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West Boldon Forest Playschool

In a heartwarming display of community support, the Durham Freemasons, represented by John Watts, and the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), represented by Duncan Maw, made a to West Boldon Lodge Forest Playschool. Alongside Allan Britton, on their visit, John, Duncan, and Allan were treated to an insightful tour of the facilities, guided by Aylen, Fiona, and Jasmin. The day was marked by memorable moments, including John engaging with the children in a storytelling session, while Duncan lent a hand in the gardens. This collaboration exemplifies the spirit of giving and the profound impact it can have on the development of young lives.

A generous grant of £35000 from the MCF will underpin the Forest Playschool’s efforts at their 13 Hectare haven, a natural tapestry of woodlands and wetlands. The program’s weekly outdoor sessions are a beacon of exploration and growth, inviting children to immerse themselves in nature, forge friendships, embrace new experiences, maintain physical activity, and cultivate self-assurance and adaptability by directly interacting with the great outdoors. The overarching mission is to level the playing field, offering every child a head start in life that rivals that of their more privileged counterparts.

An estimated 120 children and their families from South Tyneside stand to gain from this philanthropic gesture. Courtesy of the Durham Freemasons, these fortunate recipients will enjoy the privilege of participating in two complimentary Forest Playschool sessions each week for the duration of the next three years.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation, sustained by the contributions of Freemasons, their families, and benevolent friends throughout England and Wales, played a pivotal role in securing this funding.

Stronger Together

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Sensory Room For The Special Lioness

Today Andrew Thompson had the honour to represent The Durham Freemasons at the opening of the sensory room of the special lioness by the mayoress of Sunderland.This new room was turned around in only 17 days completely by volunteers, A fantastic space that is suitable for all children  #speciallioness

Creating Memories and Friendships

Inspired by a life-changing event, The Special Lioness was established in 2017 in Sunderland, UK. Over the years, they have become passionate about giving special families opportunities to make memories that would never be achievable on their own and to create friendships and advocates travelling the same journey. Check out their Facebook page for up to date information and events, or just to connect with other parent\carers.

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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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