Essex Freemasons approve a grant of £40,000 to fund an "early years" project.

Essex Freemasons have approved a grant of £40,000 to YMCA Thames Gateway to help fund an “Early Years” project designed to help hundreds of children with learning difficulties across the Boroughs of Barking & Dagenham and Havering.

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), the Freemasons own charity, will be used to cover the salary of a Family Inclusion Officer, a key member of staff who help deliver the programme working alongside the Early Years Team.

The YMCA, based in Rush Green Road, Romford, provides accommodation and health and wellbeing projects as well as training and education to young people and the wider community.

Through its Early Years Services, the charity currently works with over 500 children through different pre and after school clubs across the Boroughs and in Kent.

“We support a significant proportion of children with high levels of additional needs in our after-school clubs in Havering and Barking and Dagenham, said Emma Middleton, Fund Raising Manager. “A large percentage of children accessing our Romford YMCA after-school club have a range of special needs including speech and language impairments, complex behavioural difficulties or universal delayed development.”

“This £40,000 grant from Essex Freemasons will make a huge difference to our work allowing us to pay for staff experienced in this kind of work who will ensure that we can maintain support for disadvantaged children and their families.”

Through the Early Years programme the YMCA aim to improve children’s educational achievement and development and support them to achieve greater outcomes. The scheme is tailored to the individual needs of each child, focusing on four key areas: better physical health, language development, understanding and expressing emotions and mathematics.

The programmes are offered free of charge to families and incorporate a range of accessible, fun activities, workshops and resources for children with specific needs identified by the Early Years staff team.

Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand Master for Essex Freemasons, commented: “I am delighted that we have been able to make this grant to the YMCA to allow it to continue and expand its Early Years programme.”

“Such donations are a key part of our desire to work more closely with the community across Essex to provide charitable funding where it is most needed. Our members donate more than £1 million every year to good causes particularly in those area where we can really make a difference. This is one such example.

As well as covering staffing costs the funding will also enable the YMCA to engage parents in workshops and produce newsletters and learning materials tailored to their children’s needs.

This will provide parents with the essential tools to support their children’s educational development, more effectively engage with them in their home environment, and support their children’s developmental needs.

The families the YMCA work with face real hardship and welcome the support from the charity to meet all the needs of their child's development.

the group shot shows from left to right: Emma  Middleton, head of fund raising; Paul Setterfield, Director of Corporate Services; Rodney Bass, Provincial Grand  Master for Essex Freemasons; Joanna Read; Martin Howse, Chairman; Amanda Allen, children’s services manager; Fergus Ross, Head of sales, marketing and comms.