A pleasantly mild South Island evening greeted a reception of Masons from the four constitutions who had gathered at the Dunedin Masonic Centre early in February 2015. The attendees were present to witness the eighth presentation of the Port Chalmers’ Marine Lodge bursary, which in 2005, that Lodge created to assist an exceptional High School leaver from the Port Chalmers region with funding toward the costs of their tertiary learning. The grant is given to a young person who, in the opinion of the grant committee, has worked hardest (sometimes overcoming considerable adversity) to achieve entrance to a place of further education.
2015’s recipient was a worthy winner. A self-effacing young woman, Ruth Michal Foerg ventured into the Lodge room; her demeanour suggested that she considered herself undeserving of the attention being paid to her. Her mother, sister, and boyfriend accompanied her, all wearing wide smiles signalling their pride that she had achieved this recognition. For a long-time Ruth has harboured a desire to work in the food industry, but this vast industry requires one to learn and gain wide knowledge of its complex mechanisms if one is to ever achieve within any of its multitudinal sectors. Ruth, however, suffers from dyslexia, a condition that has slowed her progress in education, and it has simply been through her footslogging battle, wrestling with her problem, that she finally achieved the NCEA results required to gain entry to Otago Polytechnic. Finally, with a little help from the Otago Masonic Charitable Trust (OMCT), she is on track toward a Bachelor of Culinary Arts degree.
For the past 8-years, the history of the Port Chalmers’ Marine Lodge No. 942 E.C. and the story behind its bursary was explained to recipients by long-time Otago Masonic Charitable Trust trustee, Rt.W.Bro. Gordon Baines but, following his passing, the role this year was fulfilled by Lodge Secretary, V.W.Bro. Mel Darling who was a Mason in the English Constitution prior to his joining Lodge St. Patrick No. 468 in the Irish Constitution. By being swift and precise, Mel did a fine job of making this history, and the ethos of Freemasonry in general, interesting for the young people present.
Although there are always multiple applications for this annual funding, the Foerg family must be a hard working lot because in 2012 Ruth’s older sister, Sarah was also successful following her presentation for the grant. This presentation then marks a ‘first’ for the Port Chalmers’ bursary. (As a point of interest, Sarah Foerg, who was studying for a degree in Interior Design, was top of her class in 2015.)
Born in 1996 in the picturesque lakeside town of Starnberg, Bavaria, Ruth Foerg became a New Zealand citizen in 2012 and she now lives in Roseneath, Port Chalmers. Ruth told us, “I have been interested in the culinary industry for a long time. Making food for others is not, for me, just simply about nourishing people, but is a way of pleasing them and making them happy. I enjoy seeing the delight on people’s faces when I present them with a dish that I have created. It is my way of forming new relationships and contributing to other people’s well-being.”
Thanking members of the OMCT present, and V.W.Bro. Ashley Broad JP (who presented Ruth with the 5,000 dollar cheque), her mother Raewyn Stedman, said that she was “very proud” of her two daughters and their achievements, but also that she was “deeply grateful to the Freemasons who have helped to assist them both with their educational goals to make a better future for, not only themselves, but for many others.”
Raewyn suggested that without the assistance of Masonic charity helping to relieve her burden, the financing of her daughters’ further education would simply have been beyond her means.