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
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
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
Laying the foundations
A childcare centre
Web site created by Mark Griffin