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Gibraltar's Rapid Response

Photo of volunteer delivering aid to Morocco after the earthquake in 2023


Stephen AJ Whatley reports on a rapid response to a humanitarian crisis. 

Service to the community is one of the four pillars on which Freemasonry rests. In the wake of the emergency caused by the earthquake in Morocco, Gibraltar Freemasons were quick to react, helping the relief effort and providing essential aid to those in need. 

In September 2023, disaster struck in the heart of the Marrakesh-Safi region as a devastating earthquake hit the Atlas Mountains. More than 2,900 lives were lost with 5,500 people injured. There was also extensive damage to the country’s infrastructure and major displacement of Moroccan citizens, including thousands of children. Marrakesh and its surrounding villages are still in need of help to rebuild their schools, hospitals and homes. 

The disaster was particularly heartfelt in Gibraltar. The British Overseas Territory is just nine miles from the coast of Morocco and has a vibrant Moroccan community. With family and friends displaced, the need for support was great and unprecedented in the area. Gibraltar Freemasonry didn’t hesitate. 

Within eight days of the earthquake, the District Grand Lodge of Gibraltar formally began its campaign to raise money. On behalf of the District Grand Master Derek Tilbury, the District Grand Secretary Stephen Whatley Snr, wrote to all Lodges and units in Gibraltar requesting donations to support the effort. This included the Scottish and Irish Constitutions, the District Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of Gibraltar, and other Companion Orders. 

Just four days later, Gibraltar Freemasons had donated £6,630 to the Straits of Gibraltar Association Trust. This money contributed to a joint humanitarian mission headed by the local charity, consisting of emergency medical response and disaster relief equipment and expertise. 

The mission’s journey was marked by a challenging 23-hour drive to the epicentre of the disaster zone, where as well as distributing vital supplies, the expedition focused on and succeeded in returning many people to their homes, particularly those with disabilities. 

Alongside this effort came another humanitarian project organised by 10 local motorhome owners, including two Gibraltarian Brethren – Steven Segui and Johnny Gonzalez of the English and Scottish Constitutions. Collectively, they began to assemble supplies, using their motorhomes to transport whatever they could take on the trip. At the start of October, the group set off on their journey by ferry from the port of Algeciras. 

A Toyota 4x4 support vehicle sponsored by Bassadone Motors collected as much as it could from the group to drive into the remote mountains as the motorhomes were unable to travel due to road conditions. The group then set off for the Merzouga desert, stopping at small villages along the way to hand out sleeping bags, blankets, food, clothing and other supplies to families in need. 

Steven explained: 

‘We started to give out clothes and other supplies to the people in small villages of Merzouga where they offered us the usual “tea Nana” [native Moroccan tea], as well as bread made for us upon arrival and peanuts. They gave us what they didn’t have for themselves. I had tears in my eyes seeing how they lived there with nothing but always with smiles on their faces. The whole experience was extremely touching. We look forward to our next trip.’ 

The response from Freemasons was a wonderful example of inter-constitutional and inter-order synergy that beautifully showcases the life-changing impact Freemasons have when working together.

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