The Old Chelmsfordian Lodge 5499

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Introducing Raili, The Old Chelmsfordian Apprentice Nurse


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Raili had always wanted to support other people with care, comfort, and compassion as a nurse.  With nothing more than the inspiration of Florence Nightingale who said, “Starting a job and working hard is how to be successful”, Raili entered the new apprenticeship degree nurse training scheme at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAHT) in Harlow and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) just three weeks before the first wave of Covid-19 in 2020.  Little did Raili then know that the Freemasons of Old Chelmsfordian Lodge No 5499 would soon play a big part in supporting her.

As the enormity of the pandemic hit home, the Lodge members held meetings on Zoom to plan their response. The Almoner designate who took office in October 2020, Brian Gilbertson, asked a simple question “Why can’t we sponsor a nurse?” The retiring Almoner, Keith Baggs, through a connection at Broomfield Hospital was directed to ARU which saw no reason why not over the four-year training period. The Charity Steward, retired police officer Kevin Thompson, had joined PAHT as a porter and met Raili, an apprenticed nurse who had no support network, was a single mother living on a minimum wage with no recourse to government funding, desperately needing support and help with car maintenance. Raili ticked all the boxes.

ARU suggested helping with equipment, study material and medical journals.  £1,000 for each of the four years was considered as both appropriate and feasible. Some members set up a regular standing-order, others donated lump sums. The Secretary, Rob Bates, remembered when the Lodge had donated to Blesma, for limbless veterans, that their Assistant Provincial Grand Master (APGM), Lee Taylor, announced the Essex Freemasons Community Fund (EFCF) could match-fund Lodges towards good causes up to £500. The Lodge applied and EFCF agreed with £500 now and £1,500 over the next three years. Treasurer, Colin Webb, makes sure all the money is wisely spent.

Assistant Secretary and Past Master, David Rootkin, arranged for some of the Lodge members and Lee Taylor and Colin Felton, the Provincial Grand Charity Steward and Chair of the EFCF, to meet Raili at Chelmsford Masonic Hall.  After listening to Raili and learning just how beneficial the Lodge financial support is to her, Lee and Colin agreed to make this a new Provincial-wide sponsorship project for Essex Freemasons. Lee has already approached the seven other Federation of School Lodges in the Province to ask if they will each consider similarly sponsoring an apprenticed nurse with a minimum of £500 pa, with a further £500 match-funded from the EFCF, for each of the four years.

Another Past Master, Brian Simpson, had seen a similar situation many years ago and encouraged the Lodge with his full support. The Worshipful Master, Gary Payne said “This is what Freemasonry is all about. It is the good work which is not usually publicised”. Rob Bates added “Now the project is off the ground it is very rewarding to see someone develop and benefit from Freemasonry”.

With weekly contact and helpful Lodge support, Raili said “This has all made me feel more confident with a no-stress drive to work I am able to focus on the task of achieving my degree. You have all made my year with this help and I am grateful. Again, I really can’t say thank-you enough.”  So, in the future if you receive care, comfort, and compassion from a Registered Nurse with a BSc (Hons) nursing degree it may be Raili - the Old Chelmsfordian sponsored apprenticed nurse.

Pictured with Rail are W. Bro. Kevin Thompson (Charity Steward),  W. Bro. Lee Taylor (APGM) and W. Bro. Gary Payne (Worshipful Master)