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March 7, 2011 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Student Army

While Victoria University students have been standing in queues at vicbooks and getting crushed in the Kirk foyer, University of Canterbury students have been donning fluorescent vests and arming themselves with shovels to help quake-stricken Cantabrians.

The University of Canterbury Student Volunteer Army works with Civil Defence to help people in suburbs who are suffering from damage to their homes following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch on Tuesday 22 February.

The army has created ‘Batallions’—a group capable of undertaking hard labour. The main task the group has been involved in is the removal of silt caused by liquefaction in many Christchurch suburbs.

Organiser Louis Brown told TVNZ the clean-up of silt is important as it makes it easier for teams to fix infrastructure such as power, water and sewerage.
“Being able to get the silt out of the road makes it a lot easier for those teams who are fixing power lines under the ground or implementing other services,” he says.

The Army has also created ‘Squadrons’—groups of students helping out with more general clean-up duties. Christchurch residents are able to log help they need on their properties with the Student Army who will send volunteers to help out.
They have also organised a ‘Street Team’ which works with the Ministry of Social Development. These groups work to reassure residents and provide them
with information about the help that
is available.

The volunteers have also been helping with the clean-up effort in other ways. Last Wednesday strong wind caused dust and silt to be blown about. Student volunteers helped to distribute dust masks to protect those working around the city.
Residents who have benefited from the army’s efforts are extremely grateful for the help.

“It’s just a morale boost. It’s something we’d have to do at a later stage,” one resident told
“They are doing a great job. It’s brilliant. Thanks to the lot of them,” said another.
Founder of the group, Sam Johnson, said more than 3000 students have taken part in the volunteer effort since it began on the Thursday following the quake.

The Student Volunteer Army has received donations and support from many groups, including the Victoria University Students’ Association (VUWSA).

VUWSA organised an appeal to support the group during Orientation and Clubs Weeks.
When Salient went to print last Thursday, Victoria students and staff had raised over $5000 for the Student Army.
“We’ve had a great response from students and staff,” said VUWSA President Seamus Brady.
“We’ve been extremely lucky to have so many students offering their time to collect, running bake sales and people donating collection buckets and promotional materials for free.

“We’ve also been amazed at the generosity shown by those donating to the appeal. On one day we raised $2000. That’s huge. There’s more to do and we’ll be looking at other ways we can continue to support the recovery effort.

“We thought as a campus-based appeal, it [the Student Army] would be a great opportunity for Victoria University students to show solidarity with other students in Canterbury and assist the UC Student Army with exceptional work in the aftermath of the earthquake,” said Brady.
“It’s been great to see students’ associations and their students get out helping each other and their community during time like these.”
Students’ associations around the country have all mobilised to support Christchurch relief groups in some way.

“Students’ associations have often played an important role in fostering solidarity and harnessing the energy of students during times of crisis. We hope these appeals will complement the excellent and admirable work of the UCSA Student Volunteer Army.
“It’s great to see students band together in these times,” says David Do, co-President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations.


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  1. Noeline Holt says:

    Congratulations Sam, you really got out there and made a difference, a sort of caped crusader without the cape and a trusty team of 3,000.

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