Braham Djidjelli

Families on brink of famine in South Sudan receive emergency support funded by Essex Freemasons

Hundreds of families on the brink of famine in South Sudan will be receiving emergency support thanks to a grant of £35,000 from the Freemasons to Plan International UK.

Freemasonry, through the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) and Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), is responding with Plan International to support communities at this critical time. £35,000 is enough to provide cooking kits to 525 families. Plan International is on the ground in Pibor, one of the worst affected regions, delivering vital programmes for nutrition, education, livelihoods, and child protection.

The UN has described South Sudan’s food crisis as its “worst on record”, with children and communities facing multiple threats at once. Late last year, heavy flooding affected over a million people in the country, destroying  homes, devastating livelihoods and displacing thousands of children and their families. On top of this communities are still reeling from the pandemic, as well as political upheavals, escalating conflict and a stagnating economy.

With the country in the middle of its ‘lean season’ - the time between harvests when households run out of stored food - there is now a critical window to prevent the onset of famine. Lasting from March until August, the lean season will see 7.2 million, or 60 per cent of the population, pushed into extreme hunger. 1.4 million children under the age of five and almost 500,000 pregnant and lactating women are expected to be left severely malnourished. It is crucial that aid reaches these communities before the floods come again, further hindering access to support for some of the world’s most vulnerable children.

Essex Freemasons contributed to the grant, from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Rose Caldwell, Chief Executive of Plan International UK, said:

“We’re very grateful for this generous grant which will allow Plan International to reach families and young children in those parts of South Sudan most badly hit by the food crisis. It’s critical that we act now to distribute food and other vital support to those most at risk”

Paul Reeves, Deputy Provincial Grand Master in Charge said:

“I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Plan International, who are distributing food to the most vulnerable families and children in South Sudan. This is a desperate situation and Plan International and the other organisations helping on the ground need all the help and support we can offer.”

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Essex Freemasons donate £30,000 to support vital service for visually impaired

Essex Freemasons have donated £30,000 to independent sight loss charity Southend in Sight to help it continue and develop its “Talk and Support service”. It means that the project, which first began during lockdown, now has sufficient funding for the next three years.

The money, donated via the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Freemasons own charity, will help ensure that this unique scheme which offers support with the help of the charity’s visually impaired volunteers, will continue to grow.

The scheme works using volunteers who make regular phone calls to those members who are more isolated in the community. These volunteers have particular insight into the challenges faced by Southend in Sight’s clients on a daily basis, and a working knowledge of the support and advice the charity can supply.

Living with sight loss can be isolating in itself but during the lockdowns imposed over the course of the pandemic, that isolation has been even greater.  A phone call from someone who understands a visually impaired person’s situation can change that.

The charity’s staff and volunteers currently make calls to more than 80 local visually impaired people on a regular basis, many of whom are vulnerable and isolated.  The grant from Essex Freemasons will allow Southend in Sight to develop this service, connect with more people isolated because of sight loss and train more volunteers. When restrictions allow, staff at the charity hope to offer coffee mornings and local meet ups for small groups to help them stay connected and begin to mix with people again, as many will need to build up confidence. 

Lucy Martin, CEO of Southend in Sight says: “We are delighted to receive this three-year grant from Essex Freemasons which will allow us to continue and develop our project for older visually impaired people in the local community.   I am very proud of everyone involved with our Talk and Support service and I know that the regular chats with our staff and volunteers have provided a lifeline for many over the last year.”

Paul Reeves, Deputy Provincial Grand Master in charge of Essex Freemasons, commented: “We have more than 2,000 members who meet in the Southend area and they are very much part of the local community. It means we are delighted to be able to support a charity which is doing such excellent work.”

The charity’s base at 117 Hamlet Court Road is now open for pre-booked appointments and it is able to make some deliveries of essential equipment and even offer advice on the doorstep if the need arose.  The charity’s shop is also open again at the Hamlet Court Road site and welcoming shoppers keen to grab a bargain. For information about the Talk and Support service and all other services and assistance available through Southend in Sight, please call on 01702 342131 or go to www.southendinsight.org.uk.

