Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes salutes the generosity of Freemasons who have helped to support good causes all across the world
In June, the Grand Master unveiled a plaque on the outside of Freemasons’ Hall, erected by the time immemorial lodges, and he was then declared their Worshipful Master at a splendid ceremony at Mansion House. This was particularly appropriate as, 100 years ago, his great uncle and godfather, the Duke of Connaught, had received a similar honour.
The other Rulers and Past Rulers have covered cathedral services commemorating our Tercentenary from St David’s in West Wales to Norwich in the east, and from Salisbury and Exeter in the south to Durham in the north, with many in between. You have then arranged dinners, a race meeting, car rallies, choral events and concerts, family fun days and fossil digs – all of which were splendidly organised.
I was privileged to visit our Districts in the Eastern Archipelago and Sri Lanka, witnessing first-hand the charitable work that they have been involved with. In Kuala Lumpur I visited the site of what I believe will be a splendid new home for the elderly. In Sri Lanka, the District has raised funds to bring drinking water to an outlying village and three schools in that area. Together with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), they are also supporting the relief efforts following the flooding caused by the unprecedented May monsoon.
These felt like short trips compared with those of our Assistant Grand Master, whom I feared was in danger of meeting himself coming back as he flew to Buenos Aires on 4 August for a meeting of our District of South America, Southern Division, and then on to Chile for talks with their Grand Master, before flying back to Heathrow on 8 August for onward travel to our District of Madras in Chennai.
It is humbling to witness your splendid efforts in support of Freemasonry. I have mentioned the Districts, but there has also been extraordinary work carried out in all the Provinces.
In June, I mentioned the phenomenal response you made to the Manchester bombing and Grenfell Tower fire in London. I can confirm that East Lancashire gave the Red Cross in Manchester more than £226,000 for the victims and that the Metropolitan Grand Lodge gave £100,000 to the Grenfell Tower Appeal – thank you for your generosity. And well done, North Wales, whose Festival with the RMGTB raised £3.1 million at £899 per member.
Thank you for your efforts with the MCF grants and public vote. I can report that more than 150,000 votes were cast across UGLE for the 300 charities to be awarded grants, and most of these votes – more than 80% – were from the general public. I know that the MCF has scrutinised these votes and has announced its award recipients. Congratulations to all involved in the MCF for this splendid initiative.
The project would not have been as successful without the exhaustive use of all social-media outlets, but I must here issue a caution on its use. Last year, we issued a very comprehensive instruction on the use, values and dangers of social media. One of the key points made was that you should ensure that anyone who you post images of on one of these sites should have agreed to be pictured. Yes, we need to be open and we want to promote our activities, but we must protect our members’ wishes. A little bit of common sense goes a long way.
Whether it’s paying bills or buying Christmas presents, we are increasingly being driven online to conduct sometimes complex transactions. Peter Watts finds out how masonic funding in Leicestershire is helping to close the digital divide for an older generation
Lindsay Prince volunteers as a Digital Champion, delivering technology support and advice for elderly people, and she never knows what to expect. It may be someone in their eighties wanting to log on to an online seminar, or someone in their sixties struggling to send their first text message.
‘Some can’t even use keyboards, but that’s what we’re there for,’ says Prince, who volunteers for Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland. ‘I feel strongly that anybody who isn’t online is disenfranchised from society. If they don’t engage with IT they are in danger of missing out. They can’t run a bank account, get tickets to an event or vote on Strictly. People are terrified by it, but once they take the first step they find they can get over that hump.’
It’s this belief in the importance of digital accessibility for social inclusion that has prompted the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to provide £65,000 for Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland, which has been running the project in the region since 2014. The charity holds drop-in sessions at care homes, Age UK facilities, shops and town centres where anybody can attend and receive support for their tablet, laptop or smartphone. The funding will allow the project to run for another two years, employ an administrator and coordinator, and train volunteers. Troy Young, assistant director of Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland, says they hope to reach 2,000 people in that period.
THE DIGITAL LEAP
One beneficiary of the sessions has been Aileen, 86, who is now able to use her tablet to access a range of services. ‘It’s taken me months to believe that I can’t damage the tablet, so the digital sessions have been as much about confidence using the tablet as they have been about learning what I can achieve by using it,’ she says. ‘YouTube is marvellous because I can watch and enjoy seminars on a range of topics.’
