Celebrating 300 years

Lincolnshire makes a difference

Freemasons in Lincolnshire have raised £2,762,932 for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), which was announced at an event attended by more than 960 masons and their partners to mark the conclusion of their 2014 Festival Appeal. The Province has also donated a further £25,000 to Lifelites.

Provincial Grand Master Graham Ives, who serves on the RMTGB’s council, said, ‘The Trust is a modern, vibrant and forward-looking charity. It has been a great privilege for us in Lincolnshire to support such a worthwhile cause.’ RMTGB President Mike Woodcock added, ‘Thank you for everything you have done during this appeal. Your contribution will make such a difference to the lives of so many children.’

Friday, 06 March 2015 00:00

Creating a new charity for Freemasonry

Helping together

In an open letter, the presidents and chief executives of the four masonic charities explain how combining their efforts under a single entity will enable better support for masons, their families and the wider community

‘The future of the charities is fundamental to the existence and success of Freemasonry,’ commented then Assistant Grand Master Lord Cornwallis following the 1973 Bagnall Report into the work of masonic charity. 

Cornwallis’ statement remains as true today as it did then, and it has been firmly in the minds of the presidents, trustees and chief executives of the four central masonic charities as they have undertaken a further major review. 

The charities each offer a specific area of support to Freemasons and their families. The Freemasons’ Grand Charity supports Freemasons and their dependants in financial need; the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys helps children and young people from masonic families in distress; the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution provides residential care; and the Masonic Samaritan Fund offers access to a range of health-related services.

Change and cooperation

Throughout their long history, the charities have supported hundreds of thousands of Freemasons and their families. They have also demonstrated their willingness to embrace change as both society and Freemasonry have evolved. 

Since co-locating to Freemasons’ Hall, the divisions between the four charities have lessened. However, the presidents remain focused on considering a more effective way of providing the best possible support to the Craft. 

Following an extensive review, the presidents are proposing that all charitable activities should be consolidated to form a new, single charity to support Freemasons, their families and the wider community. 

The charities have a positive record of working closely together. They have already aligned some of their charitable support activities, and created a unified advice and support team to assist those seeking help. The amalgamation of many administrative functions has also reduced duplication, creating a more streamlined service for beneficiaries and donors without compromising their full range of support. 

Despite increased cooperation and cross-charity initiatives such as Freemasonry Cares, the continuing existence of four separate organisations – each with its own distinct processes for providing support – has hindered the development of a truly joined-up and consistent approach. This causes problems for those who need to apply to more than one charity, as they may be required to meet differing criteria and receive separate payments for each type of support. 

The presidents’ recommendation for a single charity will further reduce duplication and move towards the provision of a ‘whole-family, cradle-to-grave’ approach. Freemasons and their families will continue to benefit from the current full range of assistance through a simpler and more readily accessible process. 

The presidents and trustees are committed to maintaining the valuable contribution that the charities make to the wider community. Collectively, millions of pounds are awarded each year to a huge range of local, national and international causes, yet masonic generosity remains a largely untold story. Combining the non-masonic activities of the charities would enable a more effective way of demonstrating that Freemasons care about the wider world.

Fundraising impact

The presidents also considered the impact that a single charity would have on fundraising. Through successive generations, support has been received from masonic donors, Festival Appeals and in many other ways, such as legacies. The charities continue to rely on the generosity of Freemasons for the majority of their income and are extremely grateful for every donation. 

Maintaining four separate charities, however, means that funds are ring-fenced for individual charitable purposes. For example, funds raised for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys can only be used to support children and young people. A single charity with a combined, wider remit could channel support to where it is most needed. 

The recommendations confirm that Festival Appeals will continue to be the principal mechanism for raising funds. Appeals concluding up to and including 2021 will continue to benefit the existing charities. Festivals concluding from 2022 onwards will benefit the new single charity and its wider remit. 

As Festival Appeals are typically held for five years, a period of transition will be necessary with appeals for the existing charities and the new charity running simultaneously. Donors can be reassured that all donations to the existing charities will continue to be used solely for the purpose for which they were originally given. 

