Nay Reh, who comes from Myanmar, was one of 12 people to graduate at the Open Road driver training prize-giving last Thursday night. Photo: Kate Russell.

Refugee hits the open road

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Former refugee Nay Reh says the best thing about getting his drivers licence was being able to take his wife to the hospital when she went into labour with their third son last month.

Nay Reh, who comes from Myanmar, was one of 12 people to graduate at the Open Road driver training prize-giving last Thursday night.

“I feel very happy and lucky because I got my licence just before my wife gave birth,” says Nay Reh.

He also says he is now able to drive his two eldest sons, aged five and six, to the beach, park and to visit friends. But he says the greatest benefit is being able to help others in his community.

“My community is very happy as many don’t have cars and they are new here, so we can help with things like their shopping.”

Nay Reh says this includes delivering 20kg bags of rice to them – and sometimes 40kg bags in the winter.

Before getting his licence, the family had to walk or catch rides with friends or their support volunteer, who has been guiding them since they arrived in Nelson a year ago.

The Nelson Refugee Driver Training Programme was rolled out in Nelson in March last year and is delivered to former refugees by Red Cross.

Local volunteers spend a few hours a week, over 12-16 weeks, as mentor instructors.

There are two graduations per year, with 32 new Nelsonians gaining their restricted licences so far this year.

Refugee Driver Training coordinator Margo Ruhen says they are always looking for more mentors.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community and a great sharing of cultures,” she says.

Mentors need to be over 21 years old, have had their full New Zealand drivers licence for more than two years and a clean driving record.

The next programme starts in February with the group induction on 31 January.

If you are a patient, confident driver and are available to volunteer two hours a week, contact Margo at openroad.nelson@redcross.org.nz or 0212558550.