Would you like to have your say about which causes, charities and research the Central Masonic Charities should support using your generous donations?
Simply visit www.masoniccharities.org.uk/survey to complete a survey which will help shape the future of masonic giving
The Central Masonic Charities have a proud history of awarding grants to the non-masonic community with over £4 million awarded each year to many worthwhile causes. Over recent years, our grants have provided vital support to rescue services, disaster relief in the UK and abroad, medical research, hospices and charities that help disadvantaged young people and the elderly.
Your views about the causes we should support in the years ahead are very important to us. We therefore invite you to visit: www.masoniccharities.org.uk/survey and complete the short survey about the causes, charities and research that really matter to you.
The survey consists of only 10 questions and will take just a few minutes to complete. Thank you in advance for sharing your views with the charities.
10 September 2014
A talk by Mike Woodcock, President of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, and Chairman of Lifelites Trustees, and Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites
Mike Woodcock: MW Pro Grand Master, brethren, at the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys we inevitably deal with many distressing cases involving children: those who are orphans, those from single parent families, even those whose parents have taken their own lives. And many being brought up by grandparents who simply cannot afford their upkeep.
Most of these children never had the opportunities that we had when we were young, but because they are children of the wider masonic family, through a mixture of financial support, care and advice, we can help them often substantially and most go on to lead happy and fulfilling adult lives.
However, today we are here to talk about children who neither we nor anyone else can help into adulthood – because these are children who will never have what the other children take for granted – the chance to grow into adults. They are children with life-limiting conditions who are cared for by children’s hospices.
For parents facing the tragedy of losing a child, making the most of the time left is the most precious gift they can give.
Today Simone and I are here to tell you more about Lifelites, a small charity established by the trust 15 years ago to mark the millennium. It remains a masonic charity but through the power of partnership it has been able to work with non-masonic people and organisations to bring unlimited opportunities to children with limited lives.
Fifteen years ago, children’s hospices were a relatively new concept. There were just 17 throughout the British Isles and for the first seven years Lifelites was funded entirely by the RMTGB. However, as the children’s hospice movement grew and new technology provided more and more possibilities, Lifelites was given the independence to raise funds more widely and to partner non-masonic organisations. The result is that today there are 49 children’s hospices with a Lifelites project and presence in every one. Lifelites provides the very best technology, equipment and training enabling children with life-limiting conditions and often with profound disabilities to learn, to explore, to communicate and to play in ways which they, their parents or their carers never thought possible.
What we do is often life-changing not only for 9,000 – yes 9,000 – children being cared for in children’s hospices at any one time, but also for their parents and extended families.
Simone leads the small and dedicated team at Lifelites, and she is now going to explain what a Lifelites project consists of and how it makes such a difference. I will then explain how Freemasons and others have helped to make all of this possible.
Simone Enefer-Doy: Those of you who have visited a children’s hospice will know that they are special places caring for terminally ill children and their families. The child may visit the hospice over a number of years for respite and specialist care, and they will always find a lively home-from-home atmosphere with plenty of activities taking place. I regularly witness the struggles these children and their families face. It is hard to imagine what it is like having a child who cannot communicate or play like other children.
When Daniel first visited Richard House Children’s Hospice in London he told his carer Bernie that he could not do anything because he could only move one arm. But Bernie thought that if he could move one arm then he could hold a camcorder and from that spark of imagination a whole film club was born. Using the Lifelites camcorder to film and the Lifelites computers to edit, Daniel and his friends went on to make action features and now every year they have their own Oscars’ ceremony – wheeling themselves along the red carpet, dressed in their bow ties – and every child gets an Oscar. Daniel’s mum and dad told us that his confidence had gone through the roof, for the first time he had made friends and was doing things he never thought possible. They realised that they would never see their son taking part in a school sports’ day, but for them, this was even better. Sadly, Daniel is no longer with us, but we are proud that Lifelites had such a positive impact on his short life.
As Mike said the children we help often have profound disabilities – some have difficulty controlling their movements, others are less cognitively able and many find it difficult to speak. But Lifelites can change all that. Recent advances in technology are enabling dreams to become a reality, and everything we do is aimed at helping these children – whatever their abilities – to join in and take part.
Wherever you may live in the British Isles, there are children being supported by Lifelites because we have a magical technology project at every one of the 49 children’s hospices. Our typical package includes items like touchscreen computers, games consoles which work through sensing movements, iPads with drop-proof covers, and software that makes it possible for the children to be creative, to communicate and control something themselves. Very importantly, we make sure that the equipment we provide is portable so that even if a child cannot get out of bed, the equipment can be taken to them.
