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Dedicated and driven mentors

Bruce Pauling, Andrew Wright, Julia London, and Rebecca Vergunst celebrate the Community Driver Mentor Programme’s Civic Award. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO


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A group of dedicated driving mentors have had their commitment recognised with a Civic Award from Masterton District Council.

The Wairarapa Driver Mentor Programme, which won this year’s award, had helped more than 150 young drivers get their restricted licences and broke down a significant barrier to employment in the region.

The programme was started in 2016, led by the Wairarapa Road Safety Council and supported by all three of the regions district councils.

It aimed to provide a full suite of assistance to students who might otherwise not have had access to the tools and instruction needed to get their licences.

Programme co-ordinator Julia London and driver mentor Andrew Wright were honoured the group had been chosen.

“It was wonderful, it was great. I speak for all involved, we get a lot of satisfaction out of it – and I’ve never had to use the emergency brake,” Wright said, laughing.

“I was thrilled we were able to acknowledge the mentors for the work they have been putting into it. We could not run the programme without them. That acknowledgement of their work was great,” London said.

“We are happy to put anyone who wants to be a mentor through the training programme,” she said.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said the programme’s success was also due to good support across the region.

“Everybody that supports the programme has been fantastic. In particular, the three district councils. Part of their strategic plan is to support well-being. By helping young people to a pathway to employment, they see the benefit in this programme, and I can’t thank them enough. At the end of the day, the co-ordinators and driver mentors are the champions,” he said.

Pauling said the team worked hard and volunteers arranged their lives around being able to assist.

Carterton Deputy Mayor Rebecca Vergunst thanked all those involved, especially London and the other co-ordinators and the volunteers.

“They come back week after week after week and dedicate their time, which is amazing. The huge number of volunteers involved is very impressive,” she said.

The programme partnered with Chanel College, Wairarapa College, Kuranui College and Makoura College to identify students who would most benefit.

Help was provided through driving lessons with mentors, help with the cost of getting a learner’s licence and up to three formal lessons with a driving instructor. Crucially, the programme also provided cars for practice lessons.

There were about 40 dedicated volunteers who provided mentoring. They were inducted and trained by the Wairarapa Road Safety Council to help students through the programme and pass their tests.

The mentors were at the core of the programme. Some would be mentoring two or three students at a time.

Pauling said students who had graduated and got their licences through the programme had often had significant obstacles to overcome.

“These kids face huge barriers, the isolation, the distances they have to travel. 70 per cent of jobs in the region require drivers’ licences,” he said.

“There may be a car, but it’s not up to standard or there’s no one to teach them safe driving practices. We hope the driving practices the mentor passes on will be with them for life.

“The idea behind the programme is to be road-ready and work-ready.”

Many successful participants have got jobs or been able to study further after getting their licences.

The programme was keen to speak to people who wanted to become mentors. Anyone interested could email Bruce Pauling at [email protected].

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