Celebrating 300 years

Leicestershire and Rutland Freemason Paul Simpson is getting ready for the biggest challenge of his life when he cycles 300 miles for charity, as part of the celebrations of 300 years of English Freemasonry.

Paul, aged 51, is one of 20 Freemasons cycling to each of the 11 Masonic meeting places within Leicestershire and Rutland, followed by a hard slog to the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England at Freemasons' Hall. 

When clocking up the 300 miles, they will take a short detour to the site of the former Goose and Gridiron Ale House in St Paul's Churchyard, London, where the first Grand Lodge was formed in June 1717 before they head back to Leicester.

Paul said: 'Little did I realise that when I purchased a bike for my 50th birthday in October 2015, in less than two years I would be attempting a 300 mile charity ride over four days.

'On my first ride I managed just six miles. I returned home out of breath and extremely hot and red faced due no doubt to the excess weight that I was carrying but my appetite for cycling was whetted.'

By July 2016, Paul had completed his first charity cycle ride, 40 miles for Archie’s Army, a charity set up to support a young boy with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In April 2017, he completed the Rutland Sportive which covered 85 miles over the notorious Rutland hills.

After extensive training, and losing over two and half stone in weight, he is now ready to face the challenge of 300 miles in four consecutive days from Thursday 8th June 2017, which aims to raise £20,000 for the Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People in Loughborough and the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation supports Freemasons and their families as well as providing more than five million pounds in grants to good causes across England and Wales.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, said: 'We’re very grateful to Paul and his friends for making this magnificent effort in support of the Masonic Charitable Foundation. We wish them all the very best of luck on their journey and look forward to welcoming them to Freemasons Hall on 9th June.'

The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Loughborough, provides care to those that are affected by life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.

Helen Lee-Smith, Head of Individual Giving at Rainbows, said: 'On behalf of everyone at Rainbows, I would like to thank Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons for supporting Rainbows with their 300 mile cycle ride to celebrate 300 years of Freemasonry.

'Leicestershire and Rutland Freemasons are doing a wonderful thing raising funds to help us run the hospice - fundraising efforts make such a huge difference to both the children and young people at Rainbows and their families. We would like to wish them all the best for their challenge.'

You can donate to the team here.

Ambulance service flying high with funding boost from Masonic Charitable Foundation in Bedfordshire

On Sunday 30th April, Bedfordshire Freemasons attended the Icknield Road Club, 2017 Spring Sportive, at Redborne School in Ampthill

During the Family Fun Day, they presented a cheque for £4,000 to the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Anthony Henderson, the head of Bedfordshire Freemasons told us: 'Freemasonry in England is 300 years old this year, and charity is one of the foundations upon which Freemasonry is built. As part of our Tercentenary celebrations, we are giving an additional £3 million to local and national charities during 2017. This is in addition to the £30 million we annually give to charities and good causes. The £4,000 we gave to East Anglian Air Ambulance today is part of the £192,000 Freemasons recently gave to the 22 air ambulance and rescue services in England and Wales. This brings the total Freemasons have donated to air ambulance and rescue services in England and Wales since 2007 to £2.1 million.'

Amongst the Bedfordshire Freemasons was Wally Randal (pictured above holding his walking stick) a 101-year old Freemason from Leighton Buzzard. Wally, a former Desert Rat, a member of the Royal British Legion for over 60 years and the oldest poppy seller in England told us: 'A member of the air ambulance crew told me that the first helicopter flew in 1939 – some 78 years ago – and just one year before I joined the British Army to fight for King and country in the Second World War aged 24.'

Masonic Charitable Foundation donates £100,000 to East Africa food crisis appeal

Across Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia, over 20 million people are on the brink of starvation. The Masonic Charitable Foundation has been among the first to respond, making an emergency grant of £100,000 to Plan International.

Drought, disease, conflict and displacement in the region have led to the first declaration of famine anywhere in the world in over six years and the UN has warned that the world is now facing the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

Our £100,000 grant will help Plan International to provide lifesaving support to over 970,000 people in East Africa, focusing on supporting vulnerable children and their families. This donation will help them to distribute food packages, water purification and hygiene kits. They will also provide school meals to ensure children can resume their education, as well as ensuring vulnerable children are protected from violence and abuse.

Tanya Barron, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said: 'We’re enormously grateful to the Freemasons for their very generous grant. More than 800,000 children under five are severely malnourished. This grant will help us reach affected children and their families with urgent support.'