Most children love playing computer games, but off the shelf software is not designed with disabilities in mind. So we have worked with students at London South Bank University to develop games which are unique to Lifelites.
Another amazing piece of equipment is the 'magic carpet' that projects an image onto the floor which the children can interact with. It gives them the chance to escape the confines of their condition and to embrace a world of make-believe, flying an aeroplane, splashing in the sea or playing football. We also provide software that enables those who can only move their heads to use a computer. But sometimes the only part of their body they can move is their eyes so we also provide cutting edge technology called eyegaze. Eyegaze enables children to access a computer through a camera which tracks their eye movements, enabling them to move the cursor around the screen. Through eyegaze, children whose carers and families thought they were unable to communicate at all, can now do so – they can tell their carers what they would like for breakfast, when they are thirsty, they can explore new worlds and can even, for the first time, tell their parents that they love them. It means that these children can enter and stay involved in the world around them for as long as it is possible.
But we do not just provide the equipment and walk away: first we consult with the staff and children to find out what would be most useful for them; we constantly research the best solutions and make hospice staff aware of what is possible; we raise the funds to provide it, we install it; we train the hospice staff in how to use it, we commit to maintaining it in good order and we aim to replace every four years.
With the addition of exciting new items like eyegaze and the magic carpet this now costs around £50,000 for each hospice every four years. This means that we need to raise £12,500 for each of our 49 projects or over £600,000 every year.
The hospices themselves simply could not afford to do what we do. Without Lifelites these children, for whom every second counts, would miss out on the opportunities which new technology can bring. Because we look after the equipment, hospice staff can concentrate on doing what they do best: caring for the children and their families. What we provide comes at no cost to the hospice and does not detract in any way from their fundraising.
David Strudley, Chief Executive of Acorns Children’s hospices in Birmingham, Walsall and Worcester tells people: 'Whatever the problem, nothing seems to be too difficult for Lifelites to solve for us or with us. As technology moves on, so does Lifelites. Our children – however severely disabled – are able to use the equipment for themselves. It does not matter that a child cannot communicate in the traditional way anymore – non-verbal communication is not a problem. Lifelites has helped us to discover better ways of looking after our children.
'Each time I visit a hospice I am reminded that the children are not just patients, they are funny, joyous people, and it is possible for a short life to be a good life, a happy life and a full life.'
What we do is in no small part due to the support we continue to receive from Freemasons. So I would like to say thank you on behalf of all those 9,000 children for the help you have given – and we hope you will continue to give – for our vital work which makes such a difference.
Mike Woodcock: Brethren, even though we work with 49 children’s hospices and raise all of our own funds we have just five full time staff and this is only possible because we have so many volunteers who not only raise funds but also help deliver our services, most are Freemasons and some of them are here today including: our trustees and members of our management committee; individual Freemasons who visit the hospices helping to set up and maintain the equipment and to train staff in how to use it; at least two-thirds of the Provincial Grand Masters sitting behind me whose Provinces have made generous and sometimes substantial donations to support our work. And I also include generous support from other masonic orders, from the Mark Benevolent Fund and the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland, and the many others here today who have either made personal donations or taken part in the many Lifelites fundraising initiatives.
As chairman of Lifelites trustees I too extend a huge thank you to you all. Lifelites is further proof that masonic charity is not just inward looking and that Freemasons not only give generously but involve themselves directly in caring for the less fortunate.
Unlike the main masonic charities we do not receive funding from the festival system, but importantly we are able to raise funds from outside Freemasonry and we work in partnership with non-masonic organisations to help deliver our aims.
Significant non-masonic donors have included: the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity; The Khoo Teck Puat Foundation; Dixons Group who made Lifelites their chosen charity; GamesAid, Microsoft, London South Bank University, Sainsbury’s (here in holborn), Children with Cancer UK, Buckinghamshire Building Society and many others who have supported us. London Underground allow us to make a christmas collection. We even have Ladies that Lunch who raise funds for us.
By working with others we have been able to triple the funds donated by freemasons enabling us to do so much more.
But partnership is not just about fundraising, Lifelites also works with others in delivering its services.
The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists has been our partner from day one, bringing their specialist knowledge and expertise to our management committee as well as donating funds themselves. As Simone said we also work in true partnership with the hospices themselves to ensure maximum impact.
