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Student Volunteer Army Sustainably Serving the Community

Student Volunteer Army Sustainably Serving the Community Post-quakes

August 21, 2013

The University of Canterbury’s Student Volunteer Army (SVA) has successfully switched from helping out after earthquakes to sustainably serving the community, SVA president Bridget Williams says.

The service projects will benefit a close-knit Christchurch community as the SVA steps away from earthquake related service projects. Williams will give a presentation at the first New Zealand Tertiary Engagement Summit at the University of Canterbury (UC) on August 30.

``This city grows and remains forever sustainable and strong. We are playing a part in that. We want service be part of the student lifestyle and empower students to be the change in their community.

``In 2011, when the SVA swamped the streets of Christchurch to help remove the liquefaction, I was certainly inspired. I remember thinking; students cannot run this. Where’s the group in charge? They were all in charge. Each person was an important cog in the SVA machine and right then and there I knew this was a movement I wanted to be a part of.

``As time went on, the liquefaction was mostly removed. Mother Nature calmed and the interest of the SVA was dimming. We thought we had done our job. I began thinking, why is the participation of something so positive disappearing? Just because the liquefaction was cleaned up, it didn’t mean student volunteering should be over.

``This year we introduced a sustainable model, with structure and focused on service projects that bettered community in any way. We implemented a new mission to make service be part of the student lifestyle.

``This is being achieved by our platoons, which align students with their interest values and skills making them feel like they have something to contribute. This leads to empowering and will encourage them to keep coming back to volunteer, which will lead to it becoming a lifestyle thus our vision is eventually fulfilled.

``Engaging with a diverse cross section of society makes students realise the realities of life and makes them see how precious life is. The least we can do is give up some time of our day to help others in need.’’

Vincent Ilustre, executive director at Tulane University’s Centre for Public Service in New Orleans, will be the keynote speaker at UC’s August 30 summit.

The summit is part of a drive by UC to engage closely with the community. Already more than 400 students have been involved in UC’s CHCH101 course, launched after the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, to build on the Student Volunteer Army’s community engagement work.


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