With predictions of further poor rainfall coupled with pockets of rising conflict, the situation is likely to deteriorate. Due to the scale of this disaster, swift humanitarian assistance is essential and the Masonic Charitable Foundation is committed to supporting communities who have been affected.

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation said: 'The crisis in East Africa is one of the worst we have seen in many years and funds are needed now to provide lifesaving support to those affected. The Masonic Charitable Foundation is proud to be one of the first organisations to support this urgent appeal by providing a £100,000 grant to Plan International on behalf of Freemasons across England and Wales.'

Plan International UK is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee, which this week launched an East Africa Crisis appeal. The DEC is made up of 13 leading aid agencies who together are responding to the food crisis in the region.

Tea for one

Up and down the country, Sunday tea parties offer companionship to elderly people who might otherwise face loneliness and isolation. Steven Short discovers how the Masonic Charitable Foundation is helping

Who did you have dinner with last night? Your partner? Friends? Work colleagues? Perhaps you ate dinner alone. If you did, imagine what it would be like to eat alone tonight and every night, or not to speak to another human being for weeks on end.

Sadly, this level of isolation has become normal for thousands of elderly people up and down the country. It is estimated that a third of people over the age of 70 eat alone every day, and that more than one million older people haven’t spoken to anyone for weeks.

‘It’s so easy for an elderly person to become isolated,’ says Suzan Hyland at Contact the Elderly. ‘If someone can’t walk to the shops for a chat, or can’t get to the door quickly enough when the postman or milkman rings, they can go for days without speaking to another human being.’

To help to improve the situation, the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) awarded Contact the Elderly £75,000 to enable it to provide more companionship to elderly and frail people aged 75 and over who live alone, something it has already been doing for more than 50 years.

The MCF grant will fund the role of a new national support officer, who will help to co-ordinate 700 of the 10,000 volunteers needed to organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties across the UK. These events provide a regular and vital friendship link for small groups of older and infirm people who live in isolation.

‘We currently have about 5,500 guests who we take out to a free tea every month,’ says Hyland. ‘But that is just the tip of the iceberg. We want to expand because we know the need is there. In most of our areas we have waiting lists of people wanting to join the groups.’

NOT ALONE

The grant will allow Contact the Elderly to grow the support it provides in difficult financial times with an increasing elderly population. Hyland, currently the charity’s only support officer working on a national level, highlights the reason for the heavy demand: ‘There’s a generation of elderly people who, because of the war and because of medical conditions associated with wartime and the period directly after, have ended up being alone.’

She explains that even if people do have family, relatives might only be able to visit two or three times a year. But living on one’s own needn’t mean always being alone, which is why the charity developed its tea party model.

On one Sunday of each month, a volunteer host invites a group of elderly people (typically aged 85-95) into their home for a free tea party. The same group meets 12 times a year – each time in a different home, with the host providing tea and refreshments from their own pocket.

GET TOGETHER

The parties offer guests not just tea, but also companionship. Organised by volunteers of all ages, they bring together people who may never otherwise have met, and help to foster fulfilling relationships.

‘It’s a great model because the older guests get a lot of things to look forward to throughout the year,’ says Hyland, who is currently responsible not just for supporting existing volunteers, but also for recruiting new ones. The model works well because each volunteer only has to host one party a year, which helps with retention – some volunteers have been with the charity for 40 years.

Erica, a volunteer from Surbiton, Surrey, says: ‘It’s rewarding because you get to know the older guests and talk to them about what they’ve been up to. Seeing how much they enjoy the parties and how much they look forward to them is wonderful.’

Summing up her first tea party, one guest said, ‘It’s so nice to have a chance to dress up and go somewhere. I can’t remember when I last had such a lovely time.’ For another guest, the events were a turning point: ‘I felt like I’d come out of a dark tunnel and into the light. Before I joined Contact the Elderly I thought my life had ended, and now it’s started again.’

Some guests have reconnected with people they used to know but had lost contact with. ‘We’ve had people who went to school together who haven’t seen each other for 40 or 50 years,’ says Hyland. Attendees regularly phone each other, and the more mobile members meet outside their Sunday calendar dates.

But there is still work to do. ‘It can be frustrating when there is a need. I look at an area sometimes and see the waiting list and think, “I will get round to that…” but it just takes so long,’ says Hyland. ‘My basic role is supporting existing groups. Opening new ones has, sadly, had to come second. Appointing a new officer will make those extra groups possible. Instead of thinking “we could have a group here, we could have a group there”, we’ll have the manpower to make it happen, which is fantastic.’

