The Masonic Charitable Foundation, a charity funded by the Freemasons, has awarded £40,000 to help organise tactile and audio-based "Touch to See" book clubs for older blind and partially-sighted people across the UK.
The £40,000 grant was awarded to Living Paintings, a publishing house and library based in Kingsclere in Hampshire, also the only charity in the UK which designs, creates and publishes tactile books and audio books.
The grant, marked with a visit by two local Freemasons to one of the book clubs in Newbury, 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, and aim to reduce isolation and loneliness by encouraging members to get out of the house and socialise. They operate nationwide and together have over 3,000 club members.
The Masonic Charitable Foundation awards millions of pounds each year to charities that support vulnerable people, including those affected by social exclusion.
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, added: “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.”
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