihelp project is now in the fabric of Freemasonry in Buckinghamshire. It was through these shows that John made contact with Sir David Jason, who agreed to back the scheme.

Competitive camaraderie

Back at the competition, the teams are waiting to make their presentations. Each team is cheered when they go to present in front of the panel and when they come back there is a feeling of real camaraderie rather than rivalry. In the hall where the presentations are being made, the judges do their best to put the young contestants at ease. One of the judges, Clifford, is asked to be part of the Misunderstood dance troop and he rises to the occasion. Donning a large gold chain and a backwards cap, he shows himself to be surprisingly good at following the street dance routine. 

With all the presentations making convincing cases for why they should win, the judges have a particularly hard job this year in deciding who should take first prize. In the end it goes to the 1st Stokenchurch Scouts, whose presentation, although perhaps lower key than some of the others, proves to be such a worthy cause that the judges felt they could best benefit from the top prize. Leon School and their temple-like bird feeders get the second prize of £1,000.

After a long day with a lot of laughter and some tears, each team comes away smiling with a generous cheque in their hands. As Emily and Chloe from the 4th Taplow and Hitcham Guides, who raised money to take children with severe joint problems skating, enthusiastically explain: ‘We got so much out of coming here today and being runners-up. It was a great experience learning how to speak to an audience and present our case. We loved it!’

 

 

 The atmosphere in Beaconsfield Masonic Centre is buzzing with excitement. Five youth groups from Buckinghamshire have made it into the ihelp finals. Over the afternoon each team will make 
a presentation to a panel of judges to convince them that they deserve the top prize of £5,000 to fund their community project. 
Each team is different. There’s Misunderstood, 
a street dance group who have raised £4,000 to build a youth club. The Leon School team has been making beautiful bird feeders for a local old people’s home and 1st Stokenchurch Scout troop has been running respite camping weekends for young carers. 
Jan Smith from Leon School explains how much being a finalist means to the competitors: ‘Most 
of our kids have difficulties with learning, and presenting the project to the panel is particularly challenging for them. But being a finalist has been such a boost and the responsibility of putting their case forward has really increased their self-esteem.’
The ihelp project is the brainchild of Buckinghamshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master Mike Stimson and ihelp’s president Eugene Matthias. Three years ago, the two Freemasons found themselves talking over a pint about the mismatch between the young people they knew 
and the poor image the press gave them.
‘There were so many negative articles about the behaviour of youths and it just seemed so unhelpful. We thought about how great it would be if there 
was a Britain’s Got Talent-type contest to showcase the good things that young people do for their community,’ says Mike. The idea fitted in well with initiatives set up in 2006 by the then Provincial Grand Master Ray Reed to promote the work that Freemasons do in the community, as well as talk more freely and openly about their fraternity.
 
TURNING AN IDEA INTO IHELP 
With approval from Ray and Deputy Provincial Grand Master Clifford Drake, Mike and Eugene worked together in conjunction with Provincial Information Officer John Poulter and Chris Coombs to roll ihelp out across the Province. ‘We thought up the slogan “Turn Hoodies into Goodies” and reached out to Scouts, Girl Guides, Air Cadets, Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme participants, youth clubs, church groups and schools. The response was amazing,’ remembers Eugene.
Mike explains how the ihelp idea fitted in with 
the concept of promoting Freemasonry within the community. ‘We already had a big display explaining the Craft, which goes round the local fêtes and community events. So ihelp was the next step,’ 
he explains. ‘We wanted ihelp to be different. We wanted to encourage youngsters to be the leaders 
of tomorrow and the successful projects were those led by the kids themselves, whether they’d been running for a while or just got off the ground. Overall, we wanted to ensure that each project embodied our values of friendship, decency and charity. That’s the modern way of explaining brotherly love, relief and truth.’
With the ihelp team constantly being asked to 
give talks about the project, there has been a great deal of interest in ihelp from local authorities, district councils and local businesses. Freemasons 
in other counties are now considering taking up the competition and there has been support from the Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Kent, who visited Buckinghamshire in the summer of 2010 to see Freemasonry in the Community projects.
Promoted around the Province through town and village shows, the ihelp project is now in the fabric 
of Freemasonry in Buckinghamshire. It was through these shows that John made contact with Sir David Jason, who agreed to back the scheme.
 
