When Kegin Hoartens first sat behind the wheel of a car, she didn’t even know how to turn on the ignition.
But the Mount Roskill resident had been determined to learn to drive since arriving in Aotearoa from Sri Lanka as a refugee in 2019.
“Driving a car is a very important skill to survive in everyday life,” she said.
“If I go to a job interview, the first question they ask me is if I have a driver’s license.”
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The Puketapapa Community Driving School (PCDS) of the Migrant Action Trust subsidizes lessons for refugees. But the social enterprise is cash-strapped and has a waiting list of more than 200 refugees.
Hoartens joined the school in January 2021 after being introduced there by a friend.
“When I first touched the steering wheel, I only drove ten kilometers per hour, very slowly. I didn’t know how to turn or reverse, I didn’t know anything from the start,” he said. she stated.
“Slow and slow the instructor taught me how to drive. They are very friendly and teach us according to our skills.”
Hoartens is striving to pass his driving test in June and said getting his restricted license would allow him to lead a more independent life.
“I often take the bus, it’s very, very hard. You waste a lot of time waiting for the bus,” she said.
“If I drive a car I can support myself, I have no relatives in New Zealand, only a few friends.”
Migrant Action Trust leader Amie Maga said the Puketapapa Community Driving School (PCDS) helps open employment opportunities for refugees.
“We get learners who do night shifts, and it’s very difficult to get to work by bus,” she said.
“Some refugees also want to work as Uber drivers, which is why they are determined to get their permits.”
PCDS is a social enterprise that generates income through paying customers, and the income is used to subsidize classes for refugees.
But the program is not bringing in enough money and there is a waiting list of more than 200 refugees who want to learn to drive.
One government-funded program only supports 15-20 learners every six months.
Migrant Action Trust has launched a fundraising campaign to raise $20,000 to help urgent referrals, recent migrants such as single mothers, survivors of domestic violence, and evacuees from Afghanistan.
“It really empowers our refugees to be independent and have more opportunities for meaningful employment, because getting a license and getting a job is key to successfully settling in New Zealand,” said said Maga.