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Freemasons take lead role in NHS Frontline Workers' Day

The inaugural celebration of NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day is set to take place on 5 July 2021, with Freemasons leading the event.

The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the governing body for Freemasons, is inviting its 200,000 members to fly specially designed flags at 10am on 5 July, to celebrate this unique day dedicated to the NHS, social care and all those that work on the front line, who have saved so many lives during the pandemic. The celebration will also remember those workers we sadly lost.

As part of the event, the Teddies for Loving Care (TLC) scheme, managed by the Freemasons, produced a limited edition of TLC teddy nurse badges to be given to medical staff that use the bears in their day-to-day work. Some 48 provinces across England and Wales took part in the campaign and distributed them to NHS staff.

The Freemasons have been donating teddy bears to NHS accident and emergency units for 20 years. Almost 3.5 million teddies have been donated to hospitals, minor injuries clinics and other NHS services to comfort young children during times of distress. Many Freemasons also volunteer hundreds of hours each year to manage the scheme, deliver bears to hospitals, campaign to raise funds and increase awareness through events and talks.

The UGLE is one of the core supporters of NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day, alongside the Cadet Forces, English Heritage and the Women’s Institute. A £5 donation from every flag and length of bunting made will be equally divided between NHS Charities Together and the National Care Association.

Freemasonry for Women and the Order of Women Freemasons have also joined the UGLE in this initiative, as Freemasons aim to set a record for the number of flags raised simultaneously across the nation.

Subsequently, at 11am, the UGLE headquarters in Great Queen Street will be raising the flag and a trumpeter will play the last post. At the same time, Freemasons are planning a moment’s silence to remember NHS workers and all those who died from Covid-19. The day continues with a toast to the NHS at 1pm. After this, they will be raising a cuppa to the NHS during afternoon tea at 4pm.

At 8pm, the Freemasons will join the nation in an evening clap for NHS workers, while church bells are set to ring 73 times to celebrate 73 years of the NHS. Closing the celebrations at 9pm, there will be a #timetotoast for all NHS workers.

So far, nearly 130 Lodges and Provinces have made a commitment to the raising of the flag and other elements of the day. In addition, Northumberland Freemason James Horner is hosting a special live-streaming theatre show from the Tyne Theatre & Opera House with a compère, comics, singers, readings, video footage and messages of support to raise money on the day.

Bruno Peek, pageant master to the Queen and creator of NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day, said: “We are delighted that Freemasons, whose members come from all walks of life, are playing such a high-profile and active role to start this special day of celebration and commemoration of those within the NHS, social care and on the front line, who undertake so much for us all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks a year, without any thought of their own safety.”

In addition, Dr David Staples, chief executive of the UGLE and a consultant in acute internal medicine at Peterborough Hospital, said: “We are facing the greatest global pandemic in living memory and the NHS has never been so tested in its history. Its staff have been stretched beyond comprehension during the last year and they deserve our gratitude, our applause and all the support we can give.

“We are encouraging not only our 200,000 members, but the entire population to celebrate the day honouring and remembering NHS workers with a complete programme of events on 5 July.”

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Freemasons have been supporting the NHS in many different ways. They have donated more than £2.5m so far to the Covid-19 effort and completed 18.5 million hours of volunteering to help those in need each year. The donation is being used to help with food, personal protective equipment, supplements for hospitals and hospices, funds for NHS workers and ambulances.

Freemasons have also offered their Lodges as bases to administer the vital vaccinations. In Hertfordshire, for example, Halsey Hall is being used as a vaccination centre, supporting three local GP surgeries. The centre has been operational since 15 January and once fully scaled up, there will be up to 1,000 vaccinations given there each day.

To find out more about NHS, Social Care and Frontline Workers’ Day and to register your participation in the event, please visit: www.nhsfrontlineday.org

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