Today the charity world is changing rapidly and we need to respond to change if we are to become even more successful. There is intense competition for funds meaning that we have to employ management techniques derived from the commercial sector, especially in marketing and fundraising. Charities have to be able to find, select and utilise the very best of new ideas – no one has a monopoly of these. It is no longer enough to simply ask for support because we have a worthy cause. The emphasis has to be on performance and impact assessment requiring rigorous questioning, enabling potential donors to make informed choices. As a result of being a leader in innovation we have been proud to receive no less than four national industry awards recognising our achievements.
So, today we celebrate the fifteen year success of a small charity founded by Freemasons which has grown to encompass every children’s hospice in the british isles and in doing so we have been able to raise the profile of the Craft as a modern and effective force for good in society.
Charity may not be the main purpose of Freemasonry but we all know that it is high on our agenda and in many ways characterises the kind of people we are. Freemasonry has a long, proud and enviable record in charity and Lifelites has shown that if we use the power of partnership we can achieve even more.
Most Worshipful Pro Grand Master, the last time that I had the privilege of addressing Grand Lodge, I looked up at the depiction of Pythagoras on the temple frieze in the west and reminded us that the ancient Knights of Pythagoras had a saying, 'that a man never stands as tall as when he kneels to help a child'
Today, every Freemason who has supported Lifelites stands very tall indeed.
Thank you again and please remember that if ever you would like to become more involved in our work we are only a telephone call away or you could arrange to visit our small office at 26 Great Queen Street – you will be most welcome.
Brethren, thank you for listening to the Lifelites story and thank you again for giving so many children the power to control at least something in their lives and their parents the joy of seeing them live their short lives to the full.
Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge
10 September 2014
Report of the Board of General Purposes
The Minutes of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge held on 11 June 2014 were confirmed.
Board of General Purposes Meetings 2015
The Board of General Purposes will meet in 2015 on 10 February, 17 March, 12 May, 21 July, 15 September and 10 November.
Attendance at Lodges under the English Constitution by brethren from other Grand Lodges
The Board considers it appropriate to draw attention to Rule 125 (b), Book of Constitutions, and the list of Grand Lodges recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England, which is published in the Masonic Year Book, copies of which are sent to Secretaries of lodges.
Only Brethren who are members of lodges under recognised jurisdictions may visit English lodges. They must produce a certificate (i.e. a Grand Lodge certificate or other documentary proof of masonic identity provided by their Grand Lodge), should be prepared to acknowledge that a personal belief in TGAOTU is an essential Landmark in Freemasonry, and should be able to produce evidence of their good standing in their Lodges. It is the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the requirements of Rule 125 (b) are met.
It is particularly noted that the hazard of admitting a member of an unrecognised constitution arises not only in connection with overseas visitors (or individuals resident in this country who belong to an unrecognised constitution overseas). There are lodges of unrecognised constitutions meeting in England, and care must be taken that their members are not admitted to our meetings.
Attendance at Lodges Overseas
The continuing growth in overseas travel brings with it an increase in visits by our Brethren to lodges of other jurisdictions, and the Board welcomes this trend.
From time to time, however, Brethren become involved with masonic bodies which Grand Lodge does not recognise, e.g. in visiting a jurisdiction which, quite legitimately so far as it is concerned, accepts as visitors Brethren from Grand Lodges which are not recognised by the United Grand Lodge of England. In this connection, Brethren are reminded that it is part of their duty as members of the English Constitution not to associate masonically with members of unrecognised constitutions, and should such a situation occur, they should tactfully withdraw, even though their visit may have been formally arranged.
To avoid this danger, and potential embarrassment to hosts, Brethren should not attempt to make any masonic contact overseas without having first checked (preferably in writing) with the Grand Secretary’s Office at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5AZ, that there is recognised Freemasonry in the country concerned and, if so, whether there is any particular point which should be watched.
The Board recommends that the terms of this warning should be repeated:
a. Verbally in open Lodge whenever a Grand Lodge Certificate is presented, and
b. In print once a year in a Lodge’s summons.
Brethren should also be aware of the masonic convention that communications between Grand Lodges be conducted by Grand Secretaries. They should therefore not attempt without permission to make direct contact with the Grand Secretary of another Constitution. This does not preclude direct contact on a purely personal level between individual Brethren under different Grand Lodges.
Photography, Mobile Telephones and Social Media
Over the last twelve and a half years the Board has found it necessary to draw attention on three occasions to the misuse of cameras, mobile telephones and other electronic devices (e.g. tablets) during or in connection with masonic meetings.
