Riding high on a small grant

A $900 SWCF grant will help build a sense of identity and improve the comfort of Warrnambool’s Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) volunteers.

Small grants can sometimes make the most difference in the community.

A $900 grant to Warrnambool RDA to purchase embroidered fleece jumpers will help the volunteers build their sense of identity and come together as a team, in the same manner as a sporting team, according to RDA president Michael McCluskey.

“When everybody has the same uniform there is a sense of community,” Michael said. “Plus, when people are wearing them away from the RDA it helps with our wider recognition.

“We are very lucky to receive a grant for $900. In the past our volunteers have had to pay for uniforms themselves, so it is fantastic to get a one-off grant like this.

“Most have gone for a polar fleece top. We are very lucky out here at Highview to have the indoor riding facility but being in a tin shed in the height of winter can get very cold.”

RDA uses horse riding as therapy for people with disabilities, particularly students from Warrnambool’s Merri River School. In 2022, students from Hawkesdale P-12 and St Pius Primary School have also completed an 8-week Kickstarter program. He said the uniforms were a help with volunteer recognition for the riders.

“We play a very important role, it’s therapeutic horse riding,” Michael said. “All of our riders struggle with difficulties, whether physical, emotional or behavioural.

“The human-horse bond is very nurturing, so to get on horseback gives our riders a sense of emotional safety. Once they are up on a horse, they have gone from being little people in a big world to being taller and looking down. You can almost see the sense of empowerment in their faces.

“It comes back to the recognition, [the riders] see the uniforms and immediately recognise that is the volunteers who help every week.

“We get zero dollars for this program from government, every cent we operate from comes from donations. If we had no sponsorship, we wouldn’t be able to operate. Thank you to SWCF.”

November 24, 2022