PRACTICAL SUPPORT

It is estimated that the new officer will support 55 groups across the country, giving some 450 guests something to look forward to each month. The MCF grant that is making this possible is not the first instance of the masonic charity supporting Contact the Elderly – some £100,000 has been donated since 2000.

‘Freemasons have always been active in the community and loneliness and isolation in old age are issues that they are keen to help with,’ says David Innes, MCF Chief Executive. ‘Contact the Elderly was an obvious choice for our funding.
The MCF is delighted to support the charity with a grant to help to grow the tea parties, which do so much to bring companionship to older people’s lives.’

That companionship is summed up perfectly by one happy tea party participant, who says that once a month she tells her walls, ‘I can’t speak to you today, I’ve got real people to talk to.’

The volunteer driving force

Contact the Elderly not only recruits hosts for its parties but also volunteer drivers, who transport the guests on the day.

‘I got involved three years ago as I wanted to do something worthwhile with my Sunday afternoons – and I’m particularly partial to homemade cakes,’ says Thomas, who currently drives guests to tea parties in Birmingham and – like all drivers – pays for the petrol himself.

‘The ladies I drive are all good fun and really appreciate our efforts, even though it’s only a few hours a month.’ Thomas is fascinated to hear all their stories about life in the early part of the 20th century and during the war. ‘At Christmas I drove us into the city centre after our tea and cakes to look at the Christmas lights, which they hadn’t seen for years – that quick 15-minute diversion made their month and it made my month making theirs!’

Wednesday, 08 March 2017 00:00

A chance to shine in a Special Olympics

Physical Impact

A Special Olympics initiative is offering people with profound learning difficulties the chance to take part in sporting activities. Peter Watts finds out how Freemasons are supporting the scheme

Niamh-Elizabeth Reilly recalls a particular moment from the training programme she organises for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties when a mother of one of the participants had become very emotional at an end-of-course Challenge Day.

‘The mother said her son was 33 years old and that she’d never had the chance to see him participate in anything, to achieve anything before,’ says Reilly. ‘She was overwhelmed by the support from the crowd, with everybody cheering him on and seeing how he relished that. He was doing something she didn’t know he was capable of – a grip-and-release ball task she’d never seen him do before. That’s the impact [the programme] can have.’

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) hopes to encourage more such moments through its award of a £60,000 grant to Special Olympics GB to expand the Motor Activity Training Programme (MATP), funding additional resources and training so it can reach several thousand people rather than a few hundred. The 12-week course is directed at adults and children who are unable to participate in regular Special Olympics sessions as their disabilities are so complex.

‘The course is targeted at people with profound and multiple learning difficulties,’ says Andrew Ross, Chairman of the MCF Charity Grants Committee. ‘Physical exercise makes us feel confident, healthier and more resilient, and this programme is for a group who would otherwise not have access to these benefits.’

What makes MATP unique is that it is open to adults and children who tend to have little involvement in any physical activity due to the huge levels of support their learning difficulties demand. ‘There is a great difficulty in communication and often there are associated health needs such as diabetes or epilepsy that are complex,’ says Reilly.

Taking place in centres and schools that already have the required equipment – toilets, hoists, changing beds – the training is geared towards improving motor skills, using sports-related activity as a lever towards gaining greater control of the body.

LIFE SKILLS

Reece Wallace, a 16-year-old with gross global developmental delay and epilepsy, who is visually impaired and unable to walk or communicate verbally, has been taking part in MATP courses since he was 11.

His mother, Melinda, explains how it helps: ‘The programme breaks down all the key skills in terms of standing, stepping in a walker, gripping, releasing. Reece is currently focused on pushing a disc down a slide to knock skittles over and this teaches him to place it on the slide and then let go with intention rather than just flinging it. These are life skills; they can benefit other things.’

Each course addresses upper body skills, lower body skills, greater motor skills and fine motor skills. Sessions are inspired by sports – from swimming to badminton – and adapted for the capability of the participant. Walking or wheelchair events can take place on a track or in water, while others encourage kicking, hitting or throwing balls, or striking pucks and shuttlecocks. Collectively, the activities can improve health and wellbeing, motor skills, social skills, physical fitness and functional ability.

