It can be daunting moving to a new country and culture, having the independence to drive a car on the road is one way of preventing isolation and encouraging self reliance.
The Mid Canterbury rural driver licensing scheme was created five years ago in a partnership between Rural Support Trust and Safer Mid Canterbury with the goal of preventing isolation of migrants in rural communities.
Rural licensing co-ordinator Wendy Hewitt said often when families come over the husband works on the farm and the wife can get stuck at home, ‘‘so our main focus is migrant women in the rural communities because there is no one there to help them.’’
The programme caters for migrants who don’t have a licence and are new to driving, or those who have a drivers licence in another country and need to pass the New Zealand driving test.
Wendy said the participants are put through a road code course to learn the road rules, to get a learners licence.
‘‘Then they are matched with a volunteer driving mentor to do the driving practice, teachthem to drive and also get them up to test standard.’’
The participants also get four lessons with a professional driving instructor, ‘‘so the bonus is we have over a 90 percent pass rate, which is down to our really good volunteers and giving them the four lessons covers off everything.’’
The service is funded by various national and local organisations including, Advance Ashburton, Braided Rivers Trust, Ashburton District Council, Community Trust Mid/South Canterbury and the Lion Foundation.
Wendy said she has a core group of regular driving mentors including originals who where there at the start of the programme five years ago, but she is on the hunt for more volunteers.
‘‘We are looking for volunteer driving mentors, so they need to be over 25 with a full NZ licence that they have held for two years, or they can have a converted licence – if they have held a licence in their country of origin for two years,’’ Wendy said.
Ideally the volunteers take two lessons a week, ‘‘but it is up to what the volunteers can fit in.’’
The volunteer mentors undergo a training session with the professional instructor when they start to bring them up to speed with the latest road rules.
The student provides the car but the volunteers need to travel to the students place.
Wendy said the volunteers love helping people learn to drive and settle in to their new home.
‘‘Some of them have made lasting friendships and some become part of the migrants family.’’
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer driving mentor contact Wendy on 027 611 3301, [email protected] or visit the Safer Mid Canterbury Facebook page.