#EnoughIsEnough

Young adult carers in Buckinghamshire are being helped to overcome social isolation and improve their wellbeing, thanks to a grant from Buckinghamshire Freemasons to Carers Bucks

The £20,000 grant comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation and will support the ‘Same Chances’ programme, designed to work with young people as they transition into adulthood and independence whilst continuing to provide unpaid care for an ill or disabled family member.

In the UK there are an estimated 700,000 young carers, 2,500 of them in Buckinghamshire. The Young Adult Carers service started in September 2015 with the target to support 50 young adult carers living in Buckinghamshire within the first 18 months. In just over two years, the Young Adult Carers team have connected with and supported double that figure within the county. 

Young Carers Bucks believe a young person who is the primary carer for a family member should not have fewer chances for further or higher education and employment compared with their peers.

The Young Adult Carers team help young people overcome the barriers they may be facing, while knowing the person they care for is safe and looked after. The team offer regular Life skills sessions, support worker drop in sessions, social meet ups, targeted group work and one to one support. There is also a Young Adult Carers steering group, which gives young people a voice to share their experiences with other young people and professionals.

Sally Mansi, Young Carers Service Manager at Carers Bucks, commented: 'We’re very grateful to Buckinghamshire Freemasons for their generous grant. It will support 80 young carers as they move into adulthood, giving them some of the same life choices and opportunities as their peers.'

Mike Clanfield, Provincial Grand Charity Steward for Buckinghamshire, said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to support the Carers Trust in Bucks who do hugely important work with young people who are the primary carers for ill and disabled family members. These young people deserve the same chances as everyone else.'

As part of their annual support of Hospices throughout the country, Devonshire Freemasons have donated over £1,000 to Children’s Hospice South West’s Little Bridge House in Barnstaple, North Devon

The Provincial Grand Master of Devonshire Ian Kingsbury presented a certificate denoting £1,083, given on behalf of the Devonshire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation, to Ann Juby from the hospice.

Little Bridge House is one of three Children’s Hospice South West hospices offering home from home care and support for families across the South West region. Each hospice offers respite, emergency and end of life care for local children who are not expected to live until adulthood, as well as support for the whole family including a dedicated sibling service.

Devonshire Freemasons have been long-term supporters of Children’s Hospice South West and along with individual donations made by many of their 133 lodges that meet throughout the county and the MCF, together have donated over £100,000 to the hospice since it opened in 1995.

On receiving the certificate, Ann Juby, Trusts and Grants Fundraiser for the Hospice, said: ‘The Freemasons fundraising over the years for Children’s Hospice South West has been incredible and we are extremely grateful for the support.

'It costs £3.4 million each year to run our Little Bridge House hospice and these costs are met almost entirely by voluntary donations. Support such as this is vital to ensure that we can continue to make the most of short and precious lives well into the future. Our thanks to the Freemasons and the many Lodges who support us.’

Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury said: 'It is always very sad when a child is taken from us without ever having the chance to reach their potential. If in some way we as Freemasons can contribute to their care at this moment in their short lives, then we can continue to hope that one day cures can be found.

'It was wonderful to meet some of the people who give so much of their time and energy in caring for the children.’

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex has been recognised in the Community Stars Awards after been nominated for Charity of the Year

It was a huge honour for the Province to have been nominated, with the nomination for the award itself coming from their local newspaper The Argus who hosts the awards, which recognise the outstanding achievements of men, women, children and organisations across Sussex.

Each year the public and the Argus nominate those who have made a considerable difference to the communities in which they live and how through their activities change people’s lives.

Maurice Adams, Assistant Provincial Grand Master for Sussex, commented: ‘Although we didn’t win, it was a real surprise to have been nominated and esteemed recognition for all the hard work that takes place across our province to raise money for such worthy causes.’

The awards citation read as follows: ‘The Freemasons have donated £38,000 in a big cash giveaway to six charities. The six were nominated by Freemasons and members of the public to receive a grant from the national charity, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). Groups helping the sick were among those to benefit; Rockinghorse Children’s Charity, Sussex MS Centre, Sussex Heart Charity, The Clock Tower Sanctuary for the homeless and the domestic abuse charity Rise.

