I first heard about the RDA from a friend who told me a little about the work of the RDA and I was intrigued to learn more as I was looking to volunteer in some capacity while I am living in Hong Kong, although at that time I knew nothing about the work of the RDA and even less about horses, but I do have a little knowledge of disabilities as my nephew in England is Autistic. After viewing the RDA website www.rda.org.hk and showing an interest in their work, I was contacted by the Tuen Mun Office Administrator Ms Clara Siu, who sent me the forms and information that were required. It was a very easy and uncomplicated process.

Arriving at the Riding School on my first day I was very nervous and anxious as I speak no Cantonese, I had no experience with horses and was worried that I might not be accepted by the other volunteers but more importantly by the children. However my worries were immediately put to rest when I met Marie, the RDA instructor who was so kind, welcoming, friendly and helpful towards me as were all the other volunteers, some of whom speak English and all seemed genuinely happy to have me be there as a volunteer.

Over the months I have learned so much from volunteering at the RDA. I now have some knowledge of horses; I no longer fear them but respect them and their power. Most of all I admire how patient the horses are with the children that are riding them and how much pleasure they give to them. In addition I now know I am never to walk around the back end of the horse (although I still sometimes forget, much to the consternation of my fellow volunteers and friendly reprimands for doing so). I have also requested to learn how to saddle horses and groom them (although this isn’t a requisite of volunteering).

I feel I have gained a lot from this volunteering experience, working with wonderful children and their parents who come every week to the RDA, I believe I have learned to be more patient, tolerant and to appreciate all people and life in general, not to worry and stress about silly things. It really brings me great joy to see the children (all with different levels of disabilities) and the enjoyment they get from learning to ride the horses as well as the beneficial forms of therapy they receive from it. Each week I can see they are gaining confidence while riding, as well as improving their concentration and importantly having a fun recreational experience. When I see the pride and delight from the parents watching their children and taking their photos as we are walking around the paddock, it truly makes it a great experience for me too. It is also so special when the children greet me with a smile and say my name, as for some even that is a challenge, then at the end of the session the parents always ask their child to say thank you and goodbye and I always say thank you too as I have enjoyed so much helping them too.

Initially I volunteered because I wanted to give something back to the local community and the people here and to help in anyway that I can for those that needed a little help. What I realized very soon was that I have also gained a lot from volunteering at the RDA, more than I ever imagined. The joy of seeing the parents’ pride for their children and what they have learned and achieved, then of course the enjoyment the children receive whilst gaining so many more benefits from this amazing recreational form.

From the other volunteers and trainers who have all been so helpful, kind and welcoming, to the children and their parents – I thank them all.