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Dragons Den – Durham Freemasons in Association with Princes Trust

Provincial Crest

Hundreds of young people looking to build new skills will be given a push in the right direction thanks to a £75,000 grant from Durham Freemasons.

The Norman Jackson Bequest fund has committed a massive £50,000 to support community projects delivered across the region by youngsters taking part in The Prince’s Trust’s Team programme, with a further £25,000 donated to the work of the national charity.

“To commemorate Prince Charles turning 75, in his coronation year, we wanted to give a significant grant to a charity or charities connected to the King,” said John Watts, Deputy Provincial Grand Master with Durham Freemasons.

“When we heard about the projects being carried out locally across our province area by those undertaking The Prince’s Trust Team programme, it seemed the perfect fit.”

The 12-week personal development course offers young people, aged 16 to 25, the chance to develop new skills by taking part in a variety of activities and tasks, including a two-week community project.

By working together, with a focus on helping others, Team members brush up on essential skills such as teamwork, confidence and leadership.

Prince’s Trust Teams are held in 13 locations across the Durham Freemasons’ jurisdiction, three times a year, including Stockton, Darlington and Bishop Auckland Teams, delivered by Education Training Collective (Etc.).  The grant will now fund community projects for all 13 Teams for the next two years. 

Volunteers from the Freemasons also committed their time and expertise to act as “dragons” for the young people as they pitch for funding in “Dragons’ Den” style presentations.

With the first round of projects off the ground, the Etc. Prince’s Trust Stockton Team created a play area in the garden at Thornaby Methodist Church.  Stockton Team leader, Sarah Sherriff, said: “It was a big job as the area was so overgrown, but it made a big difference to the church and the community groups that use it.”

Successfully pitching for £657 from the Durham Freemasons’ fund Sarah said: “The team were nervous at first, but they had done their research and so once they got into it, they relaxed and did really well.

“Raising funds for the community project is a struggle these days, so to have this funding helps massively and for the young people it helps with their confidence and public speaking, which is great experience.”

Team member Tamzin Walder, 23, from Stockton, said: “We were so grateful for the support we received.  To see the finished garden and the amount of work we had put in as a team was breath-taking.”

Other Team projects delivered so far include masonry work carried out on the playground at Timothy Hackworth Primary School in Shildon, a refresh of the sensory room for New Steps Care in the Community in Chester-le-Street, redecorating the Tanfield Football Club changing rooms, and building goat pens and chicken coops at Bill Quay Farm in South Shields.

The Etc’s Head of Department for The Prince’s Trust, Gillian Hutchinson, said: “This funding will make a huge difference to Teams delivered across the wider area.  Having financial backing means our young people can make a real difference to their communities. But, beyond that, to have Durham Freemasons engaging with our Team members, through the Dragons’ Den presentations, listening to their plans and offering advice and support, is invaluable.”

The Freemasons’ Deputy Provincial Grand Master, John, said: “What we have experienced so far in our first round of funding is wonderful.  Not only do we get to support a great charity, but we get to see and engage with the young people involved firsthand, and then the projects they deliver benefit the wider community.

“It has been amazing to see the excitement of the young people as they successfully pitch their community projects to us, and then, coming back to see the projects complete, we can see the change in the young people with the growth of their self-belief and self-confidence.

“Some of our members have come back from the “Dragons’ Den” presentations and said, this is one of the most meaningful things they have been able to do as Freemasons.”

Durham Masonic Charitable Foundation contacted Prince’s Trust delivery staff in the North-East with a desire to support the charity and mark the King’s Coronation year. King Charles III established the Prince’s Trust in 1976 with a desire to support young people from all backgrounds. 2023 also marked the King’s 75th birthday.

During a meeting with members of Durham Benevolence at the Prince’s Trust, Cheryl’s Trust Centre we discussed some very practical funding support which the foundation could provide to Prince’s Trust Teams in their catchment area. – The Dragon’s Den Funding for Community Projects on Team Programme.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation were kind enough to donate a total of £75,000 to the work of the Prince’s Trust in this, the Coronation year! This is comprised of a £25,000 donation to the Prince’s Trust Charity and a further £50,000 to be used over 2 years for the support of community projects that young people across the region will deliver as part of their Team programme.

The members of Durham Freemasons have become our new Dragons – meeting young people, supporting their project plans and funding the delivery of worthwhile projects across the region.

Stronger Together

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Duncan Visits Radio Stitch

Duncan Visits Radio Stitch

Taking up an invitation from Stitch Radio our Provincial Almoner Duncan Maw visited their state of the art Studio’s within the University Hospital of North Tees.. The Hospital radio station were keen to learn about how Freemasons care for their brethren in need, their families and, when they are no longer with us, their widows.

Duncan was able to bring alive how Durham Freemasons operate as one big family. Looking out for each other and when things become hard lending that helping hand. He was keen to stress that Our commitment doesn’t end when our Brethren pass to the grand lodge above and talked about how we keep in touch with and support their dependents especially in the event of a members lodge being no longer in existence.

The Interviewer was intrigued to learn of the various forms of support provided to freemasons throughout the province by Durham Benevolence and the MCF. They were also surprised at the enormous contribution to local charities that are made by Lodges, Durham Benevolence and the MCF.

Listen to Duncans interview Here:

Should anyone be interested in helping with the ongoing support we give to the widows of closed lodges please email Duncan at


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Benevolent Representatives Round Table Forum

25th November – Benevolent Representatives are invited to attend a round table forum to discuss how to increase the impact of the Benevolent Representative and their role.

This is designed to provide an opportunity to Benevolent Representatives to contribute ideas to improve the impact of our Masonic Charity in the Province of Durham.

Those attending are also welcome to remain and attend the Lodge Charity Stewards/ Almoners Seminar which follows the forum between 09.00am and 10.00am.

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Durham City Youth Project

Through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) awarding grants to local and national charities, Durham City Youth Project (DCYP), based in Framwellgate Moor were awarded a grant of £15,000 over 3 years, which will benefit the well-being and development of 600 children and young people.

Following the award, Warren Crake, DCYP Lead Youth Worker and Katy Wood, Parks and Countryside Coordinator from Durham County Council, invited local Freemason Stewart K Bell to one of their working sessions and see at first hand their work in action

The DCYP a.k.a. ‘Pity Me Piranhas,’ are showing a presentation created as part of their entry for the ‘John Muir Award Scheme,’ that encourages people of all backgrounds to connect with the natural environment in a spirit of fun, adventure and exploration. Participants are required to spend 25 hours of time discovering a local wild space with opportunities to explore conserve and share.

The group of youngsters descended on ‘Pity Me Carrs  Local Nature Reserve,’ where they made discoveries of many species of insects, protected newts, amphibians and various mammals, even bats when they did a night session. Using an Electric Bat Detector, they could identify the species by listening to their calls or recording them for sound analysis on a computer.

The delivery of the presentation was a delight to witness, young people working together as an organised group, enjoying each other’s company, and learning about the local countryside while taking part in environmental studies showing how each person can do their bit to sustain nature for future generations to enjoy.

Stewart thanked Katy, Warren and especially the children for his invitation to the presentation evening.  Congratulating them all on the wonderful work, they are doing, Stewart said he was proud that the Freemasons were giving financial support not only to local charities, but also to those seeking assistance nationally and worldwide, and that the Freemasons of Durham would welcome an invitation for a return visit to DCYP.

Stronger Together

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