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Charity With A Driving Passion

By Jessica Issa on June 7, 2013 in News

Photo: The Green Light Movement

Photo: The Green Light Movement

Most teenagers spend months, if not years, looking forward to earning their driver’s license, and see it not only as a rite of passage but a step towards independence. Unfortunately, when you’re young and homeless, getting your license is far more difficult than just passing a test.

Thankfully, one Bondi charity has identified this dilemma and is stepping up and doing something about it. The Greenlight Movement is a homeless youth charity and not-for-profit community organisation that helps underprivileged young people learn how to drive.

“There is a need in the 16 to 24 demographic of youth that we house to provide volunteers to supervise driving hours,” The Greenlight Movement project administrator Patrycia Pagiela said. “These kids don’t have parents on the scene or real guardians who have a car to supervise 120 hours of driving, so they are left in this cycle of disadvantage, or stay on their L-plates for years.”

The Greenlight Movement is one of the few charities in Sydney to offer this service. Run through Bondi Youth Accommodation, The Greenlight Movement relies on experienced volunteer drivers to supervise disadvantaged youth. After experiencing amazing success rates, they are now looking to expand.

“Recently, we’ve had five young people successfully get their provisional licenses, and a further three are due to sit their Ps next month,” Patrycia said. “All our young drivers show fantastic commitment to the program as it does take over a year to accumulate the necessary hours.”

Katelyn, 21, is extremely grateful for The Greenlight Movement’s efforts.

“If it wasn’t for Bondi Youth Accommodation, I would still be stuck on the hours I obtained before I left home. BYA provides a very cost-effective, user-friendly way to go about getting your hours… which is great for us who can’t afford it,” she said.

The Greenlight Movement is expanding the program and looking to increase community awareness. Positions are available for young drivers who have experienced homelessness and who want to attain a license, and for volunteers who are able to supervise the driving. Driving supervisors should be over 25 years of age.

“We’ve got about 20 young students in our program and about 20 volunteers, so we’re putting a call out for volunteers to supervise drivers once a week for two hours. Our volunteers are a really broad mix, ranging from local to coming from the Northern Beaches. We provide the car they drive in,“ Patrycia said.

She emphasised how rewarding and liberating the program is.

“Some of our students are externally referred to us, but some of them are from our own centre, about 25 per cent. Most are referred to us by their caseworkers. Kids come back to us and say it has changed their life; they become more employable and more confident. It’s more than just a license, it’s something for them to be proud of.”

Volunteer driver Adam Combe can certainly vouch for the benefits this program provides for young people.

“My ‘mentee’ has commented that having a long-term goal and support has helped her bring about positive changes in her life beyond just getting a license,” he said.

Another student, Leah, 22, expressed her gratitude in a letter to the program.

“Thank you for helping me achieve my goal. Without this program I would’ve never gotten here… thanks for sticking by me,” she wrote.

The Greenlight Movement service is offered to anyone between 16 and 25 years of age who has experienced homelessness, and is primarily aimed towards assisting young people to achieve their goals. Anyone interested in being a client or a volunteer driving instructor can contact the program on (02) 9389 7453 or by emailing greenlightmovement@bya.org.au.

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