Following a survey of 1,629 volunteers, RDA has marked its 50thanniversary by launching a report on the impact of volunteering on health and wellbeing and the benefits for both RDA participants and the volunteers.
The report was presented at a recent Parliamentary Reception at Westminster, hosted by MP for Cheltenham, Alex Chalk on Wednesday. The charity called on the government to recognise the dual benefit that volunteering brings.
Local volunteer, Judi Singer was severely agoraphobic, but having been a horse rider, she joined her local RDA Group, Cranleigh in Surrey. She felt it would help her change her life – and it did.
She recalled:“To start I was only happy leading at the horse’s shoulder, not talking to anyone. But through the kindness and understanding of my colleagues, I started to progress and became able to join in the fun that everyone was having.
“Through the RDA volunteers’ non-judgmental understanding I am now able to go anywhere, speak to anyone, chair meetings and even speak in public”.
RDA’s 18,000 amazing volunteers contribute more than three million hours of their time each year and are the backbone of the organisation’s success. According to the report, 96 per cent of these volunteers said that RDA had improved their overall satisfaction with life, and 81 per cent said that volunteering makes them feel better about themselves.
RDA and its horses benefit the lives of 25,600 disabled children and adults through its 500 groups across the UK. Volunteers form an integral part in helping to transform the lives of those they help, whilst as the report acknowledges having a measurable impact on their own lives.
As RDA celebrates its 50th anniversary, there is still much to do to increase the number of people who can benefit from their work and so they have developed three calls to action to deliver its future plans and meet the ever-increasing demand for its services:
- Government to recognise that volunteering for RDA delivers dual benefit for both the community and the individual volunteer and also contributes to tackling loneliness, and improving mental and physical health.
- Local government and appropriate agencies, such as Clinical Commissioning Groups and local GP’s to signpost and refer volunteering opportunities through social prescribing, for volunteers to work with RDA.
- Existing and new funding partners to support RDA in reaching more volunteers and enabling more people to benefit from activities.
RDA Chief Executive Ed Bracher said: “The report shows clear and robust evidence that our volunteers feel more useful and better about themselves, they are more sociable and physically active and learn new skills and gained more confidence.
“With a clear sense of our future vision and direction, RDA is committed to attracting and supporting increasing numbers of volunteers.”
This vital research carried out by RDA was funded by Sport England, through the British Equestrian Federation, as part of a wider grant to support volunteer development.