As reported by the Pro Grand Master at the Quarterly Communication in December 2014, the Grand Master and Provincial Grand Masters have received a comprehensive briefing on the review. The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal. The next step is for each charity to invite their members to consider the proposals. 

Over the coming months, each of the charities will make its own plans to ensure that its members are fully consulted on the proposals. The presidents and trustees hope that members of their charities will share the enthusiasm for the proposed way forward. 

The presidents are determined to retain the involvement of members of the Craft in governance arrangements. The final membership structure is yet to be confirmed, but the vision includes an effective means for the Craft to play a part in the future of the charity. 

Should the proposals be approved, it is envisaged that the new charity will become operational during 2016, beginning a new chapter in the long and proud history of masonic charity. 

The proposals: a singular vision

· The presidents of the central masonic charities have recommended that the charities be consolidated into a new, single organisation. 

· The new charity will provide the full range of support currently available to Freemasons and their families. 

· A new name (yet to be determined) will be given to the consolidated charity, which will support both masonic and non-masonic giving. 

· The new charity will become operational in 2016. 

· All Festivals concluding in 2022 and beyond will support the new charity, with existing Festival Appeals continuing as planned. 

· A single president, trustee board, chief executive and staff will administer the new charity, with members of the Craft included in its governance.

‘Throughout their long history, the charities have demonstrated their willingness to embrace change as both society and Freemasonry have evolved.’

Letters to the Editor - No. 30 Summer 2015

Charitable support

Sir,

I found the initiative [the proposal of a single masonic charity] of the presidents and chief executives of our four charities very encouraging. As a fumbling almoner, I have struggled from time to time deciding as to where I should be directing my enquiries. I have always found the staff very helpful, but I am sure that an efficient single enquiry channel must be of benefit, not only to us, but to the cause of efficiency within the organisation.

We all love our charities and will, I am sure, continue to support them in whatever form they eventually finish up, but times change and we have to change with them. 

I wish the charities a happy and successful outcome to their deliberations.

Peter Dodd, Old Epsomian Lodge, No. 3561, London

Published in Freemasonry Cares

Forward with focus

As the Membership Focus Group gathers opinions about the future of Freemasonry and proposals circulate about the combination of the four masonic charities, Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes looks ahead

Over the past forty-odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on knowing as much as possible about our membership, and what we can do to stabilise numbers and increasingly attract high-quality members.

The Membership Focus Group (MFG) has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval – all vital to the success of any organisation. 

The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months that will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that more than 7,400 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it is so often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone. One such idea came from a chance comment from a Deputy Provincial Grand Master about the word ‘recruitment’ having connotations of press-ganging into the services. Rather than talking about recruiting new members, why not think about ‘attracting’ them? This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.

The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this: I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded with emails, so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

Modernising the Charities

Another area in which there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, at that time myself but soon to be Jonathan Spence, who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in Freemasons’ Hall in London.

The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the charity presidents and their chief executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the charities for many years to come. 

I am pleased to announce that the Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnall Report of forty-one years ago.

The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main charities into a new overarching charity, managed by a single board of trustees under a single chief executive officer, with a single team of staff. Further details will be made available via the individual charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today. 

At the Annual General Meeting of the Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of the Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members’ meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole-family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be more appropriate for the twenty-first century. 

‘Some ideas may appear trivial, but it is often something apparently trivial that introduces a debate that widens and becomes a cornerstone.’ 

Published in UGLE
Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:26

Continuous Giving scheme huge success in Durham

As the Province of Durham gears up for the launch of their next Festival, starting in 2016 in aid of the Royal Masonic Trust for Boys and Girls, it has been extremely encouraging that their Continuous Giving has been an enormous success

Provincial Grand Master for Durham, Eric Heaviside, has always been a champion of the Continuous Giving scheme and his now famous saying of 'The dripping tap will eventually fill the bath' is known Province-wide!

It was therefore with immense pride that Durham were able to invite President of the RMTGB, Mike Woodcock and Chief Executive Les Hutchinson to their Annual Promotions Meeting at Rainton Meadows Arena in November to present them with a cheque for £500,000.

