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WORKING OF THE DISTRICT BOARD OF BENEVOLENCE - A Comprehensive Review of the Zoom Seminar - HELD ON 20TH MARCH 2024

By Brother Wilson CA CHANG, Sub-Editor of the District Newsletter & a member of Table Lodge 9717 EC, Tawau, State of Sabah in Borneo, Malaysia




On 20th March 20th, at 7 p.m., like many of you, I had the privilege of participating in a Zoom seminar organized by DGLEA. The seminar provided profound insight into the workings of the District Board of Benevolence (“DBB”). With approximately 120 participants at its peak, the seminar lasted just over 2 hours. During this time, several speakers elucidated the functions of the DBB and its pivotal role in charity endeavors. This marked a significant moment as it was the first time the DBB openly shared its role via Zoom.


The statement delivered by W Bro Dr. Shanmugam Subbiah, President of the 2023/2024 District Board of Benevolence, underscores the importance of charitable acts while bringing them to the forefront of our awareness.







The core message Dr. Shanmugam Subbiah shared was that our three Great Tenants of Brotherly Love, Charity, and Relief are the fundamental principles of all Freemasons, and those who give are blessed. [It is more blessed to give than to receive - Book of Acts 20:35]

 

The Presenters were:

No.

Topic

Presenter

1.

An Overview of DBB and its Activities

W Bro Dr Shanmugam

2.

Duties of a Liaison Member

W Bro Russel Stuart

3.

Duties of a Charity Steward

W Bro Dr Prasad Menon

4.

Duties of a Lodge Almoner

W Bro  Victor Lim

5.

DBB Masonic & Non-Masonic Funds

W Bro Ramesh  Rajaratnam, DGT


With permission from the DBB, a copy of the presentation (in PTT format) is made available here  for download and perusal.


LATEST DISTRICT BOARD OF BENEVOLENCE -R presented March 20 2024
.ppt
Download PPT • 9.48MB


The following are a few of the PowerPoint Slides from that Presentation.



These presentations delved into the DBB's operational aspects, expounding the application processes for Masonic and non-Masonic funds. Particularly noteworthy was the clarification of the DBB protocol to follow when a brother or his family encounters distress. In such cases, the local Lodge Almoner plays a pivotal role in conducting investigations and reporting to the Lodge Charity Committee. Subsequently, if additional assistance is required, the lodge can engage its regional Liaison Officer to facilitate the application process with the DBB.



In times of emergency, the DBB convenes for emergency sessions, with the authority to approve funds of up to RM5,000 within 24 hours. This mechanism underscores the DBB's commitment to swift and effective aid provision.


The seminar also addressed contemporary challenges, such as the increasing need for charitable assistance due to rising life expectancies and limitations of standard medical insurance. An intriguing discussion arose regarding securing discounts from private hospitals for Freemason Brethren, revealing the resourcefulness of DBB members, some of whom are doctors, in navigating such scenarios.


I found elucidating the duties of a Charity Steward and a Lodge Almoner enlightening. The significance of the Jewel of Lodge Almoner is imbued with significance.








The following excerpt highlights some of the Q&A sessions.


Q: Why can’t the DBB streamline paperwork and aim for faster responses?


A: The DBB recognizes that the funds it manages belong to every Brother, and as custodians, there's a fiduciary duty to ensure efficient utilization. Often, lodges may not fully grasp the application process, DBB, without the privilege of interviewing the candidate must rely on submitted forms for decision-making.



Q: When and why should a local lodge apply for DBB funds?


A: Ideally, local lodges should exhaust their resources first. However, when additional assistance is needed, the DBB and even the Grand Lodge are vital backups, ensuring brethren receive the necessary support.



Q: What's the allocation guideline for masonic and non-masonic charities?


A: Allocation is discretionary, and the local lodge determines it based on its charitable priorities.



Q: Why was it mentioned that a member's contribution to the DBB might affect their application?


A: The discussion highlighted that contributions to the DBB are often attributed to the lodge rather than individual members. There's a call to streamline this process or ensure lodges provide proper notice, enabling clearer identification of contributors in future reports.



Q: Should benevolent funds subsidize brethren who are unable to pay dues?


A: Generally, no. Benevolent funds aren't intended for dues subsidy as they don't align with charitable purposes. Alternative mechanisms exist to address dues payment issues, such as subsidies or waivers through different channels.



Towards the end, the organizers expressed disappointment over the turnout, hoping for at least 200 attendees from the District. Efforts were made through WM and the Secretary’s group correspondences, and even the DGM actively encouraged attendance.


The date and timing may not be optimal. To address this, I suggest making this PowerPoint presentation and its recording available for later viewing (That's why this article was penned with the endorsement of the DBB) or sending out emails for those who prefer written content that could enhance accessibility.


I take pride in seeing key members of my Lodge, including the Secretary, Almoner, Membership Officer, and the Liaison Officer for the Sabah Region, participating in this Zoom meeting.


In conclusion, the seminar served as a beacon of enlightenment, reaffirming the principles of compassion and solidarity within Freemasonry. I was profoundly touched by the organizer's eagerness to travel and impart insights to any local lodge keen on understanding the workings of the DBB.












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