Celebration of our 4th year Anniversary

By Amie Maga
Feature Article

Empowering Lives of our Diverse Communities, One Driver Licence at a Time

On its 4th year, a community driving school operated by the Migrant Action Trust in collaboration with local community groups through The PETER Collective is empowering the lives of our diverse communities, one driver licence at a time. 

This year the Puketapapa Community Driving School (PCDS) successfully trained over 200 migrants and former refugees towards gaining their restricted and full driver licences. Before the August 2021 lockdown, 97 programme participants passed their practical tests and are now able to access New Zealand’s roads safely and independently, while also increasing their chances to get jobs and reducing social isolation. 

One of our biggest success stories in 2021 was helping Amino Omar, a young Somali single mum to get her restricted licence. Being deaf didn't stop her from learning. Thanks to our most patient instructors and volunteer mentor Kevin McCready, who offered sign language support, Amino got her restricted licence last May. 

“I really wanted to get my licence so I could drive my young daughter to school and go shopping. Carrying heavy shopping from the supermarket was hard, so I was delighted to finally pass the driving test. COVID lockdowns interrupted my learning because I couldn't practice for a long time and had to start again. I can now drive where I want. I'm getting more confident and drove 73 km to Long Bay to meet friends recently. I love driving to the zoo to walk there and see the ducks,” Amino shared.      

“Amino was fun to teach. She's a lovely person and was very determined, but I had to stress she must stop at stop signs even if there were no cars. I wasn't the best teacher and she failed due to my mistakes. So I am very grateful to PCDS for helping Amino. I felt very relieved and happy when she got her licence,” Kevin shared.     

From 18 June 2020 to 3 May 2021, Amino had 15 driving lessons in the dual-control practice car of PCDS plus extra practice sessions in her own car with Kevin as supervisor. Most of the lessons were booked for 2 hours to allow enough time for stopping and interpreting, especially to explain what she needed to work on for test day.

“Our refugee-background learners face financial, literacy and language barriers. Getting a licence means a world of difference for all of them,” says Amie Maga, PCDS Manager.

Instructor Rina Capila shared her experience teaching an Afghani learner: “I had tears of joy when she passed. She had very little English so I tried to use Google translation for instructions. I draw and even walk with her around the intersections for her to understand what is safe driving. Her struggles as a single mum and refugee touched me a lot, and I know having a licence will ease the burden.” 

“The feedback from our learner drivers are truly heart-warming so we’d like to help more urgent referrals from our diverse communities as much as we can. As a community-owned social enterprise, we deliver driving lessons for those who can afford to pay the full costs, then use the income to give subsidised driving lessons for learners who face multiple barriers,” Maga explained.

“A driver's licence is important to me because I am a student and responsible for my children. You can't imagine the hassles of getting kids to school and going to university daily, plus using Uber for emergency and hospital appointments. Now things are much easier. I feel free to move anytime and anywhere. I can't forget last year's lockdown. It was hard to find someone to take me to buy food and supplies."- Hanan 

“I was able to help my mum during lockdown. My mum is a health worker. She can’t take bus all the time, so it was my duty to drop her to work. Driving was my first step to help my family.” - Serene 

“I’ve been able to help my family more like getting groceries, dropping off my brother and picking up from school. From a personal perspective it has given a lot of confidence. As a young person, whenever you are with your friends, there is a stigma of you still having your learner’s. I chose to enrol at PCDS as I always thought the social enterprise side of the business is amazing. The buy one and give one for someone with refugee background and struggling to afford a driving lesson was really cool. I really like the fulfilment it gave me that my money would be going towards someone in need and potentially make a difference in their lives.” – Nina 

Before I just ride a bus. Sometimes the bus would take a while so it was hard for me especially going home late. Now I’m working as a support worker. I drive a lot going to my clients’ homes. Excellent cause, you are really helping the migrants and refugees to learn to drive.” - Christine 

PCDS also supports the Road to Zero strategy of Waka Kotahi for a New Zealand where no one is killed or seriously injured in road crashes. To book driving lessons and/or donate towards subsidised lessons for former refugees, please check out pcds.co.nz 

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