The cheque was presented during the meeting after the PGM had delivered his Christmas Address and after receiving the donation Mike and Les took to the stage to thank the brethren for their fantastic generosity, explain in more depth about the fabulous work the RMTGB carries out and deliver a small talk on the history of masonic charity. Mike ended with the famous quote 'No man stands as tall as when he is stooped to help a child' and the 500 brethren present showed their appreciation with a rapturous applause.

With over 12 months until Durham officially enters Festival the brethren of the Province have given themselves every chance of making a huge difference to this most worthy cause, may the dripping tap continue till that bath overflows!

State of independence

Life-limited and disabled children are exploring the world in new ways thanks to cutting-edge technology provided by Lifelites. Imogen Beecroft talks to Chief Executive Simone Enefer-Doy about its work and masonic origins

When Daniel was diagnosed with a terminal illness, he told his carers that he ‘couldn’t do anything’. His condition had deteriorated so much that when he entered Richard House Children’s Hospice in London he was able to move just one arm. But one carer thought differently, recognising that if Daniel could move one arm, he could probably hold a video camera. 

So the hospice developed a film club – a place where children could use technology specifically adapted for their needs to make films and animations. 

Richard House now hosts its own Oscars-inspired ceremony every year. Parents come and watch as each child receives an award for their cinematographic efforts. But the technology doesn’t come cheap, and it’s only thanks to the work of the staff at the children’s charity Lifelites, led by Simone Enefer-Doy, that this was possible. 

Working with children’s hospices across the UK and Ireland, Lifelites provides specialised technology to terminally ill children, many of whom have no other form of entertainment or communication. ‘When you have a disability you have to find different ways of doing things, but you don’t have to be excluded from activities. With technology we can explore those ways,’ says Enefer-Doy.

Lifelites began in 1998 as part of a Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB) millennium initiative. Les Hutchinson, Chief Executive of the RMTGB, visited seventeen children’s hospices to learn what their needs were. ‘We wanted to support them by harnessing technology that could be used by kids with very significant disabilities, who could get some stimulation and enjoyment from what we could provide.’

With more children’s hospices opening, it was clear by 2006 that the initial £7.5 million provided by the RMTGB might not be sufficient for the technology initiative to survive. ‘We predicted the movement would grow, but we didn’t think there would be forty-nine hospices within fifteen years,’ says Les. ‘Each of these brought a great deal of expense, because we needed to provide all the wiring, software, training and ongoing support for our technology. But then we thought, why don’t we set up a separate charity able to raise funds in its own right?’ And so Lifelites was born. 

‘The RMTGB is very generous with its support and helps us to network within Freemasonry,’ explains Enefer-Doy. The RMTGB provides Lifelites with its offices and deals with its accounts, leaving the team of five to focus on fundraising and delivering the hospice projects. Beyond this, Lifelites is free to fundraise outside the masonic system, making it the only masonic charity to do so. 

‘Lifelites is a really good example of how Freemasonry has created something that is providing a valuable service to the wider society,’ says Les. ‘It’s a masonic charity but it has a completely non-masonic outlook. Its only purpose is to support the children’s hospice movement.’

With a fundraising background including time spent at Scope and Marie Curie, Enefer-Doy was appointed chief executive in 2006 and the past few years have seen Lifelites flourish, with the charity winning a Tech4Good Award in 2011. Each hospice costs Lifelites about £50,000 over four years so the charity aims to replace the equipment at a quarter of the hospices every year. ‘We work on a four-year cycle, and consult with the hospices and children about what new technology they’d like before going to our donors,’ says Enefer-Doy.

Under her care, Lifelites has fostered many partnerships outside Freemasonry, both corporate and individual. The Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, for example, has been generous in its support. ‘They chose us because we said we’d provide these children with a great holiday, as they can’t go on normal holidays with their families.’

The funds raised by Thomas Cook Children’s Charity helped Lifelites to provide a flight simulator for Julia’s House in Dorset. ‘The staff got the children to pack a suitcase and make their own passports with the Lifelites technology. What they’re trying to do is give them the experience of going on a plane, even though they’re unable to.’