The sessions not only help the participants, they also benefit parents, carers and society as a whole by allowing people with profound disabilities to engage with the outside world. ‘It’s a win-win situation,’ says Reilly. ‘It is about introducing people to the idea that there are people with complex needs out there. We are trying to provide meaningful opportunity and engagement for everybody.’

As life expectancy has improved, Reilly says that there are now more children with profound disabilities in Special Educational Needs schools. ‘There can be some discomfort and fear towards disability, and the best way to combat that is by engagement, so people learn that just because there is no verbal communication that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate in other ways.’

The MATP sessions have been running for several years and there is now a long waiting list. But the support from the MCF means that the number of adults and children benefiting from the programme over the next three years will rise from a few hundred to around 4,500.

The grant will be used to develop resources and train additional coaches, and help to create 60 new MATP groups in schools and community clubs and eight Youth Sport Trust schools, as well as Come and Try sessions.

‘We are creating resource cards so that teachers have all the information they need for the different elements of the course,’ says Reilly. ‘It’s a resource we will be able to use again and again. We will also be training more tutors – individuals who have experience of people with these conditions so they understand the complexity and are able to communicate with the participants, parents and carers.’

‘There can be some discomfort and fear towards disability, and the best way to combat that is by engagement’ Niamh-Elizabeth Reilly

BIG SMILES

For the participants, progress can be slow but the benefits are enormous. Each course ends with a Challenge Day, which is a fully branded Special Olympics event. ‘These individuals aren’t just improving their motor skills, they are also getting the chance to be Special Olympic athletes and showcase their skills at Challenge Days, complete with opening and closing ceremonies,’ says Reilly.

For children like Reece and their parents, these events are unique and unforgettable. ‘It’s lovely to get the children together in this great encouraging atmosphere, to see all these big smiles on their faces,’ says Reece’s mother Melinda, enthusiastically. ‘Everybody is clapping and cheering while they achieve their goals. There’s nothing else like that for them or for us.’

Moving the yardstick

A city farm in one of the UK’s most disadvantaged areas is giving young people new confidence. Matt Timms looks at how masonic funding is supporting its vision to transform lives

St Werburghs in Bristol was almost totally overrun with crime in the 1980s after floods forced residents to vacate their homes. Locals recall how the fields became a dumping ground and once-prize allotments grew wild and untamed. Determined to regain some semblance of togetherness, they put a request in to the council for the land. But it wasn’t until sheep were introduced that the community started to properly re-energise.

St Werburghs City Farm has now been improving prospects for people living in the area for 30 years. The two-acre smallholding, one-acre community garden, two-and-a-half-acre conservation site and 13 acres of allotments have become the beating heart of the community. A place that once looked beyond help is thriving and a £38,125 grant awarded by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) will allow the surrounding communities to grow still further.

Urban retreat

Situated in the Bristol ward of Ashley, alongside four others that are among the 10 per cent most disadvantaged in the UK, St Werburghs City Farm provides practical, outdoor and therapeutic opportunities for permanently excluded and disengaged young people.

‘Each year, we support hundreds of causes, including those that provide employment opportunities for young people who are not in education, employment or training,’ says Katrina Baker, Head of Charity Grants at the MCF. ‘We decided to support St Werburghs City Farm because it engages, equips and empowers young people with the confidence and capacity to transform their lives.’

According to Alex, a 17-year-old participant in the farm’s Work2Learn placement scheme, ‘If anyone is in Bristol and they’re having a tough time, they should come to St Werburghs.’ Alex is just one of an estimated 704 people aged 14-19 – most of whom are struggling in mainstream education – who will benefit from the support the farm provides over the next three years thanks to the MCF grant. ‘The people here are my second family,’ he says. ‘We feel equal.’

Now into his third year on the farm, Alex had considered becoming a chef, a train driver and even joining the army, but a love of the outdoors, together with his experiences at St Werburghs, opened his eyes to the joys of farming. ‘Sometimes you just get the feeling you’ll be good at a job,’ he says. His time at St Werburghs has not only given him vital experience, it’s also boosted his confidence.

The farm’s youth development manager, Anna Morrow, has seen Alex and countless others change for the better as a result of the youth programme. ‘When things fall apart, that one day out a week can make all the difference – enough for them to be able to cope,’ she says.

