Driving DORA around the country has been a truly life-changing and wonderful experience for me.
Often, I relocate DORA to a host partner who then uses a local driver to move her to different venues. I have learned so much in handing over DORA and briefing them about her unique set-up. Heavy vehicle drivers are ‘knights of the road’ and sharing driving experiences and handy tips to make the most of DORA is extremely valuable.
My opportunity to be with DORA began in late 2019 when it was suggested I obtain a Class 2 Heavy Vehicle driving license and get involved. At 70 years of age, I had a few qualms but quickly realised it was a chance to work closely with people in special communities, visit new places and do something very worthwhile. So I got stuck in, learned the rules and road code, trained to drive a truck, and then passed the test around three months later (the day of our first Covid lockdown in March 2020). DORA was in Whangārei at that stage and was marooned there whilst I was locked down in Whanganui. I finally began my wonderful association with her in July 2020 and my first long drive was to take her to Whakatāne.
Over the next couple of years, my journeys on DORA stuttered due to Covid lockdowns, however, whilst it was challenging, we were able to strongly develop our programmes. I feel the Covid difficulties were a catalyst and trigger for many people to want to become more digitally capable.
I feel humbled and privileged to drive DORA. The longer I drive her, the more attached I feel, and I believe DORA is a highly worthwhile and important way to connect with underserved communities. We have helped a huge cross-section of people in all sorts of circumstances and feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Many of our learners were OK with the concept of digital banking and most were very worried about fraud, scams, and security. Even though private details were never shared whilst learning on DORA, often learners would help each other, share their views and experiences, and encourage each other to learn.
As well as benefiting learners, it is a great chance for local community service organisations to connect and collaborate. In one town, DORA’s library host, arranged for us to spend a day in a carpark where SeniorNet and the local RSA were located. We were able to provide our onboard learning programme and then refer learners to continue with SeniorNet next door.
DORA is an attractive attention grabber, highly admired, and an unusual asset to have parked outside a partner’s premises or places like community halls. We have visited events such as whānau days at marae and AMP shows, parking DORA in a prominent place and helping people with their digital queries.
DORA has an enormous extendable aerial mast, and we can use this to create a “hot spot” to provide free WiFi internet for anyone pretty much anywhere in an event. DORA has solar power panels and even a satellite internet connection we can use if the 4G network is not available, so we can pretty much go anywhere there is driveable access.
People living in our heartland towns and rural communities have been badly affected by bank closures or reduction of opening hours and the cessation of cheques. It is hard for many, not just to manage their money, but realising they need help to access online services like banking and shopping.
It is no surprise to me to see Curiosity, Lifelong Learning and Technological Literacy are among the World Economic Forum’s top ten desired work skills identified for 2023 and the top ten skills on the rise. Driving DORA around Aotearoa has certainly proved to me that it is never too late to learn and step up to involve yourself in something so totally worthwhile.
Case study published in Stepping UP Delivery Report 2022-2023