Lifelites is also working with students studying video game design at London South Bank University, as there are no high-level games developed specifically for people with disabilities, particularly for those aged thirteen to eighteen. ‘We pitched this to the students, and they designed games that can be played by young people with disabilities, who might be very cognitively able, if not physically so. The next step is for the developers to get these games produced,’ says Enefer-Doy. 

With charity fundraising becoming increasingly competitive, Lifelites recently employed a new fundraising development manager with the goal of diversifying its funding base. The Ladies that Lunch for Lifelites initiative, for example, encourages women to get together with friends over a leisurely lunch to raise money for a good cause. ‘Gender-specific events work really well in fundraising so we tried to think what we could do for women only that could build our support,’ says Enefer-Doy.

Raising funds isn’t the only challenge Lifelites faces. ‘The children’s hospice movement itself is developing. One of the biggest issues is transition units for people at children’s hospices who reach eighteen, so we’re looking at what we can do. We want to keep our focus on technologies for disabilities and think about what we could provide for these older age groups.’

It’s a big task, but a rewarding one for Enefer-Doy and her team. ‘We’re small, we’re unknown, we don’t get a lot of automatic donations. But then, when people go with us to the hospices and see the technology and how excited the parents and kids are, it’s very moving and they understand why what we do is so important.’

For more information about Lifelites, please visit www.lifelites.org or call 020 7440 4200

Keeping in touch

The donations made by Lifelites have had a huge impact on disabled children like Josh Dolling, aged eleven, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at twenty-six months. Josh is now paralysed down his left side, has impaired vision and suffers seizures. 

His mother Helen says: ‘Josh has specialised needs and requires 24-hour care. But when playing games on the Lifelites touch-screen computer at his hospice (EACH Milton), he is engrossed and calm. I think it’s because he has some form of control. There’s no way we could afford to buy the computer, so for him to have it at the hospice is wonderful.’

Innovative control

EYEGAZE: Operated by just a flicker of the eye, Eyegaze technology lets even the most severely disabled children control a computer screen. Cost: £4,368

Simone Enefer-Doy: ‘I saw Eyegaze in 2007, but at £15,000 it was beyond our reach. Last year it dropped below £5,000 and I thought: “We can do this.”’

MOBILE MAGIC CARPET: Projecting an interactive image onto the floor, children can kick up leaves or play in the waves, even from their own beds. Cost: £7,000

Simone Enefer-Doy: ‘It used to be static and too expensive but now that it’s mobile it’s exactly what we want.’

Published in RMTGB
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

Pro Grand Master's address - December 2014

Quarterly Communication

10 December 2014 
An address by the MW the Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes

Brethren, a lot goes on during a period of 12 months in Freemasonry. Much of this all our members see in their lodges, as well at Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Lodges and Grand Lodge. However what is not seen is all the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all runs smoothly and, even more importantly, that the Craft is fit for purpose for the future.

Over the last 40 odd years we have fought hard to ensure that our public image is continually improving. It would be ridiculous to claim that we have won all these battles or that we have convincingly won the war, but we have undoubtedly made significant progress in many areas. We will not be giving up on any of these battles, but in addition we are very much concentrating our efforts on making sure that we know as much as possible about our membership and what we can do to stabilise membership numbers and increasingly attract natural leaders and high quality members.

The Membership Focus Group under the chairmanship of the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, RW Bro Ray Reed, has made great strides in gathering essential information and assessing membership trends. We are presently considering governance, leadership, image and branding needs, as well as recruitment and retrieval, all vital to the success of any organisation. The MFG is keen to have the views of members on a number of subjects essential to the future of the Craft and is setting up a series of surveys to be conducted over the coming months which will allow all members to express their views. So far, I understand that over 5,500 members have signed up and I encourage more to do so.

