A Learning Curve (Stories from Turning the Curve)

27 November 2017

Shamooni MamoShamooni Mamo was full of nerves. At the end of last year she sat and passed the test to get her restricted licence. It took three attempts for the former refugee from Iraq to get her restricted licence, something she says was down to nerves.

“I was really nervous, the last time [when] I passed. The assessor wanted to know why I didn't pass the first two times because I had no mistakes, I said it was because I was very nervous. He said I was a very good driver though.”

Her confidence has grown immensely since then and she practiced around Thorndon and on the Motorway with her volunteer, Gaby, who helped her prepare for her final test.

Shamooni is one of the women taking part in ChangeMakers' Turning the Curve programme, helping to get women from refugee backgrounds on the road to build their independence. Sponsors cover the cost of professional lessons for participants who are then matched with volunteers to refine their skills ahead of the test.

The program has helped Shamooni come a long way since she first arrived in New Zealand with no knowledge of cars or driving. Now she uses the car to go shopping, go to her classes, and get around town, making trips all over Wellington.

Having a qualified driver in the house is also important because her fiancé, who is also from Iraq, doesn't have a licence yet. 

“He is happy I'm driving, he says I'm a good driver,” she says. 

It also allows her to driver her elderly parents to important medical appointments.

It's been a huge learning curve for Shamooni who says she's been learning more than the practicalities of driving. When her lessons with the driving school began, she asked the instructor to speak slowly and the two of them went through all the terminology in the car before starting. From blinker to dehumidifier, the lessons have helped her in more ways than one.

“I am learning English and learning driving,” she laughs.

The program has been important for Shamooni who doesn't believe she would have been able to get this far without it.

“It's a good programme because the driving school, volunteers, and ChangeMakers have all helped me get my licence. I wouldn't get my licence without the programme.”

As for her nerves, Shamooni planned to take deep breaths before sitting the test for her full licence, something she says worked well last time. This has all worked in her favour as she has now passed the full licencing test and is driving skilfully on the roads.

The Turning the Curve Programme is currently looking for new mentors to help refugee background women practice their driving next year. You 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 Shamooni learn to drive, email TTC@crf.org.nz.


You can read other Turning The Curve stories here:

A Star Pupil

Determined to Drive