Independence and pride through help

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Zorica Simpson finally has a licence to drive.

The Cromwell woman credits Central Otago Reap’s Drive My Life initiative for helping her pass her learner and restricted licences, which means she can now drive unassisted.

Ms Simpson (47) moved to New Zealand from Macedonia 24 years ago and until now had relied on others to get her from A to B.

The Drive My Life programme assists people in need of lessons and support as they prepare to sit their driver’s licence.

Ms Simpson, who now proudly drives a silver Toyota Will, said without the initiative and her volunteer mentor driver John Whitaker, getting her licence would have been impossible.

‘‘I used to be ashamed at my age [to] not have my driver licence, but the volunteer mentor drivers said ‘don’t worry about it, you can do it’.’’

It was that encouragement and support that got her through, she said.

She gained her learner’s licence in December 2019 and started taking lessons last year, but had to stop due to lockdown.

When Covid-19 alert level restrictions were lifted, Ms Simpson got back in the driver’s seat, passed her restricted licence and step-by-step has gained her independence, which has so far included driving herself to Alexandra and Queenstown.

It also means she can make the short drive from her home to the shops whenever she wants to, instead of waiting until someone else is available to drive her.

‘‘It’s made a huge difference. I couldn’t go anywhere before that.

‘‘Now I don’t need to wait for anybody. I just need to jump in the car and I’m there.’’

Now she encourages others to use the programme, no matter how old they are.

‘‘It’s never too late. If you really want your freedom, it’s worth it in the end.’’