Some ideas put forward may appear trivial, but it so often that which appears trivial that introduces a debate which widens and becomes, dare I say, a cornerstone. One such idea has been put to me by Bro Reed and came from a chance conversation that he had with a certain Deputy PGM, who shall remain nameless but his Province has a county town called Lincoln! Amongst several very useful points that he made was that the word “recruitment” has connotations of press ganging into the services and that, rather than talking about “recruiting” new members, why not think about “attracting” them. This may appear to be just semantics, but I believe it is rather more than that and could be very relevant.

The point I am making is that nobody should consider any idea too small to put forward. The worst that can happen is that it is not implemented – you won’t be demoted! A word of warning on this – I will be hugely unpopular with the Grand Secretary if his department is flooded out with emails so please express your ideas by using the free text boxes that will be incorporated into future surveys.

There have also been a number of changes within the secretariat and those working in this building. As most of you will have noticed by now, we are leading up to a very major event in 2017 and this is going to take a huge amount of organisation. For this reason it was decided to ask the Grand Secretary to concentrate his time and efforts on the purely masonic side of his current role and to separate away the operational side of the building, along with the finance and IT departments, which will be run by a Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Graham-Adriani who has been working for us here for over 13 years, latterly as Deputy Chief Executive.

Brethren, this meeting of Grand Lodge marks a watershed by having the Paper of Business circulated electronically. This was not as easy as it may sound, as, amongst other things, it required changes to the Book of Constitution. A team led by VW Bro James Long and including the current Grand Pursuivant have spent many hours ensuring that the circulation went smoothly and I congratulate all of them on doing so.

Another area where there has been much activity is the organisation of our four main Charities. In 2008 several PGMs made representations to the Rulers about how they would like to see the Charities modernised. A Grand Master’s Council Charity Committee was set up under the chairmanship of the Deputy Grand Master, which at that time was myself, but was soon to become RW Bro Jonathan Spence who has overseen the vast majority of the Committee’s work. The Charities themselves had already made an important start by agreeing to come together under one roof and they are, of course, now all in this building.

The Committee has been working extremely hard, together with the Charity Presidents and their Chief Executives, to come forward with a formula that will suit the Charities for many years to come. 

I am pleased to announce that the MW The Grand Master has now received a comprehensive briefing on the review that has taken place, as have the Metropolitan, Provincial and District Grand Masters. This is the first major review to have taken place since the Bagnell Report of 41 years ago.

The Grand Master and all those who have been briefed have given their full support to the proposal to consolidate the four existing main Charities into a new overarching charity managed by a single board of Trustees under a single Chief Executive Officer with a single staff team.

Further details will be made available via the individual Charities, Provincial and District Grand Masters, and through future editions of Freemasonry Today. 

At the Annual General Meeting of The Grand Charity, to be held in conjunction with the September 2015 Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge, members, after a period of consultation, will be invited to endorse the proposals in respect of the changes required to the constitution of The Grand Charity. Similar activity will be required at appropriately convened members meetings for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

The review sets out to ensure that the provision of charitable support remains central to the future of Freemasonry, but is enhanced by moving to a demand-led, whole family, cradle-to-grave model, which will be far more appropriate for the 21st century. I congratulate all those involved in this review and commend their recommendations to you.

Brethren, I have spoken for rather longer than usual, but I trust that you will agree that some important issues have been covered and I believe that it is right for Grand Lodge to be kept up to date on such matters.

Last year I mentioned that I was expecting a tiring Christmas with my grandchildren. It wasn’t just them who were exhausting. My three sons, who are all in their thirties, passed my two grandsons on the stairs. One set were on their way to bed, the other on their way to open their stockings. I leave it to you, brethren, as to which lot was going in which direction!

Whoever you spend your holiday period with, may I wish you all a very happy and relaxing time.

Published in Speeches
Friday, 05 December 2014 00:00

Living in the house that helps

Great expectations

A unique masonic building in central London is enabling young people to take advantage of learning, training and work opportunities in the capital. Tabby Kinder steps inside Ruspini House

Hidden between the brick façades of central London’s swankiest offices and camouflaged within a narrow tree-lined street, Ruspini House is passed by thousands of people every day without a second glance. But inside the little-known masonic building on Parker Street, just a stone’s throw from Great Queen Street, twenty-seven young men and women are treasuring the first taste of independence that the house is giving them.