In 2009 the Grand Lodge approved a consolidated statement on the matter (which was modified slightly the following year). The Board regrets that it appears necessary to revert once more to the subject. The last few years have seen significant technological advances, with the result that the use of such devices is less obtrusive – and therefore less easily detected – than was previously the case.
The Board, however, remains firmly of the view that any objection to the use of such devices is based on the impropriety of taking an electronic record of proceedings in open lodge at least as much as on any distraction that the process may afford to the individual and others in his vicinity. At the same time social media, such as Twitter, have evolved, enabling the almost instantaneous transmission of information to a wide range of recipients. The Board considers that relaying information by such means from within a meeting while that meeting is in progress falls within the scope of Rule 177 of the Book of Constitutions.
Grand Lodge then approved the following new consolidated statement:
(a) All mobile telephones must be switched off during meetings of the Grand Lodge, Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodges or private lodges. If an urgent call is expected, arrangements should be made for it to be received by the Tyler.
(b) Whilst there is no objection to the taking of group photographs in a lodge room in connection with a special meeting after the lodge has been closed, the taking of photographs during meetings (including any procession immediately before or after a meeting of a private lodge) is prohibited. The prohibition extends to any purported reconstruction after a lodge has been closed of any part of the proceedings while the lodge was open, but does not, subject to compliance with (c) below, preclude the taking of a photograph of a procession into or out of a Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodge by the express permission and under the control of the Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Master.
(c) Within Freemasons’ Hall such specially posed group photographs may, subject to the permission of the Grand Secretary, be taken in a lodge room, but photographs in or of other parts of the building, and in particular in or of the Grand Temple, must not be taken unless special permission has been given by or on behalf of the Board of General Purposes.
(d) The transmission of any photograph or information (whether in the form of text, images or otherwise) by electronic means from within a lodge room relating to a meeting in progress there, whether transmission is to a single individual or to any group of individuals, is also prohibited.
(e) Brethren are reminded that Rule 177 of the Book of Constitutions imposes a prohibition on the publication of the proceedings of any lodge (which includes the Grand Lodge and any Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Lodge) and that the taking of any photograph during a meeting is likely to lead to a breach of that Rule. The submission of any such photograph for inclusion in Freemasonry Today will be met with a curt rejection, and it is expected that those responsible for the publication and content of Provincial or District magazines or newsletters will adopt the same policy.
(f) Disciplinary action is likely to be taken against the Brethren concerned in cases of failure to comply with the above policy in respect of photography or use of social media.
(g) Whilst the taking of photographs during the after proceedings of a lodge (and, less importantly, during a reception between a meeting and dinner) is unlikely to offend against any Rule of the Book of Constitutions, it can nevertheless be intrusive and distracting. Accordingly Brethren are reminded that good manners dictate that the agreement of the individuals concerned should be obtained before they are photographed informally in such a context, and that such photographs be taken during the after proceedings only with the permission of the Master or whoever presides at the dinner.
The Board has received a report that Mount Zion Lodge, No. 7664 has resolved to surrender its Warrant in order to amalgamate with Lodge of Eternal Light, No. 6568 (London). A resolution that the lodge be removed from the register in order to effect the amalgamation was agreed.
Erasure of Lodges
The Board has received a report that sixteen lodges have closed and have voted to surrender their Warrants. The Lodges are:
United Smithfield Lodge, No. 3176 (London); Lodge of Friendship, No. 4199 (West Lancashire); Grange Park Lodge, No. 4306 (London); Rectitude Lodge, No. 4727 (London); Bexley Heath Lodge, No. 4918 (West Kent); St Barbara Lodge, No. 5937 (West Kent); Wylam Lodge, No. 6922 (Northumberland); Royal Dental Hospital Lodge, No. 7099 (London); Moorside Lodge, No. 7120 (Northumberland); South-East Corner Lodge, No. 7284 (London); Bold Lodge, No. 7583 (West Lancashire); Harlington Lodge, No. 7935 (Middlesex); Frederick Hickton Griffiths Lodge, No. 8878 (Worcestershire); Heswall Lodge, No. 9106 (Cheshire); Clarendon Lodge, No. 9228 (Warwickshire) and Lux Beata Lodge, No. 9761 (Essex).
A resolution that they be erased was approved.
As required by Rule 277 (a) (i) (B) and (D), Book of Constitutions, 10 Brethren were recently expelled from the Craft.
Report of Library and Museum Trust
The Board has received a report from the Library and Museum Charitable Trust.
