Putting Sudanese in the drivers seat

Lismores Monica Matoc proudly displays her L plates, and moves one step closer towards gaining her drivers licence.

Mother of seven Monica Matoc just wants her drivers licence and a van large enough to ferry her children around in, instead of having to walk everywhere.

Thanks to the generosity of Shane Breen, Monica is just a few driving hours away from achieving a major step toward that goal her P plates.

Since the beginning of the year Shane and another volunteer, retiree Frederick Lachmund, have been helping Monica and other Sudanese refugees get their licenses, donating their time and using Shanes car to help them clock up the 50 hours of driving time required to sit the P test.

When hes not driving Sudanese refugees around the streets of Lismore, Shane works at Wesley Uniting Employment, finding jobs for long-term unemployed and hard to employ people.

Its hard enough for some people to get a job, but if you havent got a drivers licence your options are really limited, said Shane. These people dont have the money to pay for lessons, let alone buy a car, so it makes it even harder for them to get a licence.

So far two of Shanes students, including one of Monicas daughters, have obtained their licence and Shane has four more waiting in line for lessons. Shane spends his lunch hours guiding these willing learner drivers around, but is hoping that other community-minded folk might volunteer to help out.

We have to include these people in the community, said Shane. And if that means spending my spare time teaching them how to drive, so be it. The problem is I cant keep up with the demand and Im running out of spare time.

Shane admits hes had some hair-raising moments on the streets of Lismore because the Sudanese have little concept about driving, but says there are more laughs than scares and its all worth the effort.

Its hard not to make friends with someone when youre spending hours sitting next to them in the car, said Shane. And these people are really good fun. Ive made some great friendships and I get back 10 times more than I give because I have got to know these fantastic people and learnt about their culture.

Shane is more than happy for his car to be used for the driving lessons, so there is no cost involved to willing volunteers.

Im not pretending to be a driving instructor. Im just trying to give them some time on the road and some experience behind the wheel to get them to the point where they can easily pass the driving test, said Shane.

If you would like to donate a small amount of time to help Shane out, phone him on 0427 908 753.

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