-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.