‘St Werburghs City Farm engages, equips and empowers young people with the confidence and capacity to transform their lives’ Katrina Baker

People power

Max, also 17, believes his time at St Werburghs has helped him in life: ‘Being here has shown me about teamwork. There will be some people you get on with, some you don’t, but that’s life and you have to accept that.’ For Max, interacting with people on the farm has exposed him to a world outside mainstream education and given him opportunities he otherwise might not have had. His mother has noticed a marked improvement in Max’s moods, and firmly believes he has benefited socially from having other adults to talk to.

Morrow recalls a 14-year-old young carer who used his placement to overcome problems at school, mostly to do with aggression. ‘He was doing everything at home: cooking, cleaning, taking the parent role,’ she says. ‘All that was taking its toll.’ Starting at just one morning a week, his experience at St Werburghs made such a difference that he ended up helping out three days a week and eventually went on to gain an apprenticeship in farming.

For young people living on the perimeters of society, schools are limited in how they can address complex personal issues, so having a place like the city farm can be a lifeline. ‘It’s all about relationships,’ says Beth Silvey, a youth worker at the farm. ‘Participants get to do things they’d never get to do anywhere else. And I think that builds trust. It’s a nurturing environment and they are very much part of the team. It’s a group activity that isn’t intense, so they talk to us. It’s like a family here.’

Growing a community

Personal development, self-esteem and support networks aside, an equally important aspect of the farm’s work is improved community cohesion, particularly in an area where so many young people live below the poverty line. More than half of children are living in income-deprived households in three areas within walking distance of the farm.

The thinking behind the project is clear: if you catch anxieties at an early stage then you’re able to address issues before they balloon out of control. ‘It’s really important,’ says Silvey, ‘it can tip the balance at a crucial time. And we wouldn’t be able to do that without the money from the Masonic Charitable Foundation.’

Thanks to the MCF grant and a new building, the farm has been able to extend all its work placements and start a new enterprise project. With the continued support of the MCF and the proud members of the community, St Werburghs City Farm has become an invaluable asset in bettering the situation facing young people in the area.

‘People come here because they’re accepted,’ says Max, who has himself been witness to some extraordinary stories. ‘The people are just nice; no one is bothered by difference.’ And in an area that continues to suffer from poverty, having a place that is very much loved and embraced by the community is crucial.

Published in Masonic Samaritan Fund

Refresh for Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral has received two grants totalling £12,500 from the Province of Yorkshire, West Riding, which will help to pay for the renewal of ancient flagstones.

The Dean of Ripon John Dobson received the two grants – one for £7,500 from West Riding Masonic Charities Limited, and a second of £5,000 from the Masonic Charitable Foundation. These were presented by David Pratt, PGM; Jack Pigott, Chairman of West Riding Masonic Charities; and Paul Clarke, APGM.

Tuesday, 07 March 2017 00:00

OBE for James Newman

James Newman, Deputy President and Chairman of the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), as well as a member of the Three Counties (No. 9278) and Old Wellingburian (No. 5570) lodges in the Province of Northamptonshire & Huntingdonshire, has been named in the New Year’s Honours list, having been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)

The citation reads: ‘For services to Business, the Economy and Charity in Yorkshire.’ James, a chartered accountant by profession, said, ‘Naturally, I am absolutely delighted to be honoured in this way and particularly pleased with the “charity” part as it reflects my work at the RMBI [Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution] and will assist in my work for the MCF going forward.’

Quarterly Communication

14 December 2016 
An address by VW Bro His Honour Judge Richard Hone, President, and David Innes, Chief Executive

Richard Hone: Pro Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and brethren, I am delighted to address Grand Lodge for the first time, as President of the Masonic Charitable Foundation, and I am very proud to be the first person to hold this position.

The launch of the Foundation marks a new era in the long and proud history of masonic charity that has been built on the increasing collaboration between the four charities over recent years.

Our new charity, which has been formed following the consolidation of the four central masonic charities, opened for business in April this year. The work necessary to establish the Foundation is now largely complete and it has been a significant undertaking to bring together four charities that have operated separately for many years, in some cases since the 18th century.

In recent times, the predecessor charities have supported 5,000 Freemasons and their family members each year, at an annual cost of around £15 million, and we anticipate operating on this scale, or hopefully higher, for the near future.

But behind these statistics, there are thousands of stories about Masonic families across England and Wales, whose lives have been blighted by unexpected distress. Each story is unique – some are affected by financial hardship, others by ill health, disability, or just plain old age! Some stories are brief, whilst others extend for many years.

