Even though 16-year-old Mahima Das has long fulfilled her school’s required 40 hours of service to the community, she’s still a regular volunteer at BINA Farm, a therapeutic and recreational riding barn in Lexington that uses hippotherapy to connect to kids with special needs. The high school junior, a member of Teen Leadership Corps, has always loved horses, so the chance to work with them on a regular basis is a pleasure. Beyond that, seeing how the horses relate to kids of all abilities leaves her in awe, teaching her both patience and gratitude along the way. Not sure where to volunteer? Take Mahima’s lead and follow your heart, the win/win results will be amazing.
Describe your volunteer role?
As a volunteer at BINA Farm, I assist during therapeutic and recreational horseback riding lessons, as well as help out with barn chores. During the lessons, I lead the horses around the ring while the students work on different skills. I also muck stalls and feed the horses when I have some spare time at the barn.
Why is it important to you to support your community in this way?
It is important because I am able to see the kids progress and see first-hand how much it means to them. I also get to spend time around horses and at the barn, which is always fun.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your volunteer service?
For most of the students, having a familiar face at their lessons every week is critical. As a volunteer, this means I have to commit to a certain time every week and make sure I am there. Additionally, being patient rather than expressing frustration with the horses and the students is important.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Because we benefit so much from the community and people around us, it is important for us to contribute and give back. By helping out within our own community, we create stronger ties with people who share similar experiences as us.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work has been seeing the improvements in the kids and the close connections they form with the horses. Every child that comes in has different abilities and seeing the horses react to their needs is amazing. Many of the children start off afraid of the horse they are working with and, after just a few lessons, are sad to leave when their lesson is over.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
I have learned patience and commitment to a certain activity. When a child or a horse is having an off day, it is so important to stay patient and not get frustrated and instead focus on what they are able to do that day. Positive words or encouragement often have such a huge impact on the children
Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?
Once every session there is a rider showcase where all of the children get to show off what they have learned on the horse. It is so special to see all of my students in one show and also have them ride in front of a crowd – something they normally don’t get to do.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
I want people in my age group to learn that volunteering is not just a school requirement and that it is actually a fun and rewarding experience. Finding a way to contribute by doing something you enjoy is the best way to help everyone out and make it not seem like a chore.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Mahima? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.