COMPETITIVE CAMARADERIE
Back at the competition, the teams are waiting to make their presentations. Each team is cheered 
when they go to present in front of the panel and when they come back there is a feeling of real camaraderie rather than rivalry. In the hall where 
the presentations are being made, the judges do 
their best to put the young contestants at ease. 
One of the judges, Clifford, is asked to be part of 
the Misunderstood dance troop and he rises to the occasion. Donning a large gold chain and a backwards cap, he shows himself to be surprisingly good at following the street dance routine. 
With all the presentations making convincing cases for why they should win, the judges have 
a particularly hard job this year in deciding who should take first prize. In the end it goes to the 
1st Stokenchurch Scouts, whose presentation, although perhaps lower key than some of the others, proves to be such a worthy cause that the judges 
felt they could best benefit from the top prize. 
Leon School and their temple-like bird feeders 
get the second prize of £1,000.
After a long day with a lot of laughter and some tears, each team comes away smiling with a generous cheque in their hands. As Emily and Chloe from the 4th Taplow and Hitcham Guides, who raised money to take children with severe joint problems skating, enthusiastically explain: ‘We got so much out of coming here today and being runners-up. It was 
a great experience learning how to speak to an audience and present our case. We loved it!’

 

Published in Features
Friday, 14 December 2012 00:00

Grand Secretary's column - Winter 2012

As we all know, time seems to go by at an ever-increasing rate and, with that in mind, our great celebrations in 2017 are not that far away. Just think, as the Mother Grand Lodge of the world, we will be the first Grand Lodge to reach three hundred years – what a fantastic milestone.

On this subject I want to address a point of huge significance. The Pro Grand Master in his last Quarterly Communication speech, which you can read in this issue’s Senior Insights, stressed that this ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to celebrate the occasion is for everyone. It is quite simply the members’ celebration. To that end we will be working tirelessly with the Provinces and Districts to make this a memorable experience for us all.

Our magazine continues to go from strength to strength and this is supported by a recent online readership survey. We were particularly impressed that forty-six per cent of our readers’ wives and partners are now enjoying the magazine. I have also just heard that Freemasonry Today has been shortlisted for an award by an external body as a membership magazine that has made the most progress for its readers. This is fantastic news.

In this issue, we find out about brethren who are inspiring communities, challenging preconceptions and contributing to society. We fly back to the Second World War to find out how Squadron Leader, mason and secret hero Jerry Fray played a covert but hugely important role in photographing the destruction wrought by the Dambusters.

We explain why RMBI homes are now using pioneering techniques that focus on the quality of life for someone with dementia. And we go along to the ihelp finals to report on how Buckinghamshire Freemasons are giving young people the chance to show they care about the communities they live in.

I hope you enjoy the issue and that you and your families have a wonderful festive season.

Nigel Brown
Grand Secretary

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:21

promoting student values

Year 10 students from The Beaconsfield School have won £5,000 in the ihelp competition, organised by Buckinghamshire Freemasons, for running sporting activities that suit vulnerable adults in care homes in the area.

The two-hour-long games included indoor and outdoor activities such as darts, skittles, boccia, indoor archery and golf, giving both generations
a chance to chat and mingle. Provincial Grand Master Gordon Robertson said, ‘The judges were amazed at the way all the pupils at the school were inspired by ihelp to help others. They developed their ideas to fit the aims of the competition, particularly the way they worked together as a team to have fun helping others. Their efforts mirror perfectly Freemasonry’s aims of friendship, decency and charity. We started the ihelp project to show that youngsters do so much for the Bucks community. They are our future.’

The students beat Stokenchurch Scouts into second place, who won £1,000 for regenerating a local graveyard. The finals were held at the Beaconsfield Masonic Centre, and all the finalists received £250 for reaching the last stage. A total of £14,000 was available, and heats were organised at various masonic centres around the Province.
Published in Freemasonry Cares
Friday, 16 September 2011 11:45

The external image

HRH the Duke of Kent explains why Freemasons need to not only act as mentors but also ambassadors

Grand Rank should be regarded as a challenge to greater effort and as an incentive to shoulder greater responsibilities. Some of you already hold executive appointments in the Metropolitan, Provinces and Districts. All of you, whether you hold these appointments or not, must remember the importance of training the next generation, which is precisely why the Mentoring Scheme has been set in motion.

The Mentoring Scheme is designed eventually to mentor members at all stages of their masonic progress. Initially this will be especially for candidates during the three degrees and to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. All Provinces now have a Provincial Grand Mentor who will be responsible for ensuring the selection of a mentoring coordinator in each lodge. The mentoring coordinator, in turn, will select the member in the lodge with the right personality and knowledge to actually do the mentoring of each individual. The Pro Grand Master announced to the Provincial and District Grand Masters the formation of a working party, under the chairmanship of the Grand Secretary, to look at for example, the selection of coordinators and mentors as well as guidelines to make sure that the messages are consistent.

The aim is to have as many members as possible as ambassadors for Freemasonry. By ambassador I mean a member who not only lives as honest a life as possible, but also understands the meaning of the ritual and, importantly, is able and willing to talk about Freemasonry to family and friends. Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation. As Grand Officers I shall of course be relying upon you to give your full support to the Mentoring Scheme as it develops.

On a visit to the Province of Buckinghamshire to see their Freemasonry in the Community projects, I was particularly impressed with their iHelp youth competition – involving young groups competing for prize money to show the positive side of young people – and the Rock Ride covering a 1,500 mile bicycle ride from Gibraltar to Stowe School to raise funds for non-masonic charities within the Province. These projects are supported by the local dignitaries and are enormously important for our external image.

