Freemasons go public with new charity for needy students

Sir David Wootton (far left), assistant grand master of the United Grand Lodge of England, with its grand secretary, Dr David Staples, in the main temple of the Freemasons' Hall in Singapore yesterday. They are in Singapore for the assembly of the Di
Sir David Wootton ( left), assistant grand master of the United Grand Lodge of England, with its grand secretary, Dr David Staples, in the main temple of the Freemasons' Hall in Singapore yesterday. They are in Singapore for the assembly of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago over the weekend.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Major public announcement of a charity a first for group amid bid to clear up myths surrounding it

To those who have heard of them, the Freemasons may seem like a secret society whose rituals and activities are shrouded in mystery.

In an effort to clear up the myths surrounding itself, the group has, for the first time, made a major public announcement about a charitable initiative it is rolling out.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation will be officially launched today to financially support underprivileged students here.

Its launch coincides with Singapore's bicentenary, which commemorates 200 years since a British trading post was established on the island by perhaps Singapore's most famous Freemason - Sir Stamford Raffles.

Dr David Staples, grand secretary of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), said: "Singaporean history is intertwined with Freemason history, and we think it's nice to mark that."

Dr Staples and Sir David Wootton, assistant grand master of the UGLE, are in Singapore for the assembly of the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago (DGLEA) over the weekend.

The DGLEA is the coordinating body for lodges in the region and part of the UGLE.

Freemasons form a fraternal organisation that is more than 300 years old and has its roots in mediaeval stonemasonry.

They are organised into groups called lodges.

Given the privacy they have maintained, they have been plagued by conspiracy theories over the years.

But Dr Staples, referring to the conspiracy theories, said: "This is a myth we are trying to counter, by telling people who we are and what we do. "Society is changing, there's an expectation that things are understood and more transparent. Similarly, we are changing with the times."

The new foundation has been funded with $1 million from the District Grand Lodge of the Eastern Archipelago and will provide scholarships to needy and deserving students.

Sir David said: "Freemasons have a purpose whereby we try to better ourselves as individuals and try to serve the communities that we come from."

The new foundation has been funded with $1 million from the DGLEA and will provide scholarships to needy and deserving students.

The students will be sourced through the network of contacts that lodges in Singapore have built up from their past community work, as well as through applications, although the details of the application process have yet to be finalised.

The foundation will also carry out fund-raising efforts.

To help the public learn more about Freemasonry, the Freemasons' Hall in Coleman Street will be hosting open houses every Saturday and Sunday this month.

Members of the public are welcome between noon and 4pm, and guided tours are available between noon and 3pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2019, with the headline 'Freemasons go public with new charity for needy students'. Print Edition | Subscribe