Equestrian Ball, 12 Nov 2016
THROUGHOUT HISTORY, HORSES AND HORSES HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED A SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP.
HORSES HAVE SHAPED HUMAN SOCIETIES THROUGH THEIR ROLES IN AGRICULTURE, TRANSPORTATION AND WAR. WHAT IS LESS WELL-KNOWN IS THAT HORSES HAVE ALSO BEEN USED FOR THERAPY SINCE THE TIME OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS.
THAT IS BECAUSE WORKING WITH HORSES IS A UNIQUE AND POWERFUL WAY TO FOSTER SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT. IT TEACHES US EMPATHY, PERSISTENCE, HOW TO MANAGE IMPULSIVITY, GREATER SELF-AWARENESS, NAVIGATE BOUNDARIES AND DEVELOP CONFIDENCE - HEALING US IN PROFOUND WAYS THAT MAY NOT BE AS EFFECTIVELY AND EFFICIENTLY DONE THROUGH TRADITIONAL CLINICAL INTERVENTION.
"Guest of Honour, Minister Grace Fu,
Dr Melanie Chew, President, Equestrian Federation of Singapore,
Donors, Sponsors and Supporters,
Ladies & gentlemen,
I am grateful for this opportunity to personally thank our donors and sponsors for their support.
EQUAL-ARK was set up to provide equestrian assisted learning for youths at risk. Last month it just turned one as an independent charity and IPC.
I want to say a few words about how EQUAL-ARK is managed to ensure the highest standard of corporate governance so as to give assurance to grantors and donors that their contributions are used with propriety and prudence.
The key word is Public Accountability.
I teach public accountability at SMU and this is the definition I use in respect of a charity:
"Public accountability is the accountability to those present and potential resource providers and others external to the charity who make economic decisions but who are not in a position to demand reports tailored to meet their particular information needs."
Quite a mouthful, isn't it? What it says is simply this:
When you receive a dollar in donation, you are expected to use it properly and without waste. And you are also expected to report publicly on how you had used that dollar.
Underlying this is the requirement that a donation must be used in accordance with the intention of the donor. It should be put to use in the particular charitable activity that the donor may have specified. Donor intention is sacrosanct.
The Board of EQUAL-ARK had spent much time in its first year to put in place a financial governance framework based on the relevant standards such as the Charities Accounting Standard.
Compliance and prudence are key principles in our use of funds. Every dollar in donation that we receive is precious. We work hard to get maximum mileage out from it for the benefit of the community we serve. And we report on our performance in our annual report. Our first annual report will be issued within a few weeks.
I want to share some of the challenges that we face as a start-up charity.
Just months after EQUAL-ARK was formed, we had a cash flow problem in the transition of the EQUAL programme from EFS to the new charity. We did not have enough in the bank to disburse the year-end performance-based salary to our staff. We had to take a loan to ease our cash flow. It was one of the teething problems of a young charity.
Another challenge concerns the funding from funding agencies. We are grateful for their support. Under their standard funding model, the quantum of Operating Expenditure funded is based on the counselling services provided by a typical charity. This turned out to be insufficient for a charity that provides counselling using horses working alongside counsellors and psychologists.
In the funding model, there is a item called Manpower Expenditure, but not Horsepower Expenditure!
But our horses are not cost free. They have to be fed. When they perform well we reward them with carrots. Tonight we are also raising funds to buy carrots. When a horse falls ill, it has to see a vet.
So how can we ensure that the grants we receive adequately cover the cost of our horses? One way is to put the cost of horses under Manpower Expenditure!
That seems easy. Our horses already have human names like Kary and Valentina. In our reports we even list our horses under "Partners". Next, we may have to pay our horses a salary!
That is just our imagination, of course.
We shall continue to work with our funding agencies to come up with a customised funding model that better meets our specific needs.
From our second year onwards EQUAL-ARK will be going through a period of consolidation and growth. My Board members and I are enthused by the prospects of a larger national role for EQUAL-ARK as we reach out to more youths at risk to give them a better chance in school and in life.
With your continued support, EQUAL-ARK will succeed. So from the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you, our donors and sponsors for your generosity and support.
And, most of all, thank you Melanie and EFS for organising this Ball."