Grand Lodge received a talk by VW Bro M. Woodcock, President of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys, and Mrs Simone Enefer-Doy, Chief Executive of Lifelites, entitled “Celebrating 15 Years of Freemasons, working in partnership, to create exciting opportunities for life-limited children.”
Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge
Future meetings of the Quarterly Communication of Grand Lodge will be held on 10 December 2014, 11 March 2015, 29 April 2015 (Annual Investiture), 10 June 2015, 9 September 2015 and 9 December 2015.
Convocations of Supreme Grand Chapter
Future meetings of Supreme Grand Chapter will be held on 12 November 2014, 30 April 2015 and 11 November 2015.
Hands-on help in the garden
Every child loves to play outdoors, particularly during the summer. However, for seven-year-old William, who suffers from autism and asthma, this simple pleasure hasn’t always been possible
William also shows violent and destructive behaviour when he’s frustrated, and has no awareness of danger, often running away from his mother when he can.
To provide him with a safe outdoor space, a small team from the RMTGB recently participated in a scheme called Helping Hands, operated by the national charity WellChild. The team spent all day renovating William’s garden by installing new fencing and replacing the gravel with an artificial lawn.
Stepping stones to a new life
For the previous two years, WellChild has received grants from the RMTGB totalling £45,000 to support projects such as Helping Hands. Those participating were happy to have had the chance to become more closely involved with the project. A bake sale was also held at Freemasons’ Hall to raise the required funds.
Oliver Carrington, who manages the RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme, said, ‘Being able to meet one of the families we’re helping was really rewarding. I hope that William enjoys playing in his new garden.’
Since the scheme was first launched, more than £700,000 has been awarded to around forty non-masonic charities by the RMTGB’s Stepping Stones scheme, which has helped to improve the lives of thousands of children across England and Wales.
Child support network
Around one hundred Freemasons and family members from the Province of Bedfordshire attended the twenty-ninth Annual General Court and General Meeting of the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys on Saturday, 14 June.
The meeting took place at the Luton Masonic Centre and was chaired by Michael Sawyer, PGM for Bedfordshire, whose 2015 Festival in support of the Trust concludes next year. Those present heard from the President, Chief Executive and members of council and staff about the activities and achievements of Freemasonry’s oldest charity.
During 2013, the Trust supported over 2,000 children and young people from masonic families with more than £8.4 million in funding. Nearly 15,000 further children benefited from the Trust’s non-masonic grant-making scheme, Stepping Stones, which awarded £100,000 to local and national charities, and supported Lifelites (a charity for children in hospices). Michael said he looked forward to the successful end of his Festival appeal in 2015.
Together with co-drivers Richard Barrett and Dimas Pestana, Larry travelled the 2,000km journey over 10 days in support of the two charities. During the final leg of the epic journey, the 1914 Model T passed through central London and stopped at Freemasons’ Hall where the trio were greeted by Deputy Grand Master Jonathan Spence, the presidents of the four central masonic charities, and Lincolnshire Deputy PGM John Hockin.
The route was selected as Larry is a member of lodges in Portugal and the Province of Lincolnshire – the latter of which has supported the RMTGB for the past six years and is due to end its Festival appeal this November.
Whether it’s kayaking across the harshest seas or attending a masonic meeting, for Pete Bray life is all about helping other people. Caitlin Davies joins him for a paddle off the Liverpool coast
Record-breaking British adventurer Pete Bray has completed seven major expeditions, survived a sinking boat and two hurricanes, and has a medal for bravery. Now the climber, marathon runner, cross-country skier and microlight pilot is embarking on a new journey: Freemasonry.
Born in Plymouth in 1956, Pete counted polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton among his childhood heroes: ‘He taught me that if you plan, you succeed, and you live to fight another day.’ Pete learnt this the hard way when, at the age of eleven, he got his first kayak. Not content with splashing around in the sea, he set off from Torpoint in Cornwall wearing a World War I life jacket with virtually no knowledge about currents and tides.
After reaching Cawsand, Pete decided on the way back to have a look at HMS Ark Royal in the Plymouth docks, at which point the Ministry of Defence (MOD) intervened. ‘They explained the tides and they picked me up and took me home. I got grounded by my dad for a week, but it was all very exciting.’
Perhaps it was this early brush with the MOD that led to Pete joining the army; he worked for twenty-four years as a soldier, including fifteen years in the SAS.
