Interview with Sheena Smith, Individual Volunteer of the Year

Published on 15 July 2022

Photo of Sheena Smith

Sheena Smith was named Individual Volunteer of the Year at the 2022 City of Ryde Volunteer Recognition Awards for her work with Riding for Disabled (RDA) in Marsfield. We asked Ms Smith to explain the benefits of volunteering and how important volunteers are to organisations like RDA.

Why do you volunteer for Riding for the Disabled (RDA)?

Initially, because of my love of horses. I became an RDA volunteer but soon realised that there were wonderful outcomes from the therapy programs and gained satisfaction from assisting riders, mainly children, to achieve those results.

What are your primary roles at RDA?

My primary role is to assist the delivery of the rider therapy program by assisting riders with disabilities to participate, preparing and mounting of riders, leading the horse through the program, side walking to ensure the safety of the rider or helping them complete the therapy activities.

Other tasks include caring for our horses such as feeding and grooming. Due to my experience I also coordinate volunteers, assist with their training and make new volunteers feel welcome.

With the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, have the past two years been challenging for yourself and RDA?

The pandemic lockdown was hard at RDA. All our horses remained on site but therapy sessions stopped so all horses still needed ongoing care and exercise.

There was a loss of volunteer numbers and our income reduced due to there being no rider fees, no fundraising opportunities or grants, no sponsorship and donations.

Although our therapy sessions have resumed we are now desperate for new volunteers that need training plus we need some generous donations so we can bounce back.

What would be your advice to other people thinking about volunteering for organisations like RDA?

Volunteering is very fulfilling as you get the opportunity to learn new skills plus meet some lovely people who are friendly, caring and supportive. Although it can be hard work, you get plenty of free exercise, a good dose of fresh air and there is still time for lots of laughs with teammates. I love returning home at the end of a session tired but feeling very rewarded for the achievements our riders have accomplished.

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