Aileen’s story is one that the MCF and Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland hope will be repeated over the next two years. ‘What we like about this project is that it tackles social isolation from two angles,’ explains David Innes, Chief Executive of the MCF. ‘One is that in this age, where an increasing amount of our day-to-day activity takes place on the internet, there’s a large number of elderly people who struggle with the technology. They can’t manage money, access bus timetables or make GP appointments. It’s a real challenge and narrows their horizons even more.’
The other benefit is that in the process of gaining technology training, participants will have social interaction with the people teaching them. ‘The fact they are taking part in an activity will give them something to look forward to,’ Innes says.
Prince says that several of her regular attendees make a point of coming to sessions in part because of this social aspect. Many Digital Champions are young, and Prince – who is 70 and began volunteering after retiring from further education – admits sometimes she gets mistaken as a participant rather than a volunteer. But she believes that her age gives comfort to attendees, who see that age doesn’t have to be a barrier to new technology.
Having trained as a Digital Champion, Prince thinks it’s vital to go at the right pace and avoid scaring attendees with technical language. ‘It’s important to understand how different people learn,’ she says. ‘You need to realise you are working at somebody else’s level. It depends on the person, their attitude and what they did in their career beforehand. If you’ve never worked with machines, it can be difficult. You start by finding out what they want to use it for and you have to be careful you don’t overwhelm them.’
It’s also important that sessions are enjoyable, and Age UK’s Young says that feedback has been positive. The project has discovered hundreds of older people who were keen to go online but couldn’t find anybody providing the advice they required. ‘They were often worried they’d be made to feel stupid, and some of them have had negative experiences that made them feel out of their depth, but these are relaxed sessions that can be fun,’ he says.
Older people came to Young explaining that they had signed up for evening courses but were being taught about how to use spreadsheets or make presentations. ‘They weren’t interested in learning in such a structured way – they wanted advice and guidance about all the wonderful new technology. We started rolling out engagement sessions so people could have a play with the equipment. People were also coming to us very confused about the range of what was in the market, and they wanted impartial advice. A lot of it is about demystifying and making sure that older people don’t find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide.’
Young is intrigued by the potential of using digital technology to provide reminiscence therapy for people with dementia. He hopes that Age UK Leicester Shire & Rutland will soon be able to find volunteers who have experience both with technology and dementia care. ‘I want to take this project to older people who might not use the technology but can still benefit from it,’ he says. ‘There’s been some very interesting stuff around virtual reality and dementia recently, where they use virtual reality to take people back to times they might remember and that have a calming, therapeutic effect.’
As well as allowing the MCF to tackle social exclusion, the location of the project in the East Midlands allows the MCF to ensure masonic funds are evenly distributed.
‘We try to balance our grants, just as the masonic community is spread around the country,’ says Innes, who was previously Chief Executive at the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and has experience of supporting elderly people.
‘I’ve seen for myself at the RMBI the difference that technology can make,’ he says. ‘Families are far more dispersed than they used to be, and with opportunities such as social media and Skype, you can connect to a family member anywhere in the world. In our masonic care homes, we provide connectivity to all residents, which has enabled older people to stay more in touch with relatives.’
Young is looking forward to continuing his work with Digital Champions like Prince, thanks to the MCF. ‘We were so pleased to get this funding because the grant will keep it going for another two years,’ he says. ‘And that’s important because the technology isn’t going away – we have plenty of demand. We want to make our sessions as inclusive as possible and ensure that all older people will benefit.’
Find out more about the work of Age UK in Leicester Shire & Rutland - click here.
The people, families and communities supported by the MCF have been its highest priority in 2017. Chief Executive David Innes explains how they will remain at the heart of what the MCF does in 2018
Another year has gone by, and what an incredible year it has been. The highlight of our 2017 was undoubtedly the success of the MCF Community Awards – Tercentenary Fund. You can read about the awards in more detail elsewhere in this issue of Freemasonry Today, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank those of you who voted; you were one of more than 177,000 people that helped us decide which local charities received the largest grants from our £3 million fund.
