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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) — English Freemasons last Friday donated just over $2 million to the Jamaica Cancer Society (JCS), ahead of yesterday’s installation of a new district grand master of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
The donations were presented to JCS Chairman Earl Jarrett by Peter Lowndes, pro grand master United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE); and Dwight Reece, who yesterday succeeded Walter Scott as district grand master of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.
“Jamaica has always been important to us. It’s an extremely well-run district,” Lowndes told the Jamaica Observer in an interview after presenting a cheque from the UGLE valued at £5,000 at the JCS headquarters on Old Hope Road in St Andrew.
“We ask the districts what charities they favour so that we can add to the donations they are giving to make them even more worthwhile. It’s a natural thing for us to support any cancer charity, but this one in particular, and it’s a great privilege to be able to do so,” he said.
The donation from the District Grand Lodge of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands was $1.2 million.
Pointing to the importance of screening, Lowndes said “We are a male organisation, and prostate cancer is inevitably at the top of people’s minds. People are very frightened of it and [some] have not been prepared to go the route of having scans and that sort of thing, so anything that can be done to encourage people to come and talk about it and be seen by professionals has to be a good thing.”
Responding to the donations, Jarrett thanked the Freemasons and said that the funds will certainly go a long way in helping the JCS maintain its headquarters.
“Our job of educating the public is an ongoing one, and the fact that we rely on donations means that every year we start with a need to find at least $120 million… we basically start each year with an empty cupboard,” Jarrett said.
“I should point out the great relationship between Freemasons and the cancer society over many years. We have always had directors on the board who are members of the masonic order. In fact, our president, Afeef Lazarus, is a distinguished Freemason and was district grand master of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands; and so it was quite pleasing to be here this morning to be meeting with the leadership of the masonic order in the UK and to be receiving this donation which will assist us in pursuing our mission,” Jarrett said.
Earlier, before the presentations, Jarrett spoke about Lazarus’ involvement in the cancer society, particularly his efforts to get the JCS building constructed.
Jarrett also recalled that in the early days of the JCS, people shied away from public disclosure of their cancer diagnosis.
He said that the pioneers of the cancer society sought to open up the dialogue about cancer to determine what could be done, especially after they found out that cervical cancer was a major problem in the country at the time.
“We identified…that educating Jamaican women and men, and making screening available was the way to go,” Jarrett explained.
“The cancer society was, for many years, the major provider of Pap smear screening for women; it was the organisation that moved cancer from darkness into light, in that people are now standing on stage sharing that they have cancer. That would never happen in the past,” he added.
Lazarus told the Sunday Observer that the Masonic Foundation, which is run by the Grand Lodge of England, is the second — largest contributor to charities in the United Kingdom.
“They do a lot of work for cancer, especially cancer in children,” he said, and expressed gratitude to the UGLE as well as the local private sector for their assistance with the Jamaica Cancer Society’s programmes.
The UGLE, Lowndes also pointed out, donates upwards of £45 million to charities worldwide annually, especially in jurisdictions in need of aid after natural disasters.
This morning Lowndes, accompanied by UGLE Chief Executive Officer and Grand Secretary Dr David Staples, as well as UGLE Grand Director of Ceremonies Charles Hopkinson-Wollery, will make a donation to Jamaica National Children’s Home.