22nd June 2022

Freemasons continue their funding for life-changing medical research

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) has been committed to funding vital medical research since its inception in 2016, with the aim of improving knowledge, treatment and services for people with life-changing diseases and illnesses. By funding PhD studentships, Freemasonry is not only advancing the medical community’s understanding of complex diseases, it is cementing the next generation of research experts and scientists. In February 2022, the MCF awarded a total of £541,000 to medical research, working with four partners to fund seven new PhD studentships under the theme of degenerative diseases. These new partners include Alzheimer’s Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK, and the University of Bradford.

The MCF recently spoke to two students to discover their goals and findings of their PhD studentships.

PhD Student: Richard ScharffCharity: Fight for Sight with the University of ManchesterMCF funding:£100,000

What is Richard researching? Richard’s study aims to better understand how age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that affects a person's central vision, develops.

Why AMD? “When I was introduced to AMD while studying my masters, I was struck by how debilitating a disease it is, as well as how much of the UK population suffers from it –roughly 600,000 people. To lose ones sight is such a major struggle, so I felt that any work I could do to prevent AMD would be worthwhile and fulfilling.” says Richard.

What has Richard discovered? As he approaches the end of his studentship, Richard has seen impressive findings through his research: “I’ve discovered that the protein ITIH3, which is found in high quantities for people with AMD, can attach to a range of different molecules within the eye, as well as to itself. I’m currently in the process of imaging sections of donated eyes to find out where exactly ITIH3 is, what it attaches to, and how that changes the area of the eye.”

How will Richard’s research make a difference? “While my research will not cure AMD, it will be another brick in the process that will be followed by those who will develop new therapies based on what I learn. This will lead to better treatments and eventually prevent the disease from harming anyone at all.”

PhD student:Russell FrewCharity:Diabetes UK with the University of ExeterMCF funding:£88,935

What is Russell researching? Russell’s research aims to understand the link between mitochondrial dysfunction and insulin disorders, like diabetes.

Why this study? “I was initially interested in this area of study because of the rarity of mitochondrial dysfunction. Learning about this led me to the fascinating revelation that mitochondria are more important than given credit for. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a poorly-understood cause of diabetes and a fascinating area of research.” “It was such great news to hear that the MCF decided to fund our project.I feel so lucky to be given the opportunity to be part of such an impactful and inspiring team of scientists,” says Russell.

What has Russell discovered? “Even in the early stages of my PhD, I have found evidence to suggest that one genetic variant, previously not associated with diabetes, may be involved in the development of diabetes in new-born babies.”

How will Russell’s research make a difference? Of course, the most important aspect of medical research is how it will impact lives. Through Russell’s research, more accurate diagnoses could be given to babies living with rare genetic insulin disorders, ensuring they can access the best treatments for their condition. His research could also allow these genes to be genetically screened for, ensuring earlier diagnosis for babies and improving access to potentially life-saving treatments.

By nurturing the talent of young scientists like Richard and Russell, and providing the funding necessary for them to become experts in their fields,
Freemasonry is enabling the research breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Learn more about MCF support through medical research here


11th April 2022

Freemasons contribute to £500,000 for Ukrainian refugees

The photo shows a Red Cross medic in Poland helping a family newly arrived from Ukraine

Thousands of Ukrainian refugees as well as displaced people still inside Ukraine will be given help and support, thanks to half a million pounds raised by Suffolk Freemasons and other Provinces across England and Wales. The money is being directed to charities working on the ground in Ukraine, as well as organisations helping refugees in neighbouring countries including Poland, Moldova, Romania, and in the UK. The £500,000 was raised in less than three weeks and the total is still growing as Freemasons continue to dig deep to help the refugees. The war in Ukraine has created by far the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, and more people are fleeing Ukraine for countries to the west every day.

The chosen charities, each of which will receive £100,000, are:

  1. The UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) – which could help setup a ‘Blue Dot Hub’ to provide a safe space for up to 5,000 children and families on the move every day. Blue Dot Hubs offer critical services such as child-friendly spaces, mother and baby facilities and a crucial family reunification support.
  2. Plan International UK – which could help set up 55 temporary learning spaces in Poland, Moldova and Romania, so children can learn and play in a safe space away from the war.
  3. The Refugee Council – which could help to fund two full-time therapists to provide specialist therapy for hundreds of traumatised refugees.
  4. British Red Cross – to fund work with hundreds of Ukrainian refugees in the UK to help them overcome loneliness and isolation and to offer other practical support to help ease them into life in Britain.
  5. UK for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency – which could help provide essential repairs to severely damaged homes in Ukraine that have been damaged by shelling and conflict.

Suffolk Freemasons contributed to the grant through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales. Ian Yeldham, Provincial Grand Master for Suffolk, said: “Freemasons have an outstanding record helping those in need in this country and around the world, but this huge sum to support Ukrainian refugees was raised in record time. I’m very proud that we in Suffolk have been able to play such an important part in this essential work."


9th MARCH 2022

HRH The Earl of Wessex and HRH The Duke of Kent to celebrate The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award donation at Freemasons’ Hall

More than 30,000 young people with disabilities and special educational needs (SEND) will be able to do their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, thanks to a three-year strategic partnership, which will donate a total of £300,000 from the Freemasons. To make this partnership with the DofE possible, the UGLE has teamed up with the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF). The MCF became a strategic partner of the DofE in 2021 and has funded a new national programme to upskill its team and volunteers. The programme also helps enroll more schools and clubs which support young people with SEND, to ensure all young people have access to the DofE. HRH The Duke of Edinburgh (Prince Philip), who founded the DofE in 1956, was himself a Freemason and was initiated into Navy Lodge, No 2612 on 5 December 1952. The ambition is to use the funds to increase the number of centres, such as schools and youth groups, offering DofE to young people with SEND and to train hundreds of Leaders who can support groups of young people through their DofE journeys.

Dr David Staples, UGLE's Chief Executive, said: “Freemasons are enormously proud to have counted His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, as a member of the Navy Lodge since 1952. Their fondness and respect were abundantly clear from the response to the launch of this appeal, and we are delighted that the funds raised will be put to such good use.” Les Hutchinson, Chief Executive of the MCF, added: “Charity is in our DNA and something we practise every time we meet. In just a few years, we have already awarded grants totalling £100 million and supported over 3,000 charities; with grants ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of pounds, including the grant we are celebrating today.”

Caroline Glen, Director of Fundraising for the DofE, said: “We’re very grateful to the Masonic Charitable Foundation for their generous grant, which will give many thousands of young people with disabilities and special educational needs the chance to take part in the DofE and gain its life-changing benefits. This is a wonderful and very practical way to continue The Duke’s amazing legacy and to spread the benefits of the DofE further than ever before.”

The programme has been designed to make DofE participation possible for young people with additional needs. It will help young people build crucial life skills, develop employability skills and become more independent. The impact of achieving a DofE Award is remarkable and often life-changing for young people with additional needs, who can be excluded from adventurous activities due to a lack of accessible equipment, facilities, trained support staff and funding.