This I Believe

eleni - watsonville, California
Entered on March 25, 2009

This I Believe

I believe in volunteering, especially when it affects the lives of others. I have been riding horses since I was four and a half years old. I enjoy the bond, the freedom, and the partnership I experience with my horse. Horses are a major part of my life but even greater is the role they play for children with special needs. I have learned that anything is possible when I started volunteering at Monterey Bay Horsemanship and Therapeutic Center, a barn that helps all kinds of people with disabilities and special needs through therapeutic riding. I never thought that a young child, whose life is spent in a wheel chair with little or no use of their arms or legs, could possibly ride the same horse that I do. This is the gift of the horse.

Every Saturday for the last four years, I help children with special needs ride horses as part of their therapy. Sometimes, I support the child while he sits on the horse while other times, I walk along side so that the child feels secure. Each step that the horse takes results in a smile from the rider. With each horses’ stride, the rider experiences movement in his body he otherwise would never be able to feel. The child feels the power of the horses’ muscles for the period of time they are sitting on that horse. I know that they are feeling a great sense of confidence and strength because I, too, feel this strength. Over the years, I have realized that I have helped make a small difference in a child’s life.

I had been assigned to work with a young girl named Katie who had to visit Stanford Hospital every week for treatments. In the beginning I would back ride Katie on a horse named Lizzie and another volunteer would lead us on a long trail ride along the ocean’s bluff. Katie loved this and always looked forward to her riding day. After wards, we would then spend time petting, grooming, and feeding the horses. Sometimes I would even take Katie on a fun tractor ride through the fields. Now, Katie rides her horse by herself with me by her side as a friend. She no longer needs to visit Stanford Hospital as much as she used to before she started riding horses. The horse gave Katie the gift of movement but I gave Katie the gifts of time and friendship through volunteering. I really enjoy my time with Katie and seeing her health improve makes me feel proud. I am appreciative that my volunteering helps somebody else in such a way.

Volunteering my time has affected the lives of special children for which I am grateful. I believe in volunteering at any level or any form. I believe volunteering positively changes people’s lives for the better and I will continue this for as long as I am able and would encourage others to do the same.