RMTGB honours founder Ruspini
On 5 March, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) held a church service to dedicate a memorial tablet in honour of its founder, Chevalier Bartholomew Ruspini, at his burial place, St James’s Church, Piccadilly. The service was attended by more than 100 people, including current and former trustees, staff from the masonic charities, and staff and pupils from the Royal Masonic School (RMS), established by Ruspini in 1788.
David Williamson – at his final formal engagement as Assistant Grand Master – delivered the first of two readings, the other being read by RMS Headmistress Diana Rose. The main address was delivered by RMTGB President Mike Woodcock, who spoke about the world in which Ruspini lived and his pioneering contributions to dentistry and philanthropy.
Letters to the editor - No. 26 Summer 2014
While I was at the University of Surrey I spent a year working as an intern at publishing companies in London. It was thanks to the Freemasons and to Freemasonry Today that this was possible. My ambition is to work in the field of publishing, but as almost all publishing houses are in London and I live in Dorset, I was becoming despondent.
I knew I could not afford to take up offers of unpaid internships in London, but then my Grandad read, in his Freemasonry Today magazine, an article about Ruspini House and about the help given to the children and grandchildren of Freemasons.
I was given a grant and accommodation in Ruspini House several times during that year whilst completing internships at different publishing companies.
I was so grateful for the help of the Freemasons and went on to complete my course and gain a BA Hons in English Literature. How surprised and delighted I was to be given my degree by HRH The Duke of Kent, who I know is also Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England. So, thank you Grandad and Freemasons everywhere.
The RMTGB’s Ruspini House in central London provides accommodation for students
TalentAid celebrates first Olympian
Earlier this year, the impact of the RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme was demonstrated when Lloyd Jones – a former beneficiary – took part in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mixed ice dancing with his partner Pernelle Carron.
Lloyd has been ice skating since the age of five. During the first few years he had weekly coaching sessions, and by age nine he was skating six days a week and competing – and winning – nationwide.
At junior level, it became clear that Lloyd could develop his talent into a successful career; indeed, he was compared to Christopher Dean and received praise from leading figures in skating such as Robin Cousins, now a judge on ITV’s Dancing on Ice. At the age of sixteen, Lloyd took the decision to leave school and concentrate on his ice-dancing career.
His family were keen to support him, but the costs of training, equipment and travel began to increase. His grandfather, a Freemason, provided some assistance and Lloyd received limited funding from various sports and skating organisations, but it was not enough to cover his essential costs.
Lloyd began receiving support from the RMTGB in 2006, and for four years he received assistance towards coaching, skates, clothing and travel to ensure he could attend competitions and continue his career development. Once an established professional, Lloyd moved to France to partner with Pernelle and within a few years realised one of his ambitions by participating in Sochi. Lloyd said,
‘I want to thank the Trust for the support I received when I was younger. It really helped me achieve my dream of competing at the Olympic Games.’
During the past twelve years, the financial support the RMTGB has provided to young people with career ambitions in sport, music or the performing arts has enabled many to realise their potential.
All applicants enter a competitive process and undergo a financial test, with around fifty receiving support each year. Successful applicants can expect to receive contributions towards the cost of equipment, travel or coaching expenses.
For more details, go to www.rmtgb.org/talentaid
Children love the school holidays, but for many families the long summer break can be a financial struggle. That’s why, each summer, the RMTGB provides grants of up to £175 to children from masonic families with particularly low incomes.
On average, around two hundred children under the care of the RMTGB receive a summer grant to help their family pay for essential costs – which often increase during the holiday months – and to provide them with the opportunity to enjoy a few days out together.
The grants may be small but they make a big difference to the well-being of the children supported by the RMTGB, many of whom have experienced tragedy and distress in their early years.
Back to life
When illness or financial problems strike, pride can inhibit some masons from asking for support. Tabby Kinder finds out how Freemasonry Cares is ensuring masons and their dependants are helped quickly, simply and in confidence
With a flurry of winter coats and woollen gloves, David Blunt and his wife wrap up against the chilly January day. David positions himself onto a shiny electric scooter – a vehicle that, for him, makes leaving the house possible. The couple are beginning the trip to their nearby hospital in Rugby for a routine check-up.
