A conversation among Essex Freemasons about how to help others during the coronavirus pandemic has led to a county-wide scheme to support nursing degree apprentices.

Kevin Thompson, a retired police officer who joined the Princess Alexandra Hospital Trust as a porter, had met Raili Zupping.

Raili joined the apprenticeship degree nurse training scheme at PAHT and Anglia Ruskin University just three weeks before the first wave of Covid-19 in 2020.

A single mother living on a minimum wage, Raili had no recourse to government funding and no support network.

Old Chelmsfordian Lodge members contacted ARU who suggested helping with equipment, study material and medical journals through £1,000 for each year of the course.

Some members set up a regular standing-order, others donated lump sums. The Essex Freemasons Community Fund (EFCF) added £500 and pledged £1,500 over the next three years.

Seven other Federation of School Lodges in Essex will similarly sponsor an apprenticed nurse with further match-funding from the EFCF, for the course duration.