‘I loved to race while I was in the regiment,’ he explains, ‘and in 1984 I entered a seven-day race between Sweden and Finland. It was the first time I’d been in a racing kayak. Imagine ice skating for the first time; that’s what it was like: you get in, you tip straight out. When I arrived for the race they asked where my support team was and I replied, “You’re looking at him’.”
‘After saving the lives of his crew when they were struck by Hurricane Alex, Pete was awarded a medal by the Royal Humane Society.’
Rising to challenges
In 1996, Pete kayaked around Great Britain with Steve McDonald, a partially sighted friend, then in 2000 he set off to cross the Atlantic alone. But ‘the valve had been put in wrongly and so the boat sank’. He survived for thirty-seven hours in freezing waters before being picked up. It took him months to learn to walk again after suffering from cold-water injuries, but the next year Pete became the first person to kayak solo across the North Atlantic from west to east.
This seventy-six-day expedition was documented in Pete’s book Kayak Across the Atlantic, and for ten years he held the world record for the longest open-water crossing undertaken by a kayaker. ‘I hate to fail,’ says the fifty-eight-year-old. ‘If something is in the way, it’s just a hurdle to overcome.’
Pete is clearly a determined man and has had to face many other hurdles along the way. In 2004 he was part of a four-man team attempting the fastest row crossing from Newfoundland to the Isles of Scilly. After thirty-nine days at sea, the boat was struck by Hurricane Alex and split in two. Having saved the lives of his crew, Pete was awarded a bronze medal by the Royal Humane Society in 2005. The same year, Pete and three others spent thirteen days kayaking around South Georgia, setting the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the island.
Then in 2009, drama hit again during a solo row from Newfoundland to the Isles of Scilly. After forty-two days he needed rescuing; faced with winds of one hundred and twenty-five miles per hour and twenty-foot waves, he was in the path of Hurricane Bill.
For his next challenge, Pete has two ideas: a ‘paddle around Wales’ and ‘motorbiking to the twenty-eight capitals of the European Union with disabled soldiers’.
And if all that isn’t enough to keep him busy, last year he branched out into previously uncharted waters, joining Phoenix Lodge, No. 3236, in Cheshire.
Pete, who is the director of a security consultancy, Primarius, explains his decision: ‘My business partner Harry Glover asked if I wanted to join his lodge, and one of the attractions was the fundraising aspect of Freemasonry. Being a mason is all about looking after people, which I like, so it seemed logical to join.’
Paddling for pounds
Pete is also planning a sponsored kayak crossing of the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska, just south of the Arctic Circle. He will be raising money for the Teddies for Loving Care Appeal, which gives teddy bears to children in hospitals, and the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys (RMTGB), which relieves childhood poverty and supports education.
Ray Collings has been fundraising manager at the RMTGB for seven years and has worked with masons who have climbed Kilimanjaro, run marathons or completed the National Three Peaks Challenge. But when Pete rang and told him his plan to kayak across the Bering Strait, ‘I thought he was joking,’ laughs Ray. ‘Then when I realised what he has done in the past, I saw it was almost normal for him. He’s always supported children’s charities and was keen to do something for a masonic charity. A lot of people do sponsored events, but there has never been anything as adventurous as this in my memory.’
The RMTGB gives its fundraisers advice, provides the paperwork and processes the donations, and Ray meets many of them at the end of their trip.
This summer, for example, masons from Middlesex and Hertfordshire are cycling from Gibraltar to Southampton. ‘I’ll meet them at the finish,’ he says, ‘but I’m not sure if the Trust would allow me to meet Pete when he finishes! It’s a bit extreme for me to fly to Alaska.’
Pete, meanwhile, says he wouldn’t describe becoming a mason as an adventure: ‘It’s more of a learning curve. It’s about improvement and bettering yourself. An adventure is about getting from A to B and succeeding; becoming a Freemason is more of a lifelong journey.’
Pete Bray’s top five kayaking tips
1. Pick a boat for where you want to kayak (in rivers or the sea). There’s a wide range available and you need the right one.
2. Make sure you have the correct paddle; they come in all different shapes, sizes and lengths.
3. Choose a boat you like the colour of; you’re going to have to really want to be with it. My favourite colours are blues and reds.
4. Learn from a professional, like myself.
5. Enjoy it and do it for the right reasons. People say I should be sitting in an armchair but even now I’m still paddling! If you get off your backside, you can do something.
‘I hate to fail. If something is in the way, it’s just a hurdle to overcome.’ Pete Bray
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.
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
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.