Another important example of our external image is the very successful event business run here at Freemasons’ Hall. As one of the unique venues of London we are highly respected within the events industry. I was pleased to hear that, last year, we had 53,000 non-masonic visitors to our events. This included London Fashion Week and an after party for the latest Harry Potter world premiere! Many of our visitors did not know that they could come into a masonic building and all of them I believe left having had a very happy experience.

This is an excerpt from the Annual Craft Investiture address by the MW The Grand Master HRH the Duke of Kent, KG, given on 27 April 2011.  To read the speech in full, press here.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 11:26

Grand Master's address - April 2011

ANNUAL CRAFT INVESTITURE

27 April 2011

An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG

Brethren,

I welcome you all to this Annual Investiture and I should like to congratulate all those who have become Grand Officers or who have been promoted in Grand Rank. This is a special day for you. At the same time I thank those other Grand Officers who, reappointed from year to year, do so much to ensure continuity in the direction of the Craft.

Grand Rank should be regarded as a challenge to greater effort and as an incentive to shoulder greater responsibilities. Some of you already hold executive appointments in Metropolitan, the Provinces and the Districts. All of you, whether you hold these appointments or not, must remember the importance of training the next generation, which is precisely why the Mentoring Scheme has been set in motion.

The Mentoring Scheme is designed eventually to mentor members at all stages of their Masonic progress. Initially this will be especially for candidates during the three degrees and to encourage them to continue their progress into the Royal Arch. All Provinces now have a Provincial Grand Mentor who will be responsible for ensuring the selection of a mentoring coordinator in each Lodge. The mentoring coordinator, in turn, will select the member in the Lodge with the right personality and knowledge to actually do the mentoring of each individual. The Pro Grand Master announced yesterday to the Provincial and District Grand Masters the formation of a working party, under the chairmanship of the Grand Secretary, to look at for example, the selection of coordinators and mentors as well as guidelines to make sure that the messages are consistent.

The aim is to have as many members as possible as ambassadors for Freemasonry. By ambassador I mean a member who not only lives as honest a life as possible, but also understands the meaning of the ritual and, importantly, is able and willing to talk about Freemasonry to family and friends. Talking openly about Freemasonry, as appropriate, is core to my philosophy, central to our communications strategy and essential to the survival of Freemasonry as a respected and relevant membership organisation. As Grand Officers I shall of course be relying upon you to give your full support to the Mentoring Scheme as it develops.

Brethren, in July I visited the Province of Buckinghamshire to see their Freemasonry in the Community projects. I was particularly impressed with their iHelp youth competition – involving young groups competing for prize-money to show the positive side of young people – and the Rock Ride covering a 1,500 mile bicycle ride from Gibraltar to Stowe School to raise funds for non Masonic Charities within the Province. These projects are supported by the local dignitaries and are enormously important for our external image.

Another important example of our external image is the very successful event business run here at Freemasons’ Hall. As one of the Unique Venues of London we are highly respected within the event industry. I was pleased to hear that, last year, we had 53,000 non Masonic visitors to our events. Events that included the London Fashion Week and the after party for the latest Harry Potter world premier! Many of our visitors did not know that they could come into a Masonic building and all of them I believe left having had a very happy experience.

I understand that the head of Disaster Management at the British Red Cross came to speak at the March Quarterly Communication. This was timely as I am particularly mindful of our Brethren in Christchurch, South Island New Zealand with the earthquake, and those north of Rio de Janeiro in the District Grand Lodge of South America, Northern Division with the mudslides and flooding. Both these Districts received immediate help from the Grand Charity through the British Red Cross. I am pleased to report that though there was considerable structural damage none of our members were lost.

In conclusion I should like to congratulate the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies and the Grand Secretary and his staff for all they have done to make this meeting such a success.

 

Published in Speeches
HRH The Duke of Kent, Grand Master, paid an official visit in July to the Province of Buckinghamshire, accompanied by the Grand Secretary, Nigel Brown, and the Grand Director of Ceremonies, Oliver Lodge.
     The Duke spoke to everyone present and saw the work of the province in its ‘Freemasonry in the Community’ projects, particularly the iHelp youth competition and the Rock Ride 1,500-mile charity bicycle ride from Gibraltar to Stowe School.
     The former project has involved heats of young groups in Buckinghamshire competing for prize-money worth £13,500 to show the positive side of young people, while the latter project has raised around £70,000 so far, including funds for several non-masonic charities - the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), the Royal British Legion, Air Ambulance and the Pace Centre, Aylesbury, who provide an education for life through programmes which incorporate all daily living activities and address the needs of the whole child. In addition, the Rock Ride also raised £22,000 for the province’s RMTGB 2010 festival.

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