Determined To Drive (Stories from Turning the Curve)

21 December 2017

Wudassie - Turning the Curve Programme

Determination has been key in helping Wudassie achieve her goal of passing her New Zealand driving test. For six months, she would catch a bus from her house in Mount Victoria all the way to her friend’s place in Lyall Bay, to borrow a car to practice driving in.

The dedication paid off though and now Wudassie is a confident driver with a full licence. She now supports other women by being a member of the Driver Licence Steering group.

It's a long way from the woman who had no learner licence or experience in a car a few years ago. The success is thanks to the ChangeMakers' Turning the Curve programme that helps women from refugee backgrounds obtain their licence. It works through a sponsorship model which covers the cost of professional driving lessons for participants who are then matched with volunteers to refine their skills ahead of the test.

Wudassie's volunteers, Suzanne and Anna, have left a lasting impression on Wudassie. She speaks fondly of them and the help they've given her. The two of them guided her through weekly practices until Wudassie felt confident enough to go for her test.

“Suzanne was a volunteer and her car was a volunteer,” laughs Wudassie, reflecting on the times Suzanne let them use her own car during the lessons.

Wudassie vividly remembers the day of both her tests. She took her neighbour along for moral support when she tested for her restricted licence to help calm her nerves. After months of extra practice she was ready to try for a full licence, but woke to find it pouring with rain. Still, it didn't deter her and by the end of the morning Wudassie had a full licence.  

“After that, I have no problem with my licence,” she says with confidence.

Now Wudassie also has her own car which has increased her independence. These days, Wudassie uses her vehicle to do the shopping, attend church, and visit her friends in Lower Hutt, all important aspects of her life that create community connections.

The Turning the Curve Programme is currently looking for new mentors to help refugee background women practice their driving next year. You would need to volunteer for just 1 hour twice a week, with full training provided. The learners will have already learnt the basics with a professional driving instructor.

If you would like to help a refugee background woman like Wudassie learn to drive, email

You can read other Turning The Curve stories here:

A Learning Curve

A Star Pupil