Giving Back to the Community

Kirsten Gray, a Grade 11 student at GEMS FirstPoint School — The Villa started volunteering as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award requirements. We hear how she came away with so much more.

Kirsten Gray, a Grade 11 pupil at GEMS FirstPoint School — The Villa (FPS), has been riding horses since before she could walk. When she decided to take part in the Duke of Edinburgh award, choosing horse riding as her sport was the obvious choice.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (IA) is recognised everywhere and it has four sections: actual expeditions where students visit different countries, and Kirsten has done treks in Kenya and Nepal. Another category requires participants to contribute to the community. Kirsten chose to do art, photography, and volunteering at the Al Marmoom Initiative which offers free recreational and therapeutic riding classes for people of determination in Dubai.

“I heard about Al Marmoom Initiative from a family friend who was already volunteering there. When I heard it involved working with horses at the stable it immediately interested me,” says Kirsten. Activities that the riders can do are weather dependent — if it’s too hot, or too sandy, or stormy, Kirsten will work with the riders in stable management, where they learn how to put the tack on the horses, how to muck out stables, as well as how to feed and groom the horses.

“On nicer days we’ll go outside and ride. We have walkers and leaders. If you’re used to horses, you can lead and make sure to stop and start the horse. If you’re a walker, then you must ensure the rider can stay on the horse. Some riders may not be able to hold themselves up, or they may lean too far forward or too far back, so you have to make sure they are comfortable and safe on the horse,” says Kirsten.

She says that volunteering at the Al Marmoom Initiative has been incredibly rewarding because she feels like she’s helping people and giving back. Kirsten works very closely with one boy who has Down Syndrome, is deaf and mute; she has learned sign language to communicate with him better. Kirsten has also painted a beautiful mural in the stables, which everyone loves. Aside from being rewarding, volunteering has opened Kirsten’s eyes to the different lives each person of determination leads. She highly recommends volunteering for anyone who would like to be involved, adding that everyone has something special to offer others.

Kirsten would like to continue volunteering and in the future,  she also plans to study business and open animal shelters in developing countries, where strays can be vaccinated and have health checkups, and where they would have a better life than if they were left on the streets.