Volunteers help steer migrants
A community driving school is recruiting volunteers to get young people, new migrants and ethnic women behind the wheel.
The soon to launch Puketa¯papa community driving school (PCDS) plans to make driving lessons more accessible and affordable with the help of volunteer driver mentors. Many of the volunteers who have signed up were former migrants.
The community driving school was set up by Migrant Action Trust (MAT), an organisation which helps migrants and refugees settle in New Zealand. PCDS also has the backing of Project PETER, a community collective focused on education, training and employment readiness.
So far, 15 people have volunteered to become a driving mentor and more than 30 learners are on the waiting list.
PCDS project coordinator Amie Maga said when young people, new migrants and former refugees applied for jobs, they had the desired skills but many did not have a licence which was a frequent requirement.
Barriers such as the cost for driving lessons could also be a problem, she said.
‘‘Having lessons with a volunteer can help a learner be more relaxed, more patient and more confident, as they would probably have an understanding of someone’s limitations,’’ Maga said.
Professional driving instructor Shaila Bhatt said her experiences as a former migrant encouraged her to get educated in driving as a way to help the community and get involved in PCDS. ‘‘Driving is a need and leads migrants to employment as well as helping their family,’’ Bhatt said.
Former migrant Sharon Nates has volunteered to be a driving mentor at PCDS. She wanted to ‘‘pay it forward,’’ Nates said.
‘‘Driving is a symbol of being part of society because you know the road rules and gives you confidence to be a part of a new society.’’
She was looking forward to being supportive and also keen to learn how to teach, she said.
Originally from Colombia, Paola Pinilla has signed up as a learner at PCDS. Public transport in Auckland during rush hour was expensive and driving in New Zealand was an important tool to have, especially when it came to looking for a job, she said.
‘‘I was so happy when I heard about the community driving school,’’ Pinilla said. ‘‘I’m excited and nervous to learn.’’
Paola Pinilla is looking forward to learning how to drive at the Puketa¯papa community driving school.