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Lauren regales Durham Preceptory of Installed Preceptors No.567

A report from the Provincial Sub Prior on the August meeting of Durham Preceptory of Installed Preceptors.

The Preceptory having been reinvigorated with new members has also moved to being a Preceptory of learning and improvement, whereby members are encouraged to not only submit questions in advance for our Provincial Prior to comment on, but also to receive a prominent lecture or talk on a Masonic aspect or one of interest for its members.

With the safe return of our sponsored St John Ambulance Volunteer from the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, we invited Lauren Wilkinson to share her experiences of her visit. The background to Lauren attending the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem arose following renewed links between our Provincial Prior, Richard George Scott, and Dr Gillian Gillmore, Chair of the Priory Group of Durham.

The format for selection followed a similar format as used in 2010 to find an Adult Cadet Leader who would find the sponsorship beneficial to their forthcoming studies at either University or other further education. Collectively between senior members of the St John Cadet Division for Durham which stretches from the bottom of Northumberland down through Durham to the Tees. candidates were invited to submit a written essay, as to how such a visit would help in their chosen careers and personal development.

With our Provincial Sub Prior, Richard Hamlyn Tucker MBE BEM PGStdB (B), involved in the selection panel, they looked across several spectra; from career choice, culture, work already done within the community and that of St John Ambulance Brigade. Lauren Wilkinson who joined the organisation in 2015 as a cadet at its Burnopfield unit was selected, having served firstly as a cadet before becoming an adult member.

In selecting her we noted that Lauren had not only volunteered as a first-aider on the mobile Unit in Newcastle on Saturday evenings looking after those “worse for wear”, but also providing first aid care at events, from small local fairs to the Great North Run, concerts and football matches. Lauren was also selected to become a demonstrator for St John, and is able and qualified to teach adults and young people first aid. Lauren equally, when an opportunity arose, volunteered to become a youth leader working with the cadets and has chosen to follow a career in paramedics.

Having been selected, the sponsorship enabled Lauren to travel to London overnight before flying to Israel the following morning. Lauren then enjoyed 10 days in the Holy Land staying in accommodation kindly provided by the Eye Hospital.

Lauren mentioned whilst waiting to enter the Preceptory meeting that this was far more daunting than travelling to Jerusalem to meet with complete strangers in an environment so completely different to previous venues or places. However, Lauren was enthusiastically welcomed with applause and proceeded to present a very competent and informative 40-minute presentation covering her visit and experiences, many of which have clearly left an impression upon her.

Lauren explained how the outreach programme runs 4 days a week and that the team aim to visit each village on a rotating six monthly basis. She detailed the involvement of the doctors and nurses who travel to these remote villages to offer screening for eye diseases, either then referring the patient to the hospital in Jerusalem or to the clinics in Hebron or Anabta for treatment. Equally some treatment is remedial and can be given on the spot such as eye drops.

The walk-in clinic is open five days a week and offers emergency treatment and follow up appointments for patients after surgery. This service, run by Marlene, also offers screening to schools in the old city. This screening programme, which is free of charge for the schools in an attempt to identify any problems early and then refer the child on for further treatment and investigations, aims to save their sight in the long run, as often these problems would continue to go unnoticed until it is too late.

Lauren was also accompanied throughout the trip by Mrs Shelia Wilkinson, Regional Divisional Officer, who had elected to accompany Lauren at her own expense.

Following Lauren's presentation and a good degree of questions, our Provincial Sub Prior advised those present that Lauren had revealed that her exam results received earlier in the week confirmed she had passed her exams with distinction and had been accepted to attend Sunderland University to study advanced paramedics.

Retiring downstairs both Lauren and Shelia were invited and joined our festive board.

The photo showing our L-R Shelia Thompson, Richard H Tucker MBE, Provincial Prior Sub Prior, Miss Lauren Wilkinson and our Provincial Prior, Richard George Scott, also shows in the middle a limited-edition painting named “Strike Force” which was donated by a number of the Knights to assist in raising monies for next year's candidate.

Durham have now commenced discussions with the Eye Group for the selection criteria for this year. Currently we have raised sufficient funds to have 2020 already covered with an expectation that by April 2020, 2021 will be “in the bank”. Several Provinces have been in contact to discuss both UK and additional Eye Hospital initiatives with our Sub Prior.

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