But every story has three things in common. The first is that everyone involved is a Freemason, or his wife, widow, partner, child or even his grandchild. The second is that all of them have experienced some kind of challenge that has made their lives difficult. And the third is that we at the centre have supported them. It is this third commonality that, I believe, has been the main driver for establishing the Foundation and the area where the greatest benefit will be felt. With a single charity, it is now much easier to understand and access the support we provide.

An additional advantage, and one that is particularly beneficial to the reputation of Freemasonry as a whole, is that bringing the charities together has created a sizeable organisation within the UK charity sector. This will help us to raise our public profile and allow us to have a significant voice of influence within the sector.

Through the work of the previous charities, Freemasons provided support amounting to over £100 million in recent years to charities and medical research projects across England and Wales.

The Foundation is continuing this legacy and since our launch in April, 350 grants totalling over £3 million have been awarded to non-masonic causes, and more are planned before the end of the financial year.

Next year, in addition to our main grant-making programme, we will help celebrate the Tercentenary by awarding 300 additional grants totalling £3 million to local charities operating across England and Wales. Over the past two months Metropolitan and Provincial Grand Lodges have been nominating charities for these Community Awards. In January, we will be asking the selected charities to submit formal bids outlining the purpose and size of the grant they would like. Once the submissions have been reviewed and confirmed, we will be inviting everyone – both the masonic community and the general public – to vote for those charities that have been put forward.

Freemasonry will therefore be helping more charities than ever before during this important year and by involving the public in the voting process, many people will learn about the charitable nature of our fraternity.

Bringing the charities together has also allowed us to improve the way we communicate with those who make our work possible: Almoners, Charity Stewards and many others.

Last month, we hosted our first Provincial Grand Almoners’ Conference in Manchester under the MCF banner. One of the key themes was to provide guidance and training to those who are most closely involved in the application process. Similarly, we held a Festival Forum here at Freemasons’ Hall – a one-day conference, which brings together those running appeals so that they can share ideas, learn from one another and, as a result, raise more funds for our cause.

Whilst part of our yearly income comes from the Annual Contribution, the MCF, like its predecessor charities, will continue to rely on the festival system for the majority of its income. For the next few years, festivals are still in place for the separate charities and this year the Provinces of Norfolk, Cumberland and Westmorland, Cheshire, and Hampshire and Isle of Wight have all successfully concluded appeals, with the latter setting a new record of £7.7m raised. A remarkable achievement!

This year, the first appeals for the MCF have been launched in Essex – who I’m told have Hampshire’s total in their sights, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, with West Lancashire and Worcestershire to follow very soon in the New Year. 

We are extremely grateful to all our donors and fundraisers and I hope that, at the end of this short presentation, you will agree with me that these donations are being well spent and carefully managed.

Whilst it is my privilege to be able to represent the MCF as its President here today, I cannot claim credit for the work that has taken place to get the new charity off the ground. Led by my Deputy President and Chairman, the Trustees and, of course, the staff of the MCF have taken on much of that responsibility.

They have all worked very hard over the last year or more and have achieved an enormous amount, as you will hear from David Innes shortly.

Looking ahead, I believe that we have – to all intents and purposes – realised our vision of creating a single charity that can support the next generation of Freemasons.

To tell you more about Foundation’s work so far this year and our plans for the future, I’m delighted to hand over to its first Chief Executive, David Innes.

David Innes: Pro Grand Master, brethren all – good morning. It is a huge privilege for me, as the MCF’s first Chief Executive, to helping to shape the next chapter in the proud history of masonic charitable support and I’m really enjoying the challenge.

At the time of my previous address to Grand Lodge in March, Leicester City sat at the top of the Premier League, David Cameron had no intention of leaving No. 10 this year and Donald Trump seemed far from securing the Republican nomination, let alone winning the Presidential race! Clearly a lot can happen in 9 months and that has certainly been the case within the MCF.

Back in March, you may recall that I spoke about a three-phase consolidation process to create the Foundation during this year.

The first stage was ensuring that the required legal and governance foundations were in place to underpin a new, integrated organisation with the appropriate structure and systems for the future. I’m pleased to report that this phase, which also involved the transfer of all CMC staff to the MCF and RMBI staff to the new RMBI Care Co, was completed successfully on 1 April.

The second phase, which took place during the summer months, was the actual reorganisation itself and the physical relocation of staff into their new teams, albeit in temporary locations. Again, this has been completed successfully and all staff are now in their new posts with new contracts.

