Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) President, Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has sent a message of support and gratitude to volunteers as part of Volunteers’ Week. The message comes as many volunteers at the charity’s groups all over the UK are struggling to fundraise, to support their communities and plan for an uncertain future after closure.
The letter reads:
“In times like this, the contribution of volunteers to communities and organisations is more important than ever. Despite the fact that almost all RDA activity has shut down, I have been encouraged and heartened by people’s determination and willingness to carry on supporting their Groups and the local RDA network. Whether this has been making the effort to stay in touch with others, finding new ways to engage riders and drivers or helping to look after the animals, it is all making a difference to ensure that when we are able to, we can resume our work that lets disabled people enjoy the therapeutic and other benefits from being around horses, ponies and donkeys.
So in Volunteers Week, I want to say Thank You to you all – we are extremely grateful for all you are doing to support RDA.”
Although all RDA groups around the UK are closed during lockdown, volunteers are continuing to contribute a huge amount to their communities – keeping in touch with their clients, families and school groups, and looking after the horses.
At Windsor & Ascot Carriage Driving RDA Group, volunteers like Ellie Millyard have been working hard to ensure the group – and its ponies – is ready for clients when the time is right to open again. She explains why it’s so important to her that the group continues:
“RDA is not just sitting in a carriage or riding a horse, there’s so much more to it. I know all our members are safe and well, but you can’t help worrying. The uncertainty at the moment is difficult for everyone, but especially for some of our clients. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody together and the joy on our members’ faces when they are back with the ponies. Everything will pale into insignificance when we can bring RDA back into people’s lives.”
Susan Ashton is an RDA rider and volunteer at Kesteven RDA in Lincolnshire, keeping busy during lockdown by helping to generate publicity and much needed funds for the group, writing bids for grants and blogs about the benefits of RDA. She is also a vital link to the group for the riders and their families at home, sending them videos of the horses, sharing news and fun activities on social media.
Susan says: “We need to keep people in touch, particularly some of the younger ones. They have such a strong relationship with the horses and it’s difficult for them to understand why they can’t come. The thing I’m most looking forward to is seeing everyone, and seeing the ponies – having that closeness with them. It’s a real panacea for life’s ills.”
Head of Communications & Insight at RDA UK, Caroline Ward said: “We are grateful to Her Royal Highness for writing to our volunteers in this way. At a time when people can’t get together, it is easy to feel isolated and that your efforts are going unnoticed. But we want our volunteers to know that we do know how hard they are working for their groups – and this message from The Princess will hopefully help them to see just how much they are valued.”
RDA is currently running an emergency appeal to support its groups most at risk during lockdown. Please donate at www.justgiving.com/campaign/rdacovid19