Owned and run by the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), Ruspini House provides residential accommodation for young people who need a place to live while studying or undertaking work experience in London. Rents are kept very low, with residents also able to apply for financial funding for their tuition and accommodation fees. 

Would-be actors live alongside accountants, trainee teachers cook dinner with their barrister friends and law students watch television in cosy companionship with interns at city banks. It’s a happy space, divided into flats with kitchens, lounges, bedrooms and bathrooms, and one that is seen as a godsend by many.

Jess Hayton, twenty-four, has been living in the house since 2010, and it has already provided a roof over her head for the final year of her bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and now the first years of a PhD in education, specialising in visual impairment in children. ‘I was twenty when I moved in and it was exciting to say the least,’ she says. ‘I had been living in a house-share in East Acton and it wasn’t ideal. When my dad showed me an article from Freemasonry Today that mentioned Ruspini House, it seemed too good to be true.’

The family connection

Jess’s father is a mason, but until her second year of university she had never come across the work done by the RMTGB for the children and grandchildren of Freemasons. Just weeks after sending off her application form, Jess was granted a place at the house and set about moving in. ‘It felt like a huge burden had been lifted,’ she says, ‘I was starting to wonder how I could possibly continue paying for both my tuition and my rent. It was pretty much either/or.’

Moving right to the middle of London is something Jess could never have done without Ruspini House. 

‘I knew I could really focus on getting my degree now that I didn’t have the stress of worrying about money. Luckily another girl moved into the flat at the g same time as me, so we were newbies together, but everyone was really accommodating and friendly.’

Jess’s determination impressed the RMTGB, which has gone on to provide a bursary to pay for her master’s degree and PhD tuition, and kept a space for her to see out her education at the house for as long as she needs it. ‘I’m in an incredibly privileged position, and there’s no way I could have followed my aspirations like this without the help of the RMTGB and Ruspini House,’ says Jess. ‘My dad is so happy about all the support and is proud to be part of an organisation that is helping his daughter get a running jump in her career.’

‘It teaches them to be good all-round people, with friends from different walks of life; it’s the best learning curve they could get at this age.’ Jo-Anne Griffin

Jess’s flatmate Harriette Murphy credits Ruspini House for allowing her to properly focus on her studies. ‘I had a law degree and was working in the City to try to get enough money together to train as a barrister, but paying so much in rent meant I wasn’t saving enough to carry on with my education,’ she says. ‘Thankfully, my father helped me to apply to the RMTGB through his lodge in Hampshire and I was fortunate to receive substantial funding as well as a place to live.’

Now Harriette is working at an award-winning barristers’ chambers in London. ‘Being called to the Bar in 2012 was an exceptional moment for me and my family, but I could not have done it without the support and encouragement of the RMTGB,’ says Harriette. 

‘I have a vast practice area and am hoping to achieve pupillage in the near future. I hope that one day I can help others through mentoring, or assisting in any way that I can to this wonderful organisation.’

Mistress of the house

Both Jess and Harriette knew that moving into Ruspini House, despite its finely tuned support network, would not be an easy ride. Jo-Anne Griffin is the Properties Administrator at the house and has overseen its day-to-day running for eleven years. She is determined to make sure the house produces driven and independent adults who are ready to take the first steps in their careers.

‘What we aim to do here is provide a stepping stone between their family home and their adult lives,’ says Jo-Anne. ‘They learn how to live independently, to take pride in the space they live in, have a bit of responsibility, and how to deal with financial issues.’ 

She sits down with whoever needs help and can work though plans for paying rent or handling debts already amassed before coming to the house.

Jo-Anne admits that she can be ‘a bit of a mother’ to the young residents. ‘They tend to come to me if there’s an issue. My previous career in social work means I have a calling for helping young people. I try to guide them towards handling things independently, particularly their cleaning and washing, but I am always on the end of the phone if they need me. Officially I clock off at 5.30pm, but the odd call at 11pm from someone needing a few words of advice isn’t unusual.’

