As many people know, Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) groups could not survive without the volunteers who give up their time to help out at sessions each week.
Currently there are almost 19,000 volunteers providing life-changing activities for disabled riders and drivers on a weekly basis throughout the UK - 1,000 of these are in Northern Ireland.
Finding and recruiting volunteers is a constant challenge for groups. However, as President, HRH Princess Anne, The Princess Royal, mentioned at the 2013 conference, “Once you join RDA it is very difficult to leave”. This was just after she had given out long service awards to a large group of volunteers, some of whom had been with their groups for over thirty years.
Experienced volunteers already realise the benefits they reap while helping at RDA - making a difference, learning new skills, making friends, being part of a team and keeping fit.
They also have special moments as typified in the video of “John’s Story” on the RDA website www.rda.org.
RDA recognises the dedication of its volunteers with a series of Long Service Certificates and Over and Above Awards. Also, the Regional Volunteer of the Year goes through to the national competition, with the trophy being presented at the RDA Gala Awards dinner in September.
The most prestigious volunteering honour is the President’s Award, a handful of which are conferred each year. These are for service of an exceptional nature over a period of not less than 30 years.
Groups and the region always like to hear from those who are willing to go that bit further, helping with coaching, administration, publicity, fundraising and helping events.
For anyone willing to travel across the “pond”, RDA UK also needs help at various events.
In addition, there is currently a national volunteering opportunity. RDA Trading is looking for someone who has the skills to develop and expand commercial operations.
RDA also recognises and rewards young people who volunteer: e.g. the Pony Club Achievement badge, service sections for the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and the Asdan certificate for volunteering at an event. The Young Equestrian Leaders’ Award (YELA) has three progressive levels and is widely recognised on CVs.
RDA actively encourages participants to volunteer. Engaging riders and drivers is a fantastic way to offer new opportunities and personal development and to build up a real sense of community ensuring that RDA is an engaging and fun opportunity for all.
For Northern Ireland-based opportunities log on to the website www.ridingforthedisabledni.org.uk; and for national posts and information, visit www.rda.org.uk.