It’s a journey they have made a couple of times a month since an illness left David with severe disabilities almost five years ago.
For David, acknowledging that he needed support in the form of the scooter was a challenge that took a while to overcome. ‘When I first came out of hospital I just didn’t admit my disabilities,’ he says. ‘I struggled for months before I admitted defeat and asked for some help.’ According to Warwickshire Assistant Provincial Grand Master Trevor Sturt, David’s situation is by no means unique: ‘His case is a classic example and one that was likely to have slipped through the net had Freemasonry Cares not existed.’
Freemasonry Cares is a joint initiative between the four national masonic charities – The Freemasons’ Grand Charity, the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution (RMBI) and the Masonic Samaritan Fund (MSF) – to provide charitable support, financial and otherwise, to masons and their families.
While this support has always been available, a need was recognised at the heart of the organisation to make assistance more accessible, both to those who aren’t sure if they are eligible for help, and to those who are embarrassed to even ask for it. So far, it’s proving a huge success in getting people like David vitally important support.
David’s old scooter, gifted to him several years ago by the son of an old friend, urgently needed replacing, and after speaking to his lodge Almoner in the autumn of 2013, he was directed to the Freemasonry Cares hotline. ‘The MSF was then able to pick up his case, assess his needs and grant him the new mobile scooter he’s using today,’ Trevor says.
In the course of just a few months, the MSF then went on to replace David’s bath with an accessible shower unit, and also granted his wife an adjustable chair, easing the problems she has with her own mobility. ‘Accepting help through Freemasonry Cares was a psychological step for me, as well as a financial and physical one,’ says David. ‘My wife’s quality of life has been greatly improved by the support, particularly for her sanity now I am able to get out of the house. The scooter gives me the freedom to go out, get to appointments and meet people almost every day of the week.’
‘People can just call one number... It’s the simple approach that encourages people to understand there’s no harm in asking for help.’ Jess Grant
David’s story highlights the importance of not just communicating the support available to masons but also streamlining how enquiries are handled by the masonic charities. ‘The process is a lot more simple than it used to be,’ says Jess Grant, one of the core team of just three people responsible for planning and administering the initiative. ‘Now, people aren’t put off by wondering what charity is right for them or if they would even qualify, because they can just call one number and have instant access to everything on offer. It’s the simple approach that encourages people to understand there’s no harm in asking for help.’
Jess attributes the success of Freemasonry Cares so far to the confidential nature of the scheme that allows masons, their family members and widows to ask for support anonymously if they so choose – and many do. ‘It’s a voice on the end of the phone rather than a familiar person who they might have known for thirty years,’ says Jess. ‘We wanted to remove any obstacle that might stop someone from making that initial approach.’
For Jess, Freemasonry Cares is definitely working:
‘We get calls from people who have been gearing themselves up for some time to phone, especially in the cases of widows who may feel they’re doing their late husband a disservice by admitting to not being able to cope. But the calls are coming in greater numbers and the charities are supporting more people than ever.’
The enquiry level in David’s Province of Warwickshire is now running at around fifteen calls per month – three times higher than the number of calls made to the charities in the previous year. ‘We’ve had eighty-one enquiries processed in this Province this year, which is a ten-fold increase in assistance given by the charities to our members, already proving that Freemasonry Cares is encouraging the people who need help to ask for it,’ says Trevor.
Paul, a mason in Surrey (whose name has been changed by request), admits straightaway that he would not have asked for support unless he was able to do so privately. ‘When you have cancer it takes over your whole life and everyone you meet just wants to talk about it,’ he says. ‘The lodge is one of the few places I can go where nobody really knows my situation; it’s a relief.’
Easing the strain
Paul first discovered he had metastasized bowel cancer four years ago, adding a huge burden to his family responsibilities of being a single father to his seven-year-old daughter and the sole carer of his elderly mother.