Jo-Anne’s faith in the support given by the RMTGB at Ruspini House is unshakable. ‘It teaches them to be good all-round people, with friends from different walks of life and professions; it’s the best learning curve they could get at this age. They’re lucky, but I get the sense they really appreciate that – I don’t need to tell them,’ she says. ‘I have a lot of respect for the support that Freemasonry offers to members and their extended families, that’s what stands out most for me.’

Whether it’s giving financial, residential or emotional support, Jo-Anne admits that there’s no better feeling than helping the residents at Ruspini House take that first step into the big wide world. ‘It makes it all worthwhile when you get a card back saying someone has passed their exams with flying colours, got their dream job or moved to a house they love.’

Building bricks

Les Hutchinson, Chief Executive of the RMTGB, explains the thinking behind Ruspini House

‘The principle of Ruspini House is to help people working towards their careers, whether that’s studying or interning, or undertaking training and research. It has provided accommodation for around six hundred and fifty youngsters since opening in 1988. It’s safe, it’s secure, and, though not luxurious, it’s a base for young people to grow. Ruspini House is about helping youngsters make that step from education to career, so we want to support them during the transition from dependent child to independent adult. We always ask our beneficiaries when they leave to keep in touch. Some go on to become Freemasons and they come back and offer advice to the next set of young residents.’

Published in RMTGB

Greg plays an ace

Encouragement and support from the RMTGB helped Greg Boxer to pursue his tennis ambitions

In 2002 Greg Boxer, then thirteen years old, was a young, talented tennis player whose exceptional abilities secured him support from the RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme. With professional coaching, he went on to compete at the Queen’s Club in London.

RMTGB support increased, however, when his father became ill and maintenance grants were provided to Greg’s family. Sadly, in 2008, while Greg was at university, his father passed away.

Greg graduated in 2011 and decided this year, aged twenty-five, to join the organisation that supported him through difficult times. His initiation into the Old Halesonian Lodge, No. 7104, Province of Worcestershire, in October 2013 made him the fourth generation of his family to become a Freemason.

‘The generosity of the RMTGB has been incredible,’ said Greg. ‘It really helped me when pursuing my passion and also through university into adulthood. That backing is one of many reasons I have decided to join this amazing organisation.’

Published in RMTGB

These boots are made for walking

A team of Nottinghamshire masons, led by Provincial Grand Master Robin Wilson, assembled at Freemasons’ Hall in London to begin a sponsored walk to their headquarters in Nottingham. The 175-mile route between the two cities followed the towpaths of the Grand Union Canal and took the walkers 11 days to complete.

After setting off from Great Queen Street in the presence of Grand Secretary Nigel Brown and members of the Board of General Purposes, they passed through several Provinces, allowing other walkers to join them. The unique walk was one of Nottinghamshire’s major fundraising events in support of the 2018 Festival for the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys.

On the 28th of November the annual presentation evening was held at Newport Masonic Hall

There were 40 awards given to local good causes and charities totalling £30,000. The evening was without doubt a great success, and, listening to the thanks and descriptions of the activities that these volunteers do for others within our community, we are very fortunate that our fundraising makes such a difference.

We are also fortunate that such hard working people are prepared to put such tremendous effort into helping others. There was a wide spectrum of charities assisted, from Langstone Church who need funds to repair vandalism to 500 year old windows to Monmouth Music Theatre who have enrolled many youngsters who are currently preparing to perform The Wizard of Oz to the general public.

The funds have been raised by the Brethren of Monmouthshire who only last year completed a five year festival for the RMTGB which raised £1.2 million pounds. There has been many innovative methods used for raising funds, from a Provincial Christmas card competition to a variety performance put on by the Jasper Tudor Lodge No. 4074. Along with more traditional methods such as a well supported Provincial raffle and a dedicated team of Charity Stewards who encourage the Brethren of the Province to take out Gift Aids so they give regularly.

We may occasionally complain about the level of fundraising that we are asked to do, but when you see the heartfelt thanks of those who benefit from our funds then it does give encouragement to continue supporting them.

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