National honour for Christine

Christine Jessen, RDA North Region Volunteer of the Year.
Christine Jessen, RDA North Region Volunteer of the Year.

A MORPETH resident has been named as one of the top three volunteers throughout the whole country for the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA).

With more than 18,000 people giving some of their free time to support the RDA, Christine Jessen had some tough competition, but the judges were very impressed with her major contribution to her local group and she received a runner-up award in the RDA National Volunteer of the Year 2012 category.

She had realised that there was a lot of pressure being put on the larger RDA ponies being used full time at The Pegasus Centre in Tranwell due to high rider demand, so she volunteered to bring her own 16hh horse Carlton, who has a brilliant temperament for RDA, to sessions with her on a Friday morning.

In 2011, Christine became a regular helper at these Morpeth RDA Group sessions and she was asked whether she would consider becoming a log book holder, but she explained that she had a degenerative condition (not visible at that point) that meant that she could not give this commitment.

However, she volunteered instead to help on the group committee and in June 2011, Christine became group secretary. She has proved to be a very competent and enthusiastic secretary, putting in considerable time upgrading a number of the paperwork systems.

Christine was formerly a consultant paediatrician and took a particular interest in how riding could improve the physical and mental well-being of children, as well as assisting the Morpeth Group to develop its child protection polices and procedures.

Later in the year, it became apparent that because of her condition, which now allows her very limited use of her hands, she could no longer be an RDA pony leader or side walker, nor could she bring Carlton to our RDA sessions by herself. But she then recruited two new volunteers to bring her horse and to help in her place.

One of these volunteers has gone on to become a logbook holder and recently achieved her RDA instructor’s badge.

In addition, she has brought Carlton to RDA competitions to allow riders to compete who would not otherwise have been able to do so that day due to the limited number of places on the larger RDA ponies.

She was nominated for the award by Morpeth Group Trustee Sam Orde, who said: “We are delighted to hear that Christine has been honoured in this way. This award is richly deserved.

“She is a positive influence on our RDA Group and a brilliant example of how someone can help others in many ways even when dealing with adversities in their own life.”

In October, Christine was presented with the RDA Volunteer of the Year for the North Region. The award was presented by RDA Northumberland County Chairman Sue Wade in front of a large and appreciative audience of riders and volunteers at The Pegasus Centre.

Her family – husband David and children Helen, Jenny, Libby and Andy – are delighted with her success but Christine herself is typically modest.

She said: “Whilst I am of course delighted to receive this recognition, I am also sure that there are many others who are equally deserving – giving their time and energy towards providing opportunities for people with disabilities to experience the pleasure available from riding.

“I am honoured that my friends and colleagues nominated me for this award.”