Salvo's Drive For Life program desperate for volunteer mentors

UNBREAKABLE BOND: Driving mentor Gena Domek (left) and learner driver Jacinda Wilkinson (right) have together formed an unbreakable bond thanks to the Upper Hunter Drive For Life Program.
UNBREAKABLE BOND: Driving mentor Gena Domek (left) and learner driver Jacinda Wilkinson (right) have together formed an unbreakable bond thanks to the Upper Hunter Drive For Life Program.

A very unlikely friendship has formed thanks to a local driving initiative.

The Upper Hunter Drive For Life Program is delivered by the Salvation Army in partnership with Glencore and, over the past six months, has helped form an unbreakable bond between young learner driver Jacinda Wilkinson and driving mentor Gena Domek.

Jacinda first attained her learners permit when she turned 16.

Now at age 21, with thanks to Gena, she is finally confident enough to start clocking her hours up.

"After having a minor accident in the first year of learning to drive with a family member, we both lost our confidence in teaching and learning and neither of us couldn't handle the stressful idea of driving," Jacinda said.

"I never thought I would get back on the road again, let alone buy my own car and clock over 30 hours, but I now have thanks to Gena.

"Nearly five years on since I first got my L's and I've finally got my confidence back."

Before a learner driver enters the mentoring phase of the program, they must receive multiple lessons and driving assessment with a professional instructor.

Gena, a Singleton local first taught her son and his girlfriend to drive and has found a love for mentoring young people ever since.

"This program has allowed me to help young people like Jacinda with gaining not only driving skills but confidence on and off the road," Gena told the Singleton Argus.

"Singleton is a difficult area to get 120 hours up and in some cases parents or guardians either don't have the time or confidence in teaching their young ones to drive".

The Drive For Life program is designed to help financially marginalised young people achieve their driver's licence; an important step towards employment and independence.

ON THE ROAD: The program is delivered by the Salvation Army in partnership with Glencore.

ON THE ROAD: The program is delivered by the Salvation Army in partnership with Glencore.

The program has been in operation in the Upper Hunter for more than a year and there is currently a number of young people on the program's waiting list.

Without the support of additional volunteer driving mentors, the program's intake is considerably delayed.

Drive For Life Program Coordinator, Jean Rennie, says the role of a driving mentor is integral not only to a learner's progression through the program but also to their personal development and long term job prospects.

"Our Drive For Life mentors can genuinely transform young lives," Rennie explained.

"We know that when a young person obtains a driver's licence their world is suddenly open to a host of new opportunities, including securing a job.

"It may seem daunting to supervise a learner driver's log book hours but we would like to assure anyone interested in becoming a mentor that we have developed this program so that the learner and the mentor receive comprehensive training and ongoing support."

Gena agrees, saying the program is not just about the driving but helping young people achieve their goals.

"With some of my other students it is the first time that they have heard someone say ' I am going to be here for you and I am going to help you every single week'," Gena expressed.

"There are a lot of young people in Singleton who need someone to believe in them, and I do believe in them and want to reassure them of that."

If you are interested in learning more about becoming a driving mentor contact Jean Rennie on 0437082219 or email jean.rennie@salvationarmy.org.au