‘Freemasons across the country observe the 300th anniversary of the United Grand Lodge of England and to celebrate the occasion they donated money to 300 charities across the country from a £3 million fund. Although the £38,000 was donated from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Sussex Freemasons also support a lot of local charities from their own pockets.’

Traditionally, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Sussex, in conjunction with the Editor of the Argus newspaper, present the final and emotional award – The Child of Courage – and this year the presentation was made by the Deputy Provincial Grand Master Martin Mitten.

Kent-based disability charity Compaid has been awarded a three year grant by East Kent Freemasons to train disabled adults in computer skills

The training will be delivered by a team of volunteers and staff at Compaid’s dedicated centre in Paddock Wood in Kent, as well as by a further team of Outreach trainers supporting people in their own homes and in day centres across the county.

The grant, totalling £45,000 over three years, will pay for two staff posts within the training service, supporting over 250 disabled learners to gain skills in a variety of topics, such as use of social media, internet shopping, online safety and digital design. 

Digital exclusion remains a key barrier for disabled people. Almost 50 per cent of disabled people do not use the internet regularly and 27 per cent never use it at all. This equates to more than 32,000 disabled people in Kent.

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

Stephen Elsden, Chief Executive at Compaid, said: 'We’re very grateful to East Kent Freemasons for their generous grant which will help hundreds more disabled people to realise their dreams and aspirations by gaining skills and confidence with computers.'

East Kent Freemasons Mark Bassant said: 'We’re very pleased to be able to help Compaid who do outstanding work helping some of the most vulnerable people in our community get online, with all the opportunities the internet offers.'

The District Grand Lodge of Cyprus was proud to host the visit of the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes on 20th October 2017, where he had the opportunity to meet many members of the District, visit a local lodge and attend a Gala Dinner

It was a very important day for the District with plans for the visit having been started by the District Grand Secretary Robert Humphries several months in advance.

Together with his own Director of Ceremonies Charles Hopkinson-Woolley, the Pro Grand Master visited Apollo Lodge in the village of Episkopi where they were welcomed by the Worshipful Master Alan Cook. During his visit, he was also introduced to Gordon Rowell, an active member of the lodge at the ripe old age of 89.

In common with other visitors to the rather ancient Nissen hut which houses Apollo Lodge, the Pro Grand Master was astonished to see the attractive and well maintained interior of the building, including the beautifully laid out dining room. 

The Pro Grand Master learnt a great deal about Apollo Lodge and the District Grand Lodge of Cyprus. On completion of his visit, he was then presented with a framed print of an original painting by Brian Howard which depicted the Apollo Lodge building and the surrounding gardens.

The day continued with a business lunch with the District Grand Master Theodosios Theodossiou and District Grand Secretary Robert Humphries. The main event in the evening was a Gala Dinner Dance in the Panorama Room of the St Raphael Hotel, which was attended by 160 Freemasons and guests including the Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Cyprus and the Grand Lodge of Greece.

During the evening, the Pro Grand Master addressed the assembly and explained some of the highlights of the Masonic year including visits to other Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, where he had witnessed first-hand the charitable work that the Districts had been involved in. He also thanked the District Grand Master of Cyprus and the organisers of the visit.

After rousing applause, Theodosios Theodossiou thanked the Pro Grand Master on behalf of the District and presented a cheque for €10,000 to the Masonic Charitable Foundation – to which, in reply, the Pro Grand Master expressed his heartfelt thanks on behalf of the charity.

Wiltshire Freemasons have donated £5,000 to Swindon Foodbank to help the charity cover their operational expenses

Provincial Grand Master Philip Bullock presented the cheque from the Masonic Charitable Foundation to manager Cher Smith MBE, one of only two paid employees at the central warehouse located in Westlea. 

Every day, seven days a week, the Swindon Foodbank central warehouse is receiving, sorting and despatching food parcels to the seven town-wide outlets for collection by people in real need.

