"The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you can only do a little."
-Sydney Smith, 1771 - 1845.

I got into a taxi last Thursday and asked the driver to take me to the Rid.ing For The Dis.abled A.ssociation of Singapore. And he asked me a bit about it, and I could only answer in part because it was only my second day as a volunteer there, but I explained that riding helps disabled children with balance, motor control, communication and confidence. And that I help by wandering along beside them for safety and encouragement. He nodded, but with a firmly unconvinced expression on his face. "I just... how shall I put this?" he said. "Horse riding costs so much money - surely they could learn those things through other, cheaper sports. Then the money would be better spent."

Well, fuck, the money would be better spent feeding the starving children of Ethiopia than helping the disabled children of Singapore play sport of any kind. I mean, wouldn't it?

After the lesson several volunteers had a disgruntled discussion about a group of university students who'd come to write an assignment on the association recently. Apparently they'd found themselves described as "a bunch of middle-aged expatriate ladies who lavish praise and then sit around drinking tea" which "totally missed the point". And I have to agree, it did totally miss the point. But at the same time it was not (I reflected as a forty-something-year-old woman with an upper-crust English accent offered me a chocolate slice which she described as wonderfully moist, deliciously rich, and baked by the wife of the Dutch Ambassador to Singapore for an absolutely marvelous charity stall she'd attended recently) wholly without truth.

So I was already forming a post in my mind where I discussed the fact that these women could have been lolling about in the salon complaining about their maids instead of lifting a wheelchair-bound child in and out of the saddle and watching him finally pluck up the courage to trot halfway down the arena - not to mention what would happen to a twenty-seven-year-old ex-polo pony without the RDA to find a use for him - and the fact that the facilities form part of a polo club that would exist with or without a charitable sideline, when I saw the book.

Doing A Little Good - the coffee table book of the Riding For The Disabled Association of Singapore. And the quote, inside, from Sydney Smith. It summed it up well, really, because when all's said and done, perhaps the RDA is one of life's more frivolous charities - but, you know, half a dozen physically and intellectually disabled children smiled today. And I think that's worth something.


Vee said...

That's beautiful.

There is a Riding for disabled school near my home which is part of a big rehabilitation hospital. They want to knock down the school and the hospital to build 954 arpartments ! Our community is up in arms and demonstrating about it, as you would. I can't believe the money hungry council would do such a thing.
So far we may have saved the riding school but not the hospital, so maybe here is hope, maybe those politician have some heart.

It is such a beautiful thing to see those childrens faces with huge smiles.

Every little bit helps.

Mel said...

Your volunteering, thats awesome Bea. Your such a good person with a heart the size of Australia!
I've loved the pics of singapore so far. I went there when I was 15 and loved it.

Ellen K. said...

A friend here (in the States) was involved in such a riding school several years ago. She loved it, and the kids found it enormously exciting and confidence building.

Heather said...

That is worth something. Especially to them. Charity is charity and volunteering is priceless - can we compare which ones are better than others? should we? hmmm I think it is like comparative pain.

Lut said...

Sounds like the pain olympics, but then for good deeds.

Improving the quality of life of those children is a lovely thing to do.

Carly said...

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi!!
Good on you Bea.
This post was so funny describing those women!!

Beagle said...

It sounds like a great program. I like the quote as well.

My Reality said...

I love the quote. It is very inspiring. I think that making half a dozen children smile is a huge thing. To know that you have made such a huge difference in their lives is amazing.

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