Hundreds join in Mitzvah Day projects across Redbridge

Hundreds of people across Redbridge pitched in to help local charities and community projects at the weekend for Mitzvah Day.

The Jewish-led day of social action, on Sunday, is a yearly event that encourages people to give their time, rather than money, to benefit the community.

The Recorder team got into the spirit by opening a poll to see who readers would like us to help and the Chigwell Riding Trust won.

It was the first riding centre for people with special needs in the world and has been teaching disabled children and adults to ride for more than 45 years.

Around 160 riders of all ages come every week to learn to ride and build their confidence, co-ordination and mobility.

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The centre has few paid staff and relies on volunteers to keep the lessons going, not to mention cleaning up after the horses and ponies.

Founder and manager Deborah Hall said there are around 100 volunteers on the books but more are always needed.

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She added: “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be able to do this.”

Four reporters – myself, Jess Earnshaw, Alistair Kleebauer and Amanda Nunn – were joined by editor Chris Carter to help out on Friday.

We watched a lesson with some of the smallest children before quite literally “mucking in”.

We were amazed to see little Luke Allen, 4, race to get on a pony and confidently take the reins and trot around the indoor paddock with classmates Jessica and Alfie.

Three helpers run with the children and their horses, steadying them, encouraging them and taking regular stops for stretches and exercises.

Luke, of South Woodford, has joint disorder arthrogryposis, which limits his mobility by fixing his joints “in the wrong direction”.

It is the same disability as Paralympic equestrian gold medallist Lee Pearson OBE.

Mum Collette said: “He was in a walking frame when he started in February, he couldn’t walk unaided but now he’s off.

“He loves it here and everyone is so nice. They give him a lot of encouragement.”

Volunteer Keith Godwin, of Buckhurst Hill, was helping with the lesson.

He said: “You don’t need any skills whatsoever.

“I hadn’t ridden a horse when I came up here six years ago and I was made more than welcome.

“I say if you’re going to volunteer, you couldn’t have a better location and get a better organisation.”

Plenty of help was needed around the centre when the lesson finished.

Chris and Alistair were set to work moving furniture and Amanda joined them later in the afternoon to sort out chairs to be replaced.

Meanwhile, Jess and I were given the less than glamorous task of mucking out a stable.

But, wheelbarrow steering difficulties aside, we felt like dab hands with our forks and brooms in a few minutes and left happy that one of the hard-working horses would have a good place to rest.

Volunteers from other organisations also got their hands dirty for Mitzvah Day.

Members of Clayhall Synagogue continued the work they started last year improving a sensory garden at adventure playground ELHAP in Woodford Bridge.

They painted fences and planted new shrubs for disabled children to enjoy in the adventure playground.

Wanstead and Woodford Synagogue held a coffee morning for elderly residents at Milne Court in South Woodford and young members of Woodford Liberal Synagogue performed a play for elderly members of the Friendship Club.

There was also a collection of non-perishable food for homeless hostel Jason Lee House.

Ilford Synagogue and Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue collected and wrapped for gifts for children and neighbours.

Members of Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue also visited the Vi and John Rubens House care home in Gants Hill to entertain the residents.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes joined volunteers from care provider Norwood to collect items for Marie Curie Cancer Care at Sainsbury’s in Tanners Lane, Barkingside.

He also visited the Redbridge Jewish Community Centre, in Woodford Bridge Road, where volunteer youth leaders of different faiths threw parties for children with learning disabilities.

Ilford North MP Lee Scott visited Ilford Jewish Primary School, in Carlton Road, Barkingside, to help with their toy collection for a children’s charity.

King Solomon High School, in Forest Road, Barkingside, also held “collectathons” for toys, and of warm winter woolies for World Jewish Relief and the Newbury Park and District League of Jewish Women collected knitted clothes for people living in poverty in Ukraine.

Mitzvah Day is in its eighth year and attracted an estimated 25,000 volunteers to support more than 800 projects across the country.

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