Philip Bullock said: 'It’s such a deserving cause. It helps people who are in need, which is what Freemasons are all about.'

Wiltshire Freemasons have been real supporters of Foodbanks throughout the Province, particularly at Christmas when demand often exceeds available supplies.

This year Philip Bullock and Charity Steward Ian Priest visited the Swindon warehouse where they were shown around the facility which had just received a huge delivery of grocery product.

Cher Smith commented: 'We are very grateful to Wiltshire Freemasons and the Masonic Charitable Foundation for all their help; it wouldn't be wrong to say that £5,000 really will make a huge difference to what we are able to do.'

Salisbury Hospice has a very special place in the hearts of Wiltshire Freemasons which explains why the Hospice receives such tremendous support from many of the Lodges in the county

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) also provides regular funding to Salisbury Hospice and this year Provincial Grand Master Philip Bullock visited the Hospice to meet Corporate Fundraiser Celia Scott and present a certificate acknowledging an MCF donation of £1,900. 

After presenting the donation, Philip Bullock commented: 'I am delighted to once again be here at Salisbury to not only give the Hospice this donation, but to also thank every member of staff for the incredible work they undertake in making this facility one of the very best in the region.'

Having received the cheque, Celia Scott thanked Philip and the MCF for their continued support and also provided a detailed update on the work of the Hospice and how the donation would help to make a difference.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 10:11

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2017

Quarterly Communication

13 December 2017 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Well Brethren, what a year, and if you are anything like me you are looking forward to putting up your feet over the Festive Season, and actually reconnecting with your family. Having said that it has been an enormous privilege to have been Pro GM during the Tercentenary year and I am sure that the Deputy and Assistant GMs will echo that sentiment in respect of their important contributions.

I do not propose to give you a résumé of the whole year. That would be impossible and you would never get to lunch. At the outset Provinces and Districts were asked to concentrate on coming up with events in their own jurisdiction which their Brethren could join in and enjoy. Dare I say, Brethren, they all did this in spades and I include our Groups of Lodges in that. Quite rightly there was often a significant charitable aspect to these events. I should add here that this was greatly enhanced by the imaginative input from the MCF with their multitude of grants across the Provinces. The Rulers and Past Rulers have endeavoured to meet your requests and you, Brethren, wherever we have been, have looked after us with incredible kindness and generosity, thank you so much.

Since our last Communication, we have had the Grand Ball and our major celebratory event at The Royal Albert Hall, at the end of October. 

The events of the 29th to 31st October were a resounding success and I must congratulate and single out Keith Gilbert and his team for the superb administrative arrangements throughout.  Diane Clements and the Museum staff who managed to collect, catalogue and display the many gifts brought by the 133 Grand Masters from around the world amazingly quickly, I think in under one hour! These are now all displayed in the Museum.  And, finally, to James Long and his team who took us all by surprise at the Royal Albert Hall with an amazing and uplifting performance of Masonry across the three Centuries. The whole “London” experience was way beyond, certainly, my expectations and from the comments we have had since, it all simply astounded our hundreds of visitors from overseas. Well done indeed.

Brethren, has there ever been a better time to be a Freemason. I really believe that during the year we have learned so much about how to talk about our Freemasonry with non-members, helped enormously by the Sky Documentary which has opened our eyes and made the general public more receptive. I would love us to have had more editorial control over the end product, but that would, perhaps, have defeated the object. Nonetheless I think we can go forward from here with enormous self belief and pride

We look forward now to 2018, continuing the work of the Improvement Delivery Group and capitalising on the successes of this year, rewarding those who have worked so hard throughout the current year at our March Communications and remembering the fact that it is 100 years since the end of WW1 after which this magnificent building was built as the Masonic Peace Memorial to recognise the sacrifice of over 3,000 English Freemasons who fell in that war.

Brethren, thank you for all your endeavours this year and I wish you a most enjoyable and relaxing Christmas with your families and send you all my good wishes for 2018.