The final phase is still ongoing and involves a period of bedding in, during which the policies and procedures of the MCF are being finalised and the necessary systems needed to run the charity are becoming fully operational, such as our new grant-management software. We have also undertaken a major job evaluation exercise to ensure that every employee, irrespective of their former charity, is paid on a fair and equal basis, and that salaries are set in line with the sector.

I am delighted with the way all our staff have approached this potentially unsettling process. They quickly grasped the concept of what we were trying to achieve, and have willingly embraced new ways of working. Several members of the team have worked for the charities for over 20 years and many more in excess of 10 years, and I’m pleased that we have been able to retain so much experience and expertise as the new organisation takes shape. The bottom line is that they have been fantastic!

From my own perspective, I handed over responsibility for RMBI Care Co to the new Managing Director, Mark Lloyd, in October. Since then, I have been able to focus fully on the MCF. I have formed a Senior Leadership Team comprising directors and heads of department which meets monthly to assist me in running the charity. The majority of the day-to-day management for grant-making and fundraising lies in the very capable hands of Les Hutchinson, our Chief Operating Officer.

We have recently appointed our first Finance Director, Charles Angus, who brings a great deal of experience and is settling in very well. Charles has taken over from our Interim FD Chris Head and, Pro Grand Master, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for all that he has done to help get the MCF up-and-running during the past 10 months.

The finance function was undoubtedly the most complex to integrate and, together with the Finance Committee, chaired by Mike Heenan, the team has put in a huge amount of work to create a unified accounting system that is both fit for purpose and statutorily compliant.

The only major element of phase three outstanding is the reconfiguration of our office accommodation, most of which is two storeys directly below us. During this two month project, which began on Monday, we have set up temporary office accommodation in the Gallery Suite on the Ground Floor of Freemasons’ Hall, but plan to move back downstairs in early February.

The refit will further remove barriers – both physical and psychological – and enable the staff to work together far more efficiently within a shared culture and working environment. It has also served as an excellent spring-cleaning exercise!

At the current time, the Trustees and staff are working hard to ensure that everyone is aware of the changes that have taken place, and to firmly entrench the single charity concept and our new brand into the consciousness of the Craft.

Many visits have been made to Provinces by our Trustees and senior management to spread the word, and we are extremely grateful to all those PGMs who have given us the opportunity to speak in their Provinces.

All of us involved in the consolidation process have stressed that there should be no adverse effect on the charitable services we provide to those in need. As far as we are aware, that has been the case. Indeed, following our launch, enquires for support have increased with over 1,200 received within the last three months alone.

Looking to the future, the Foundation will continue to provide its wide range of grants for Freemasons and their families experiencing a financial, health or family need as we have always done. But having a single charity with broad objects provides us with opportunities that go far beyond just financial grants. We now have the chance to adapt our charity to be more responsive and to offer new services to meet the needs of the masonic community, now and in the future.

Whilst the Craft will spend much of next year celebrating the remarkable milestone of the Tercentenary, our thoughts are already turning to the longer-term – as we look to build a new charity for a new generation.

Now that the Trustee Board and the Committees that serve it are up and running and working well, over the next few months they will be looking to formulate a forward-looking strategy for the Foundation that will dictate the direction of travel during the next five years.

We are keeping a very open mind about what we could do better to support those in need and are willing to explore all manner of proposals, however radical they may appear.

I would like to reassure you that the views of the Craft will be sought and represented in our discussions. Our first members’ meeting and AGM takes place later today, at which two nominated members from each Province and London will be provided with an update about our work, and the opportunity to comment and question our activities. We are looking forward to welcoming the Deputy Grand Master.

We plan to share an overview of our strategy with the Craft towards the middle of next year and this should provide you with a sense of what the Foundation will look like in the future.

For now though, and with only the final few weeks of the year remaining, I am delighted with where we are and am confident that your charity is well placed for the future.

Brethren, on behalf of everyone at the Masonic Charitable Foundation, I wish you a happy Christmas and thank you for all that you are doing to support our work.