‘It was alright at first, the government provided some basic support and the NHS have been able to manage my cancer,’ he says. ‘It’s good in the most important way, because I’m still alive, but ongoing treatment has really stretched me financially as I’m not able to work and my savings have completely disappeared.’
Just weeks after being encouraged by his lodge Almoner to put in a phone call to Freemasonry Cares, the Grand Charity was able to give Paul a £5,000 lump sum towards his general living costs. ‘I was resistant at first but the application process was simple. Julia Young from the RMTGB welfare team came round and we spoke for over an hour. I had been living on the edge of what I could afford every month, but this grant means I have a buffer so I can worry a little less about my outgoings and a little more about myself and my family.’
The RMTGB was able to provide Paul with a termly payment of £600 to pay for music lessons, clothes, school trips and holidays for his young daughter. ‘I was amazed and so grateful, it was more than I ever expected to receive, and being able to pay for my daughter’s Christmas presents without worrying was such a relief,’ says Paul. ‘Julia provided a friendly face without being someone I would need to see every day and that was important to me – we’re a bit resistant, us blokes! But as soon as I’d made the first contact, the whole thing became a little less daunting.’
‘My advice to someone reading this would be to just pick up the phone,’ says Jess, explaining that there is no such thing as an insignificant grant. ‘Somebody may call us up and need major heart surgery that costs £50,000, whereas someone else may call and say they need a mobility aid to get down the driveway. Both of these things can have a huge impact on someone’s quality of life, and we always strive to provide individual support in a reassuring and confidential manner.’
Surrey rank and file
Bob Jenkinson, Provincial Grand Almoner for Surrey, is a huge advocate of the Freemasonry Cares initiative and wants more people to receive the help they need. ‘We grabbed the opportunity to offer Freemasonry Cares to the brethren in Surrey because we recognised the same problems as The Freemasons’ Grand Charity – that the rank and file mason often doesn’t have a clue what any of the charities are about and even less idea of how to get support from them,’ he says.
Since adopting Freemasonry Cares and promoting it in meetings and literature across the Province, Surrey has seen the number of enquiries made to the charities increase by around twenty per cent on the previous year. ‘We’ve had about fifty enquiries to the Freemasonry Cares hotline this quarter, and I’m personally getting twice as many calls from people asking me to initiate contact for them, so the push has really generated an understanding of what the masonic charities are there to do,’ says Bob. Masons in Surrey have received almost £1 million in grants since the launch of the initiative in the area a year ago – up £160,000 on the previous year.
Making an impact
The RMTGB has given a grant to Helping Hands, which coordinates local volunteers to improve the quality of life for sick children
As part of its Stepping Stones scheme, the RMTGB awarded a £30,000 grant to Helping Hands, a scheme established by the charity WellChild in 2006 to provide practical support to severely sick children and their families. The children supported by the scheme have a range of conditions such as learning difficulties, mobility problems or visual or hearing impairments.
Many family homes are unsuitable or unsafe for children with such conditions. Four-year-old Mustafa was born with a diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in his heart, an underdeveloped lung and epilepsy. He needs twenty-four-hour oxygen therapy to help him breathe and has serious learning disabilities. He is constantly seeking sensory stimulation, but his garden had many trip hazards and it wasn’t safe for him to play outside with his family.
WellChild’s Helping Hands scheme aims to give sick children like Mustafa the opportunity of a better childhood by coordinating teams of local volunteers to carry out small home improvement projects. Mustafa’s garden was transformed in just one day as volunteers from a local business installed a new artificial lawn, a large play mirror, colourful murals, and a specialist swing and support seat. These small improvements will have a dramatic and lasting impact on Mustafa’s childhood and daily life.
The Helping Hands scheme relies on donations and volunteers giving their time. To lend your support, go to www.wellchild.org.uk
Hertfordshire launches appeal
The Province of Hertfordshire has launched its 2019 Festival Appeal for the RMTGB at a series of dedicated events. The five-year appeal will see the Province’s five thousand six hundred Freemasons aim towards a final Festival target of £3 million.