Published in Speeches

Up to the plate

As the staff at the Parthenon restaurant busy themselves preparing Greek delicacies, they communicate in sign language. Matt Timms discovers how masonic funding is giving deaf people new opportunities and changing perceptions

Last year there was not a single Greek restaurant in Blackburn. So when the Parthenon flung its doors open in May, locals rejoiced that finally there was a place to enjoy some Mediterranean cuisine. Never one to do things by halves, Doug Alker, the man behind the place, brought over a chef from Greece, Greek waiters, and even a traditional Greek musical duo, complete with bouzouki (a traditional string instrument) and liberal use of the expression ‘Opa!’

Chef Petros Tsilgkiriau claims his moussaka is ‘perfect’, while the staff hardly let a night slide without a spot of traditional dance. It’s authentic Greek and shares much in common with any restaurant you would find in the motherland. However, it also has one major difference – most of the people working here are deaf.

Rather than bark orders at one another, the kitchen staff use British Sign Language, or BSL, to communicate in order to cook and prepare meals. All except Tsilgkiriau are deaf, and three of the workers have just started 18-month apprenticeships organised by the East Lancashire Deaf Society (ELDS) and funded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF).

Statistics show that deaf people are 50% less likely to find employment, education or training than those who are not hard of hearing, due mainly to difficulties around communicating verbally. Approximately 71% of the deaf community fail to achieve the government’s target of five GCSEs, exacerbating the issue further.

The £75,000 grant from the MCF will fully fund the Parthenon restaurant apprenticeship scheme three evenings a week for three years. It not only benefits the apprentices but improves perceptions of deaf people in Blackburn and beyond. With local businesses able to engage with the scheme, the hope is that it will open up employment opportunities for apprentices later in life.

CHANGING LIVES

‘We’ve created a working model here for how the deaf should be treated,’ says Alker, executive chair and managing director of the ELDS. ‘It’s a small-scale model, and all we need now is to expand. People should come in and see for themselves that this is how it can be done.’

The restaurant is a self-supporting, not-for-profit social enterprise established by the ELDS. It joins 11 other apprenticeships, including nurseries and a home-solutions programme, as part of the charity’s efforts to integrate deaf people into the community. ‘Perceptions have changed of what it means to be deaf,’ says Alker, who has headed up the ELDS for more than 20 years. 

Vasileios Orfanos, who goes by the name Lakis, has been working in the kitchen as an apprentice for three months. ‘To the hearing people who think deaf people can’t, it’s a nice message to say, “Yes, we can,”’ he says of the restaurant.

As a fan of Greek food and cooking, Orfanos says the apprenticeship has not only helped improve his skills in the kitchen, but his confidence, too. ‘Now that people see me here at work, I think attitudes have changed. Working here, I’ve seen a shift. People see that a deaf person can work and do anything that they want to do.’

Tanvir Shah, an ex-apprentice and now kitchen manager, has experienced many of the challenges that young deaf people face in work and education. Despite attending college and obtaining a qualification in mechanics, Shah has struggled to find a job. His hearing issues were deemed too great a risk by potential employers, and requests for interpreters proved too problematic – and expensive – to carry through.

‘That really hit my confidence,’ says Shah, who credits the ELDS apprenticeship for kick-starting his career. ‘I had the future to think about. I have to work for myself and provide for my daughter.’ After two years in the kitchen, he was asked if he wanted to work at the Parthenon permanently. Now he teaches apprentices, who can not only communicate with him on the same level, but also learn from his experiences. For Shah, the evolution from apprentice to mentor has paid huge dividends. ‘My confidence has skyrocketed,’ he says. ‘I’m not in this little box any more, nor do I feel so shy. I’m in a good place and just enjoying life.’

BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS

Another apprentice, Cassie Chrysah, lives across the road from the restaurant, and arrived from Greece with aspirations to work as a waitress. She has seen first-hand how the ELDS can open doors. Chrysah previously expressed an interest in joinery back home, and the ELDS has now given her the chance to study it at college. ‘Of course, deaf people still encounter barriers. But situations like this mean people’s resistance dissolves,’ says Alker. ‘With Cassie, with the restaurant, with the dancing, our aim is to change perceptions.’