Between promoting the Community Awards and taking part in Tercentenary celebrations across the country, we have continued to help around 5,000 Freemasons and their family members who have a financial, health, family or care-related need. We have also supported some fantastic local and national charities through our Charity Grants programme.
If you would like to find out more about the difference your donations are making to Freemasons, their families and the wider community, I would encourage you to read a copy of our first Impact Report, which is available to download and order via our website.
‘With the festive season approaching, many of you will be thinking about resolutions for the New Year. At the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we too are planning for the future’
With the festive season approaching, many of you will be thinking about resolutions for the New Year. At the Masonic Charitable Foundation, we too are planning for the future. Since our launch, we have worked hard to establish ourselves as a charity that the masonic community can both rely on and proudly support. In the spring of 2018, we will be launching our new strategy that will guide our work for the next five years.
December is a time of celebration – but for some families, it can be a difficult time when financial struggles come to a head. If you need support, or know of somebody else who does, please do not hesitate to contact us. Even if we are unable to assist you ourselves, we can direct you towards other organisations that may be able to help.
Guidance and top tips
Hampshire and Isle of Wight PGM Michael Wilks visited the Tall Ships Youth Trust at Gunwharf Marina, Portsmouth, in July, and presented £22,000 donated to the charity by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF)
The donation will support young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Wilks talked to the young people who had recently arrived to start their adventure and were looking forward to playing their part in assisting the crew, whatever the weather and sea conditions.
CEO Richard Leaman explained, ‘This bursary will allow us to get 50 NEET young people on board our vessels for sail training.
'We are immensely grateful to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for their generosity and support.’
Eight Devonshire charities benefited from a series of special MCF Community Awards from Devonshire Freemasons after an unprecedented public vote, with 178,801 people in England and Wales participating
The MCF Community Awards are a major part of UGLE’s 300th anniversary celebrations. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is distributing £3 million to 300 charities across the country, with the public vote deciding on the level of awards, which range from £4,000 to £25,000.
Presentations to the charities were made in September at a special ceremony in Plymouth by Provincial Grand Master Ian Kingsbury on behalf of the Masonic Charitable Foundation.
Find out more about the thinking behind the MCF Community Awards here.
Care provider RMBI Care Co has joined Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), which connects 150 organisations across England that work with people living with dementia
RMBI Care Co provides residential care, nursing care and dementia support for Freemasons and their families in 17 care homes in England and Wales. Additionally, one home provides care for adults with learning difficulties.
Speaking of the partnership, Anne Child, Pharmacy and Dementia Specialist Lead at RMBI Care Co, says: ‘As a new member of DAA, we will be working with organisations to share best practice, build strong campaigns and better inform people about dementia. Raising awareness is vital to help those affected and ensure they can access support quicker and receive the best care possible.’
In its commitment to dementia care, RMBI Care Co has also teamed up with Alzheimer’s Society to encourage people to talk openly about dementia by becoming a Dementia Friend.
Find out more about RMBI Care Co at rmbi.org.uk
When you call the MCF, you don’t need to decide which of your problems is most important – they may be able to help with all of them
When dealing with life’s challenges, it can be difficult to know where to start. Whether you’ve been made redundant, lost your partner or received a medical diagnosis, the knock-on effects often reach all areas of family life.
Sometimes, callers to the MCF’s freephone enquiry line are unaware of the full range of support available, or don’t want to ask for too much at once. The MCF’s experienced enquiries officers are trained to listen and ask the right questions to identify all the ways the charity can make life a little easier.
‘Myself and my wife, Jennifer, were forced to retire due to ill health within months of each other,’ said Scott, a Freemason. ‘We were forced to sell our home and move in with my parents, which took our daughters, Katie and Stephanie, away from their friends. We couldn’t afford to pay for the girls’ school shoes, let alone our bills. It was an incredibly stressful period.’
Scott heard about the MCF through his lodge Almoner. When he first got in touch with the charity, it was for help with daily living expenses – it was only after speaking with the MCF that he realised additional support was available for his children.
‘The MCF also paid for swimming and gymnastics lessons for Katie and Stephanie. It makes the world of difference to me that I don’t have to worry about the girls missing out on opportunities.’