Published in Speeches
Monday, 12 December 2016 13:01

Giving a voice

Giving a voice

The Choir with No Name puts on weekly singing groups and meals for the UK’s homeless and socially excluded. Emilee Tombs went along to a rehearsal to find out how the Masonic Charitable Foundation is helping

It’s a muggy Monday evening in London, and a group has started to gather on the steps of the Only Connect Theatre in Kings Cross. Some are old, some young, some large, some small, but all are chatting animatedly, waiting for the heavy metal doors to open. This is the weekly gathering of the Choir with No Name (CWNN), a charity set up in 2008 to offer weekly singing classes and dinner to the homeless and vulnerably housed. They’re anxious to get inside and start singing.

‘I first came to the choir because I needed something positive to concentrate on,’ says Stef, a 41-year-old ex drug addict who spent a lot of his young adult life homeless or in and out of institutions. ‘When I was 19, I was living on the streets of Piccadilly Circus and I became addicted to drugs. To fund my addiction, I shoplifted and worked as a prostitute. It was only when I came to choir and had something to get well for that I was able to successfully go to rehab and get myself clean.’

Now a freelance florist, Stef is just one of the success stories present at the singing session, with many other choir members eager to discuss not only their hardships but also their achievements, which they directly attribute to the weekly CWNN gatherings. At 6pm on the dot the doors swing open and the group filters downstairs to grab cups of tea and biscuits, passed out by sociable volunteers.

On a level

There’s no audition to join CWNN, no fees, and no obligation to attend every week. The initiative has proven popular and there are now four choirs in the UK: two in London, one in Birmingham and one in Liverpool. ‘Everyone here has different experiences,’ says Sascha, a flame-red-haired woman who is attending choir for the first time tonight. ‘There’s fellowship and sharing and community here that I’d been missing in my life. It’s unimaginably important to have groups like this.’

After spending 25 years working as a teacher in international schools in Japan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Romania, Sascha returned to the UK to find herself homeless, and is currently living on friends’ couches while she tries to establish a life for herself in London again.

Vince, a long-standing member and Sascha’s friend, interrupts. ‘With some groups you don’t fit in,’ he says, ‘but everybody fits in here.’ Sascha agrees: ‘Exactly. Choir is kind of a leveller.’

‘There’s fellowship and sharing and community here that I’d been missing in my life. It’s unimaginably important.’ Sascha

Reducing isolation

For the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), CWNN is more than just a singing group. ‘The choir is about building people’s confidence and their social skills, as well as teaching them to be tolerant of others,’ says Caroline McHale, Senior Grants Officer at the MCF. ‘The beneficiaries are people who have been excluded from society in some way, so teamwork like this, which aims to reduce their isolation, is extremely important. The choir is the conduit, but for the members it’s so much more than that.’

After reviewing the choir’s application, the MCF donated £5,000 to help towards its running costs. ‘The fact that it runs workshops in hostels and day centres as well as the weekly choir, and was able to help 500 vulnerable adults last year, was important for us,’ says McHale.

It’s show time and the choir makes its way upstairs to a towering white room with wooden floors. Wrought-iron balustrades above are festooned with lights and there’s a stage at one end and a piano at the other. After strict instructions to not talk over each other from choir master Liz, the group gets into the warm-up exercises, sticking out tongues and pulling faces at each other, which elicits a belly-shaking laugh from the back of the room. ‘I’ve missed that laugh, Kevin,’ Liz calls to the black cap of a doubled-over figure in the third row. Kevin pulls himself together enough to join in again, grinning widely.

Breaking out

After learning a verse and chorus from Our House by Madness and David Bowie’s Life on Mars, we head back downstairs for vegetable fajitas in the break-out room. One of the choir ambassadors David notes that for some this might be the only meal they’ll get all week.

In 1993 a car accident left David with a severe brain injury, and singing in the choir became an integral part of his recovery. Like a number of the members he’s not currently homeless, but has experienced it to a degree in his life, and CWNN has provided him with help and support to find accommodation. ‘There was a whole lot of things I did to help me to be okay in mind and body again after the accident. When everything else ended or didn’t go well the choir was my constant.’

Having joined in 2010, David is one of the longest-standing members, and his role as ambassador sees him promoting the choir and helping to organise events, such as the upcoming Christmas concert at Shoreditch Town Hall. ‘Choir has done so much for me, and for everyone here,’ he says, looking to Stef, who is also an ambassador, for assurance.

Stef backs him up wholeheartedly. ‘Whether it’s the social interaction you enjoy or just popping in for a decent meal, you’ll instantly feel really comfortable,’ he says. ‘I’ve never felt so supported.’

FIND OUT MORE To read about the Choir with No Name, go to www.choirwithnoname.org 

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