As executive manager and self-styled ‘mum to the group’, Clare Stocks says the Parthenon staff are more than just workmates. After the last customer has left, the staff get together for a sit-down meal. ‘I consider these people my family. It’s not like I really want to go home,’ says Orfanos. ‘In a world where people see me as disabled, here I’m treated as an equal.’

Issues such as social exclusion and isolation affect all areas of society, yet the media tends to focus on the elderly. ‘We sometimes forget that these same issues can affect people of any age, particularly those with disabilities,’ says Les Hutchinson, Chief Operating Officer of the MCF. ‘As a society, we are incredibly lucky that charities like the ELDS exist. They have proven that it is possible to combat educational and employment barriers for young deaf people.’

Full participation

The East Lancashire Deaf Society is a not-for-profit charity based in Blackburn that provides support to deaf groups across Lancashire. It aims to understand the diverse range of communication needs of deaf British Sign Language users, deaf-blind people, hard-of-hearing people and those who have lost theirhearing later in life. The society aims for individuals to get the same opportunities in education, employment, access and involvement as everyone else in the community. It achieves this through three key routes:

  • Advocacy
  • Information
  • Services

Find out more - click here.

Vote of confidence

In celebration of the Freemasons’ Tercentenary year, the public was invited by the MCF to vote for their favourite charities. John McCrohan, Head of Strategic Development & Special Projects at the MCF, explains the rationale behind this initiative

Tell us about your role…

I support the CEO and Board to bring together the activities of the four legacy charities that were amalgamated into the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to ensure they continue to meet the needs of both the masonic community and the wider community through our non-masonic grant-making. In January 2011, I started working for the Masonic Samaritan Fund, one of those four legacy charities, as Grants Director and Deputy CEO. I held the post until the consolidation of the MCF in April 2016, when I took on my current role. As well as respecting the legacy of the four charities, it’s also my job to focus on the future and think about how we can do things differently – and better.

What are the Community Awards?

The full name is the MCF Community Awards –Tercentenary Fund. These are 300 grants totalling £3 million that acknowledge the 300-year anniversary of UGLE. The Awards were created in part to raise MCF’s profile within the masonic community, but also externally. This initiative was our first large-scale, public-facing activity, and was designed to let the wider public know about the good work that happens as a result of the generosity of the Freemasons. We typically spend up to £5 million a year supporting UK charities and responding to disasters and emergencies, both here and abroad. But to celebrate the Tercentenary, we wanted to do something in addition to that, which is where the idea for the £3 million Community Awards came from. We also wanted to celebrate the formation of the MCF.

How do the grants work?

They were for either £4,000, £6,000, £15,000 or £25,000, depending on how many votes a charity got. The grants were spread across all of our Provinces, and we allocated either four, six or eight grants to each depending on size. London got 26 because of its size. It was important that the charities we supported were operating, and helping people, locally. We wanted the grants to reassure masons that the MCF is pushing money back to their communities, to see that the money they give doesn’t get swallowed up in a black hole here in London. And, of course, we wanted to show that we apply good grant-making practice and observe good due diligence.

How did you decide who would qualify for a grant?

Firstly, I went to Provinces and said, ‘We’ve got money for you, we’ll be giving grants in your region, but we’d like you to tell us which charities are close to your heart.’ We then asked each Province and Metropolitan Grand Lodge to compile a list of their chosen charities, filtered down to their allocated number. The shortlists came to us and we carried out initial due diligence to make sure charities were eligible, that they weren’t already an active recipient of a grant, and so on. We then confirmed shortlists with the Provinces and Metropolitan Grand Lodge and began contacting charities, inviting them to formally apply for a grant. They still needed to complete an application, though by this stage they were guaranteed at least £4,000 – but could potentially get as much as £25,000 if they got the most votes.

What types of charities were nominated?

