Volunteers wanted to help put migrants in the driver’s seat

BEHIND THE WHEEL: Afghani migrant Hameeda Hameeda with volunteer driver trainer Alfred Chaplin. Mr Chaplin gets the train from Windsor to Blacktown and give lessons in the training car provided. Picture: SydWest Multicultural Services
BEHIND THE WHEEL: Afghani migrant Hameeda Hameeda with volunteer driver trainer Alfred Chaplin. Mr Chaplin gets the train from Windsor to Blacktown and give lessons in the training car provided. Picture: SydWest Multicultural Services

SydWest Multilcultural Services is seeking volunteers to help refugees and migrants literally get in the driver’s seat.

The charity has acquired two dual-control cars as part of its new Learner Driver Mentoring program based in Blacktown.

The initiative not only teaches those who have never held a license, but also helps experienced drivers adapt to Australian road rules.

The ideal volunteer for the program is a professional driving instructor willing to give up two hours a week – although formal training is not a requirement.

Volunteer trainer Alfred Chaplin said he got all the experience he needed teaching his own children.

“Helping people learn to drive is a practical way one can give help which is in the capacity of many people to do,” he said.

“You start off by just getting to know who they are and what they’re capable of doing.”

Mr Chaplin, 69, said teaching people to drive empowered them get out of the house more, which opened up more possibilities for work and helping others in need.

SydWest Multicultural Services has two dual-control cars for volunteer instructors to use.

SydWest Multicultural Services has two dual-control cars for volunteer instructors to use.

He shared the story of one woman who was able to start her own catering business once she had her own car and driver’s license.

“The new freedom opens the doors to so many other possibilities, and you share in the excitement of seeing how people gain through all this,” he said.

“They’re just so excited and appreciative of what you’ve helped them achieve.”

Beyond the obvious benefits, Mr Chaplin said involvement with refugees and migrants would also help break down prejudices and social barriers.

“As a teacher, you learn to appreciate these people and recognise they’re just like any of us,” he said.

“All us Aussies could learn a lot from how appreciative they are of our nation, and how thankful they are of so much we take for granted.

“The truth is this multicultural mixture of people are really forming our culture. They’re bearing the future formation of an Australian culture.”

SydWest is seeking more volunteers to assist with the high demand for the service. For more details or to volunteer, call 9621 6633 or email info@sydwestms.org.au.