History in brief.
The Student Volunteer Army began as a Facebook event in response to a clear and definite need – removal of liquefaction silt from a stunned city in September 2010. Four months later another devastating shake struck leaving 185 dead, a collapsed central city and 450,000 Tonnes of silt throughout suburban Christchurch.Utilising the everyday technologies in their pockets, the Student Volunteer Army mobilised 11,000 fit and able bodies to respond to the
cries for help from everyday citizens. The response captured the hearts of New Zealanders near and far, and made international ripples in realising the scale of the self-coordinated youth response was unprecedented. Five efforts were mobilised over 16 months.Members of the SVA core team subsequently spent time assisting Tsunami-stricken Japan, Nelson after 100-year flooding and two weeks in New York assisting and advising Hurricane
Sandy response efforts. The lessons learned, processes developed and technologies employed were captured and developed, with the founding members creating a Charitable Trust, the Volunteer Army Foundation, to house this knowledge. Three core team members remain with VAF who now specialise in designing programmes that maximize youth engagement.
History in depth.
The six original team members of the Student Volunteer Army, Sam Johnson, Jade Rutherford, Gina Scandrett, Chris Duncan (CJ), Tom Young and Sam Gifford began to plan how to best facilitate another student response. The team was grateful for generous support from President Kohan McNab and the whole team at UCSA (University of Canterbury Students Association), Louis Brown (Te Waipounamu Foundation), Nathan Durkin and Anthony Rohan (White Elephant Trust), ENSOC, LAWSOC and MUSOC.Together the core team of 15, and wider administration of 70+ managed three core
operations which the SVA focused on; battalions, squadrons and street teams. The mass deployment of volunteers, dubbed ‘Battalions’, was the initial focus which saw a maximum of 1000 volunteers, fed, watered and allocated to the worst affected areas of Christchurch via charter buses. Squadrons filled a similar role, except instead of students combing the streets and methodically searching for work, the squadrons responded to requests from individuals for assistance that came via our website, call centre and partnerships with Civil Defence and city councils. Up to 450 car loads of students were allocated via this system, using a mix of software, texting and Google mapping.
Street teams managed volunteer engagement for various organizations including multiple government departments, Civil Defence and Christchurch City Council. Our objective was to increase the efficiency in agencies providing a service; for example delivering chemical toilets and information pamphlets, laying sandbags, staffing data entry and manning call centres.While the perceived focus was on shovelling silt, what mattered most was the intergenerational connection being created and the conversations that occurred between residents and students. Nothing beats a friendly face to talk with.
In 2012 VAF produced ‘The Concert, a concerted effort: thanks to Skinny Mobile. Unlike any music event produced in New Zealand, the only way to get a ticket to ‘The Concert’ was to volunteer for 4+ hours. 8,500 predominantly young people contributed a total
of 50,000 hours of volunteering in over 900 events throughout an 8-month period, supporting hundreds of community groups through 2012 and into 2013.‘The Concert’ was generously supported by the Canterbury Community Trust, the Prime Ministers’
Earthquake Appeal Trust, Skinny Mobile, Kiwibank, Buddle Findlay, Lumley insurance, Convergence Media and many others committed to building on the success of the initial student movement.