We had charities in every sector – from financial hardship, social exclusion and disadvantage through to health and disability, education and employability. We had community centres, initiatives reducing isolation and loneliness for older people and complementary emergency services – things like blood bikes, for example, which take blood supplies around a county.

And how did the general public phase of the vote work?

People voted primarily online – we promoted the vote on our website, and through our social media and masonic contacts. Having spoken to some charities that had already worked with the public on that kind of scale, however, it became clear that to really make the voting work, we needed the charities themselves to lead the promotion – on their own social-media sites and during public events. To do this, we provided them with materials showing masonic iconography and branding that they could use. And, of course, the competitive element of ‘more votes equals a bigger grant’ really spurred them on.

What were the responses like?

We ended up with 177,801 votes, which really blew away our expectations. Almost 160,000 of those votes were made online, with another 18,000 cast at local events. After people voted, there was an optional short survey of just two questions. One asked if the initiative had improved the voter’s opinion of Freemasonry. Some 57% of those who completed the survey – 36,000 people – said that it had improved their perception of Freemasonry. We believe that’s pretty strong evidence that the initiative really worked.

What did you learn from the project?

We’d never done anything like this before so we were all on a massive technological learning curve. We were very exposed, so the pressure was on – we only had six months to develop the project before it went live. We were still testing the voting pages, making sure the images were right and the copy was okay the day before launch. That was a bit stressful. It was all worth it when the charities, and public, told us they didn’t realise we operated on this scale or supported so many people in this way. Given that raising this awareness was one of our key drivers, I think we’ve been really successful. Going forward, we’ll be able to do something like this much more easily because all our building blocks are now in place.

What happens next?

We are going to monitor the projects throughout the 12 months that the grants last, and do a full evaluation at the end. We want to make sure that what we have done with this grant fund has made a real impact. In a year’s time we’ll go back and see what has worked, what hasn’t worked so well and what lessons have been learned. We’ll see how we can improve, if we do something like it again in future.

Find out more - click here.

Around the world

Four charities that have benefited from the Community Awards

Dorset
Social Exclusion and Disability: Veterans in Action
£25,000
Veterans in Action (VIA) helps armed service veterans who have suffered the effects of war or who have found the transition back to civilian life difficult. For the past six years, VIA has been organising walking expeditions that have needed support vehicles – Land Rovers and minibuses – which are now ageing and require maintenance. The funds from the MCF grant will be used to fund a new project called the Veterans Restorations Project, which aims to restore and upgrade the existing vehicles.

Durham
Financial Hardship: Centrepoint North East
£6,000
Centrepoint is the UK’s leading charity working with homeless people aged sixteen to twenty-five. It supports more than 9,000 people a year, 800 of whom are from the North East. The grant will be used for its Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (RDGS), which aims to increase the supply of affordable rented accommodation to disadvantaged sixteen- to twenty-five-year-olds and those at risk of homelessness. As part of their acceptance on to RDGS, the person agrees to save with Centrepoint so they can afford their own cash bond as and when they move tenancy. This will enable them to have a secure base from which to build their future.

East Kent
Education and Employability: Romney Resource Centre
£4,000
Romney Resource Centre (RRC) was founded in 1999 and has developed a reputation as a centre of excellence, being the only provider of careers and skills advice, training, education and employment support in Romney Marsh for sixteen- to eighteen-year-olds and adults. Due to significant cutbacks in adult skills at the Skills Funding Agency, there is little further-education funding available for Romney Marsh communities – a critical situation if they are not able to upskill or attain updated qualifications. As a consequence, RRC is now seeking grant-funding support in order to continue its mission.

West Wales
Health and Disability: HUTS
£15,000
Now established for more than two decades, the Help Us To Survive (HUTS) Workshop supports individuals suffering with mental-health issues and learning disabilities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The therapeutic arts-based centre currently has more than 100 active members attending its workshop. The MCF award will go towards maintaining a full-time qualified ceramics and silkscreen-printing support worker. They provide support for members to explore creativity, gain confidence and to reduce isolation and deprivation within the rural community.

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