The donations will be used to fund the RMTGB’s core work of supporting around two thousand children and young people from masonic families in financial hardship each year, in addition to grants made through its Stepping Stones scheme. In Hertfordshire alone, more than one hundred and seventy children have been supported during the past five years.
Launching the appeal, Provincial Grand Master Paul Gower said: ‘I hope that the Freemasons of “Happy Hertfordshire” will produce a sum worthy of our Province, and so enable the RMTGB to continue its work of relieving hardship in the families of our less fortunate brethren.’
For more information about the 2019 Festival Appeal, go to www.rmtgb.org
Nice footwork in Derbyshire
Derbyshire masons from Morcar Lodge, No. 8458, which meets at Alfreton, and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys have helped a young woman achieve her ambition in the dancing world.
Joanne Howarth, granddaughter of widow Mavis Howarth, whose late husband Jerry was a lodge member, was able to complete a three-year residential course at the world-famous Brian Rogers Performers College in London.
Now principal of the JL Dance Academy in Ripley, Joanne puts her success down to the eight years she was supported by Freemasonry.
Regency celebrations honour Ruspini: The Royal Masonic School for Girls held a Regency day in honour of Chevalier Ruspini, the founder of the school and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB)
The organisations date back to 1788, when Ruspini established a small orphanage school in London, supporting just 15 girls. Today, his legacy continues with a flourishing independent school and a national masonic charity, which last year supported more than 12,000 children and young people.
The 225th anniversary celebrations saw staff and pupils dress up in Regency-style clothing, enjoy an 18th-century lunch menu and take part in period activities. RMTGB staff joined in the festivities.
To find out more about the work of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys visit their website
Maddie’s story: a moving new video highlights the work of the RMTGB
The Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys has produced its first video case study, ‘Maddie’s story’, to highlight its work. Each year the RMTGB supports around two thousand children and young people from masonic families. Each of these children has experienced a life-changing event that has led to financial hardship for their family. This new video features Nottinghamshire Freemason Howard Mace and his wife Alex, who explain the difference that the RMTGB’s support has made to their seven-year-old daughter, Maddie.
In the video, Howard describes being diagnosed with kidney cancer and secondary cancer of the spine, a condition that means that he is unable to work. Alex goes on to explain how the RMTGB has helped by providing a regular maintenance allowance, which enables them to give Maddie the essential items that she needs.
RMTGB Chief Executive Les Hutchinson said, ‘This video has been a great success, really demonstrating the value of our work. I encourage all Freemasons and their families to visit our website and watch it.’
More than one thousand people viewed the video within the first week of its release at www.rmtgb.org/maddie and the RMTGB has plans to produce further videos.
Enthusiasm and commitment in Monmouthshire
In September, Monmouthshire Freemasons celebrated the conclusion of their 2013 Festival Appeal and a magnificent total of £1,219,414 for the RMTGB.
The Provincial Grand Master and Festival President, the Rev Malcolm Lane of the Welsh Province, launched the appeal just over five years ago. Malcolm, who also serves as a trustee of the RMTGB, congratulated his Province for their generosity and hard work. ‘I commend to you all the work of the RMTGB and in doing so I express on behalf of the Province my grateful thanks, bless you for your enthusiasm and commitment.’
After the total sum was revealed by RMTGB Chief Executive Les Hutchinson, the charity’s President Mike Woodcock expressed his heartfelt thanks to the one thousand three hundred members of the Province and their families during a passionate address in which he recalled his own childhood holidays in Monmouthshire.
The brethren of Monmouthshire and their families raised £1,002,013 towards the appeal – a remarkable achievement for a Province of only thirty lodges. Metropolitan Grand Lodge and other Provinces and Districts added a further £200,000.
The Festival event, held at the Celtic Manor Resort, was attended by Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes. More than four hundred guests enjoyed an evening of entertainment including Welsh harpist Sian Williams, the Only Boys Aloud choir (finalists of Britain’s Got Talent), Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir and soloist Robert Knight. Also in attendance was David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth.
‘Bless you for your enthusiasm and commitment.’ Rev Malcolm Lane