If you’re a Freemason or a close relative of a Freemason, and are facing a difficult period of your life due to finance, health, family or care-related issues, call the MCF to see if it could help (0800 035 60 90)
Within the masonic community, families supported by the MCF who have children under the age of twenty-five in full-time education can apply for additional funding for extracurricular activities
The Masonic Charitable Foundation has supported Chris and Marina, and their children Tanya, Natasha and Rhys following Chris’ redundancy.
‘When things got hard for us, my wife wanted me to seek help – but I was stubborn. Then things got even harder, and that’s when I picked up the phone,’ explained Chris. ‘The MCF covered the cost of gymnastics, dancing and swimming lessons for the children.
‘All three are doing well because of the classes – especially Rhys. Now seven, he leads other children in the pre-school class and just won silver in his first competition.’
After-school clubs and weekend classes are a great way to keep children busy and entertained. But did you know they are also a fun way for them to learn new skills and gain fresh experiences?
A study of more than 6,400 children found that as well as achieving more at school, children who take part in extracurricular activities develop social, emotional and behavioural skills such as time management, confidence, teamwork and creativity.
The recent study, carried out by the Institute of Education at University College London, showed activities outside of school hours could help close the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those from wealthier families.
However, it also found there were still inequalities, as many low-income families struggled to afford the costs of sports clubs, private tuition and music lessons. With this in mind, the MCF provides opportunities for children and young people both within the masonic community and in wider society.
The MCF recently awarded a £37,000 grant to Boccia England, a charity that provides accessible activity opportunities for disabled people aged twelve to eighteen. Boccia is a ball sport especially designed to test muscle control and accuracy. It is practised in more than 50 countries and is also a Paralympic sport.
The grant will allow Boccia England to continue supporting young people with physical, learning and visual disabilities and encourage inclusion in physical activity for all.
The Province of West Lancashire was anxious to ensure that it celebrated the Tercentenary in style and with that in mind, two gala dinners took place within a few weeks of each other
At the main event, held at the Hilton Hotel, Blackpool, over 400 brethren and their partners gathered to attend the Provincial Tercentenary Gala Dinner. The evening began with the entrance of the Provincial Grand Master Tony Harrison and his wife Maureen, who were accompanied by the principal guest, Assistant Grand Master Sir David Hugh Wootton. Also joining them was the chairman of the West Lancashire Tercentenary committee, Assistant Provincial Grand Master Tony Bent and his wife Lynda.
Following the dinner, the entertainment began in dramatic style when a waiter dropped a large tray of cutlery, apparently accidentally on to the dance floor. This got everyone’s attention but rather than a mishap, this was the start of a performance in which several theatrical ‘waiters’ performed a set of popular operatic arias to the delight of the audience.
As the customary toasts were made, Tony Harrison proposed the toast to the ‘Premier Grand Lodge’ on the occasion of its Tercentenary and then, following a brief synopsis of Sir David’s professional and Masonic career, offered a toast to the Assistant Grand Master. To further mark Sir David’s visit, Tony presented him with a cheque for £5,000 from the West Lancashire Freemasons’ Charity to pass on to the Lifelites charity, of which he is a patron.
He was also presented with a ‘Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland’ and a special bottle of Martell Cognac which commemorated the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Martell Distillery. Sir David thanked Tony for his kind words and very generous gifts.
The evening’s raffle, which raised £1,920 in favour of the West Lancashire 2021 Masonic Charitable Foundation Festival, saw the lucky winners claiming a variety of prizes, including a coach holiday in the UK, flying lessons and a widescreen television.
At another event, held earlier in the north of the Province, over 200 Masons and their partners gathered at the Cumbria Grand Hotel to celebrate what was billed as ‘A Spectacular Banquet and Ball’, organised jointly by the Furness and Lancaster Masonic Groups. Once again, the revellers were joined by Tony and Maureen Harrison at a wonderful event that combined great food, marvellous entertainment and a spectacular firework finale.
Speeches were kept to a minimum with the emphasis firmly on having a relaxed and fun filled evening. The speech and double toast given by Assistant Provincial Grand Master David Grainger was so uncharacteristically short that it earned him rapturous applause!
Everyone pronounced both evenings to be a great success and a fitting way to celebrate such a memorable Masonic milestone in true West Lancashire style.