ISSUE 17, April 2006
Editorial
Historic: The Brother who designed the Spitfire
Travel: The charm of Kerala
Grand Lodge: Pro Grand Master's speech and Quarterly Communication
Public Relations: Hottest spot in town
International: Emulation in Bulgaria and Mauritius takes a leap forward and Hungary's Royal Arch library
Library & Museum: Recent acquisitions
Masonic Bibles: Lodges and their Bibles
    Royal Masonic Girls' School: My thanks to the Freemasons
Holocaust: The Count of Auschwitz
Education: International conference on the history of Freemasonry and Events
Specialist Lodges: Masonry universal - via radio
Masonic Charities: Grand Charity continues to help those in need and New Masonic Samaritan Fund and Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys
Grand Charity: The Tsunami - one year on and Important Gift Aid information
Letters, Book Reviews, and Gardening

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On 26 December 2004 one of the worst natural disasters in living memory devastated 12 countries in Asia and Africa. Raymond Lye, President of the Grand Charity, rapidly authorised emergency grants totalling £135,000 to the British Red Cross and the District Grand Lodges of Madras and Sri Lanka. This represented just some of the support for the tsunami relief efforts that would come from Freemasons under the United Grand Lodge of England.
    In response to requests from the Craft, a Relief Chest was opened by the Grand Charity. With unprecedented generosity, the Craft has donated more than £858,000 including tax relief and interest.
    The Council of the Grand Charity agreed that the money in the Relief Chest should be applied for the longer-term relief of children orphaned or otherwise affected by the disaster, and selected Plan as its main delivery partner. The Council also agreed, in principle, to support a project developed by the Light of Siam Lodge in Phuket, Thailand, for children orphaned by the tsunami.
    Plan is a child-centred, community development organisation working in 66 countries. It seeks to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of deprived children through sustainable longterm social and economic development. Plan emphasises the importance of consultation with the whole community, including children, who are seen as integral partners.
    Already active in many of the countries hit by the tsunami and with extensive knowledge of local communities and years of experience working with local governments, Plan was well placed to help with both immediate relief and longer-term redevelopment activities.
    Following discussions with Plan, the Grand Charity agreed to support:
— A school in Indonesia;
— Ten fishing villages in Villapuram, India, with boats and nets, childcare centres and women’s self-help groups; and
— Hambantota, Sri Lanka, with their new school for 3,000 primary and secondary pupils.
    Indonesia experienced loss of life and destruction on a scale so staggering, that planning for the longer-term community redevelopment has been very difficult and slow. The Grand Charity has agreed, in principle, to donate £100,000 to contribute to funding for a school in Aceh Besar. Work on this project has not yet started, but Plan is confident it will begin soon.
    In India and Sri Lanka progress has been faster, and the lives of many tsunami survivors are already being transformed for the better. In Villapuram, India, visits to play on the beach, accompanied by trained counselling staff, are helping children to overcome their traumatic memories and to conquer their fear of the sea.
    Also, 58 fishing boats have been provided, benefiting 230 people and their families – boats that the local fishermen designed in conjunction with the suppliers and whose registration numbers are on public display in each village and monitored regularly by local Plan staff.
    Childcare centres in six villages are offering a safe and stimulating environment for 195 children and important disaster preparedness training is being delivered.
    Plan’s focus is to bring lasting improvements. As well as basic education, regular medical check-ups and vaccination programmes, the children’s daily routine emphasising training in hygiene and sanitation principles.
    Women’s self-help groups provide employment skills and the capacity, through the availability of micro-financing, to develop income-generating activities, building self-confidence and enhancing status and respect within the family.
    In Hambantota, Sri Lanka, work has begun on the construction of a school to house 3,000 primary and secondary pupils whose educational facilities were destroyed by the tsunami, or closed because of their proximity to the ocean. On the principle of ‘building back better’, Plan has worked closely with the Sri Lanka government to improve dramatically the quality of education available.
    The new school, designed after consultation with the children who will attend, incorporates science laboratories, a language laboratory, an industrial workshop, a large sports field and accommodation for teachers.
    Most important for the children, each class will have a separate classroom rather than the typical pattern found in Sri Lankan schools of partitions within a large hall. The construction project is on schedule, with the primary school due to open in January 2007 and the secondary school in the autumn thereafter.
    Through Plan, the projects funded by the Grand Charity are delivering tangible, measurable benefits for children whose lives were devastated in a few minutes.
    More important, the money given by the Craft is ‘building back better’ infrastructure and bringing lasting improvements to their quality of life.

Laura Chapman is Chief Executive of the Grand Charity


   

Left: Laying the foundations of Hambantota’s new school Right: A childcare centre in Villapuram


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