Before actually booking or researching, we first came to an agreement to complete the three aspects of CAS, through cooking for creativity, trekking for activity, and working at School For Life for service. This made the rest of the planning more straightforward since we all had a common goal and agreement of what we would like the trip to be. I wouldn’t say I had issues with my group at any point in the planning, and that was certainly quite the relief. From the beginning when we filled out the initial request form, each group member picked a role and followed through with it. I was first aider, and while this required more commitment than all the other roles, it didn’t mean that I didn’t help my group members when needed. Often times, I found myself filling in information or doing separate research, especially since I believe the coordinators actually thought I had a different role. Overall, it was very straightforward for us to find and coordinate the various parts of our trip. We had several Skype calls wherein we discussed plane tickets, accommodation, transport, and our different activities. As Chiang Mai was a very popular destination, the timing and duration of the trip had to be staggered and coordinated with the other 5 groups, and part of the UWC’s request was that there would be no interaction between groups, whether in the services, airports, or hotels. We requested to leave earlier rather than later since there were members of our group who had to be back in Singapore for the end of the given Project Week slot. Additionally, it was discussed with the other group going to work with School For Life that we would first completed our activity or creativity requirements before finishing our trip with service. With this in mind, we looked at airfare and tried to pick one of the cheaper flights (going through Bangkok instead of directly flying in). We also picked a location within Chiang Mai to concentrate our search for accommodation in, and settled with the Old City because lots of food, stores, and tourist sites were all within walking distance from one another and the area was relatively cheap and centralized compared to other hotel areas. I was responsible for looking for and booking cooking classes, so I researched various cooking schools online and found several located within the Old City that looked very promising. After having a meeting with our supervisor, I booked a cooking class with Thai Akha Cooking School. Around this time, we booked flights, and we found a very nice hotel for a good price that had a good location and had breakfast included. We also booking a one day trek with Wild Planet, a group that members of my group had actually trekked with previously on school trips in 8th grade. They were very accommodating, especially since one day treks were not typically offered. The actual booking of the hotel, cooking class, trekking, and plane tickets required flexibility and quite a bit of maneuvering, since they all required one other to be completed all at the same time. There were also shared difficulties between all the Chiang Mai groups that resulted in major setbacks in terms of booking, and we quite literally paid the price for the delay. I would say most of our problems came from working with the school instead of working with the the various partners in Chiang Mai, because there were many deadlines that needed to be completed by a set time, appointments that needed to be done with certain people on certain dates, and various other minor aspects of the trip that needed to be prepared for beforehand. Ultimately though, my group was not denied traveling to Chiang Mai last minute, and we had no issues with cancellations from any providers.
This reflection about the RDA is less about what I do lesson by lesson and more about the deeper implications behind working at RDA and what it means not only for me, but also for the riders that we work with. This reflection is about the global value and the ethical implications that I face while working in this service, and how it impacts me.
LO 6 GLOBAL VALUE (Engaging with issues of global importance)
The largest global issue of working at Riding for the Disabled Association Singapore is working with groups that are outside of the “normal” sphere of society. In current society, there are a lot of issues with Ableism and the way that disabled people don’t have the same opportunities that able-bodied people have. This also means that there isn’t a big connection between the two groups in society, and the groups don’t get the opportunity to interact with one another and work together. As society changes and improves, we’re finding more and more people that face different sorts of disabilities and we’re working to be more open and supportive. Doing this indirectly though is much different from directly working with a group, and that really tests how principled you can be. You have to be able to go from saying “I don’t have that discrimination” to actually displaying that you don’t have that discrimination. So far, I’ve learned a little more about down syndrome (which is the disability that my rider has) but also about cerebral palsy (the disability of another rider I worked with). I know the scientific background of down syndrome, but it’s difficult to actually compare the diagrams in science to a real person. I’ve learned more about how to work with mental disabilities versus physical disabilities, and different ways of interacting depending on what is needed. I think us working with the riders helps them as well. I think that we both don’t know much about each other. I don’t know what they do in their day to day life, I don’t really know what they go through, or what their family goes through. Riding may be the best part of their week, as it was for me, and I hope to help them through. Last week, when I was waiting with my rider for our turn to mount our horse, the rider before us went to mount their horse, and they had the largest smile on their face. I hadn’t ever seen that from this particular rider and it was really heartwarming.
I think that we’ve been taught very little about disabilities. I think that people with disabilities are labelled by their disabilities and not by who they are, and that we can’t see past that. I feel that we’ve been taught to classify them in a different category because they are not as able-bodied/minded as we consider ourselves to be. I’m hoping that participating in this activity forces me to change whatever prejudices are internalized into my mindset and behavior. I’m hoping that I actually act as an openminded person instead of just wanting or thinking that I am one. I’m hoping to learn more about disabilities so that it isn’t a foreign topic and that it’s a comfortable idea to work with.
LO 7 ETHICS (Considering the ethical implications of actions)
The largest ethical issue that I face in RDA is the issue of safety, which can split into a few different subsets. The primary subset is the physical safety of the rider. As a side walker, you are responsible for supporting the rider and keeping up with the horse so that the rider doesn’t fall to either side. This puts an enormous responsibility of safety directly into your hands, linked with your actions. You need to make sure that the rider is steady and that to the best of your ability, there are no falls or accidents. Additionally, you have to make sure that you’re aware of the rider and the horse at all times, and do your best to tailor yourself to each rider. Some riders need more support than others, and some riders want to do things alone. The biggest question for me is how much support do I give? I really worry about the strength and capabilities of myself and my rider, and I’m scared that they could get injured if I overestimate the amount of help they
One of the sessions when I was working with a rider with cerebral palsy, I was extremely hesitant to let go. The instructor kept telling me to only support their ankle instead of their ankle and back and I was very conflicted over this. I wanted to listen to the instructor, as they would obviously know best, but I didn’t want to let go because I thought he would be more likely to fall. Although I did in the end listen to the instructor, I still felt nervous for a period of time after changing my positioning. It was a battle between what would be good for the rider and what I feared could happen.
The second subset is the safety of the rider outside of RDA. We keep information about the rider and their personal details in the RDA facility, and we also do not talk about the riders and their disabilities outside of the people working in our service group. It’s why we blur the photos that we take and is also why, as a personal choice, I do not use pronouns or names, instead say they/their when talking about a rider.