The Masonic Charitable Foundation has awarded a £40,000 grant to Living Paintings, a charity that organise tactile and audio-based Touch to See Book Clubs for older blind and partially-sighted people across the UK. The grant was marked with a visit by two local Freemasons to one of the Book Clubs in Newbury.
The grant will fund the salary of a Voluntary Co-Ordinator and provide a supply of new Touch to See Books. The clubs provide an opportunity for older blind and partially-sighted people to engage with a range of topics including gardening, history and art. The Book Clubs aim to reduce isolation and loneliness by encouraging members to get out of the house and take part in shared creative activities.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is entirely funded by donations from Freemasons, awards millions of pounds each year to charities that support vulnerable people, including those affected by social exclusion.
Age UK states that 1 million people will go a whole month without speaking to anyone. Isolation is particularly an issue for blind and partially-sighted people who often find it difficult to meet people due to access issues and a lack of confidence or support. The Book Clubs stimulate conversation, stir memories, allow people to talk and encourage people to take up new interests. Because of this, they are an ideal catalyst for developing social networks and giving people a purpose.
Camilla Oldland, Chief Executive at Living Paintings, said: “We are so delighted that the Masonic Charitable Foundation has chosen to support our work with a generous award that will enable us to continue and expand our very special project working to end the desperate isolation that is suffered by blind and partially sighted people living in their later years. With 250 clubs across the country there is so much more that we could do, demand is huge, and this award will go a long way in helping make the work possible.”
Colin Hayes, Deputy Provincial Grand Master for the Masonic Province of Berkshire, said: “Experiencing the work of Living Paintings first hand was very touching indeed. We are incredibly proud to support the charity and were impressed by the work we saw during our visit – the volunteers were doing a magnificent job running the Book Clubs. The Freemasons of Berkshire plan to help Living Paintings further by providing volunteers to assist the Newbury group on an ongoing basis, and we look forward to working with them well into the future.”