A driving programme's organisers are asking people to consider giving the gift of volunteering this Christmas, and signing up to help young people get on the road.
Many young drivers are limited by not having a driver license when applying for jobs or seeking further education. They can end up in court and potentially pay fines for driving outside of the conditions of their learners or restricted licences.
Blue Light Te Ara Tika (BLTAT), delivered by New Zealand Police and Bluelight is a driving programme which helps people aged 16-19 get their full driving licenses, making it easier for them to find employment as well as avoiding ending up in the judicial system.
The programme provides the cars used and covers all fuel costs.
South Taranaki Blue Light Coordinator Leanne Richards says young people are referred to the programme by schools, police, community organisations and agencies.
"We have a growing number of learner drivers coming through the programme and are desperate for more volunteers to help."
She says the programme gives independence and opens up new opportunities to the young people involved.
"A driver licence is so much more than the legal right to drive on the road. It is independence, self-esteem and confidence building. It is access to higher education and employment. It enables our young people to be leaders who inspire their friends and whānau to follow their example and get their licence too."
Volunteers need to have had a full licence for a minimum of two years and be 25 or older.
"The volunteers just need to be able to give one or two hours of their time per week to supervise the young person's driving practise, usually for around six months while they're on their learner licence. The volunteers also receive training and support," Leanne says.
As well as the weekly driving lessons, participants receive three professional driving lessons and take part in a defensive driving course aimed at helping young drivers to be safe drivers.
Hāwera-based volunteer, Latif Robinson, says she enjoys helping young people get their license.
"I'm a truck driver so I witness bad drivers on the road. Since there is a way I can help, I thought why not."
Latif says the programme helps drivers gain confidence behind the wheel.
"It's important that there is an opportunity to help with licensing. The Blue Light programme is good. I enjoy being part of it and helping people."
Pat Moore has been helping Dolly O'Hanlon-Taputoro get her restricted licence.
"I enjoy helping Dolly with her driving. I see her improvement every time she gets behind the wheel."
Pat, who lives in Stratford, says he got involved after hearing about the programme and the need for more volunteers.
"They came to the Stratford Lions Club and asked if anyone would like to volunteer. As I'm semi-retired and have time to spend I thought I would get on board."
Pat says as well as boosting driving skills, the programme can help participants get jobs.
"There are many places that require workers to have their licenses. The programme provides opportunities."
He says he is the navigator for Dolly's driving lessons, giving direction and encouragement as she learns to master the skills needed.
"Dolly is a safe and cautious driver. My role is to supervise her and guide her through her driving lessons."
Dolly (17) has been a part of the Blue Light programme for almost a year. She says the programme has been really helpful.
"The programme has boosted my confidence and ability to drive. I like being part of the programme, I enjoy it."
■ To become a volunteer or for more information contact Leanne Richards on 027 221 7769 or email firstname.lastname@example.org