Twelve Days of Volunteering: Sleigh Rides for Santa and L2P Program in Ballarat

“United Way Ballarat has been active in the local community for over 30 years. We raise money from local businesses, and then use that money to distribute amongst community organisations and charities that need help; many of these charities, people haven’t even heard of,” explains Torie Campbell, L2P coordinator at United Way Ballarat.

“We try and fund things that fly below the radar, those that don’t get high profile. We don’t normally run direct programs but a few years back when one of the agencies we funded was going to shut down we looked at their L2P Learner Driver Mentor program and decided it was a good fit with what United Way is about.”

Torie was drawn to the L2P program because it involves people of all ages and walks of life and believes it makes a difference in the local community. The fact that no two days are ever the same and each day brings with it new challenges, also interests her.

“Those who already have a driver’s licence forget how important having one is, and how much time and commitment it takes to obtain 120 hours of experience. Having a licence can open up so many doors to opportunities that may not have been available without a licence.”

After spending 18months in the role of coordinator, Torie looks back fondly on those whose lives have been changed by this program and who she considers success stories in the community.

“I can’t wait to see what amazing things the young people will do with their newfound freedom.”

The program currently has 50 trained volunteer mentors and an additional 12 volunteers who sit on the steering committees. The L2P Learner Driver Mentor Program assists learners without access to a supervising driver or vehicle to gain the 120 hours of driving experience required to apply for a probationary licence. Young people are matched with fully licensed volunteer mentors and use a sponsored vehicle to gain supervised driving experience. All learner drivers accepted into the program receive a number of professional driving lesson form a qualified driving instructor.

from January to November 2016, a total of eighty-one young people have accessed the program. 40 Volunteer Mentors have volunteered 2450 hours. 25 learners have graduated to obtain their probationary licence – and they still have December of 2016 to go!

This program helps disadvantaged learners to gain driving experience. Some do not have parents or positive role models for various reasons, who are able to help them achieve this. Some young people have been in out-of-home care most of their lives. Others have parents who are supportive but may not been in a position to offer this kind of support.

“It definitely contributes to all involved, the learners gain a tangible licence that can lead to a job or study or just help them get mobile and also gain confidence in their abilities. The volunteers feel they have contributed to a safer community by giving these young ones the skills needed to be safe road users. By spending time with these learners, they give them a positive influence and support they might otherwise not have received,” Tori adds: “Sometimes this positive accepting influence may be the only one these young learners have ever had in their lives.”

The personal growth and achievement obtained by these young people is both obvious and beneficial in assisting them build a stronger sense of worth, accomplishment, confidence and a positive direction for the future. The entire process of the L2P learner driver program is extremely valuable for both the learners and volunteer mentors who make this program possible.

If funding and volunteers were not available for this program it would be a shame for Ballarat. This is evident by the growth L2Phave experienced over the past 12 month. The is waiting list has doubled, with 40 people waiting to take part in the program. They have also doubled the number of learners the program has on the road. This has been made possible with the help of VicRoads, TAC and also local agencies who see the value for their young clients and provide them with extra funding.

United Way Ballarat currently have funding from TAC via VicRoads, that comes to them via City of Ballarat and Golden Plains Shire. This covers forty places on the program to be offered to the community. There is also funding from local agencies like: Ballarat Group Training, Berry Street, Child and Family Services (CAFS), Centacare, Youth Justice, Centre for Multicultural Youth and Ballarat Community Health who have provided additional funding to add an extra thirty places.

Torie added: “I love my job and the small part I play in this remarkable program. This program would not run if it didn’t have passionate, dedicated and supportive volunteers. If you were to pay in monetary value for the hours our volunteer mentors have spent over the past eleven months with learners it would be $147,000 in professional lessons. That’s 2450 hours x $60 and hour (average cost of a professional lesson). However, you can’t put a price on the value of the ‘mentoring’ and ‘friendship’ given by the volunteers.”

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