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Student Volunteer Army’s mission to Japan

Student Volunteer Army’s mission to Japan

This weekend the leader of the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) and a colleague will head to Japan to set up a Japanese version of the Student Volunteer Army.

Sam Johnson and Jason Pemberton, who helped run the SVA’s Geo-Ops unit, will travel to Tokyo to help establish a self sufficient volunteer project made up of university students in areas hard hit by Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami.

The SVA was invited to Japan by Global DIRT (Disaster Immediate Response Team) Global DIRT was contracted by the United Nations to measure radiation levels, and is now licensed in Japan as an official non-governmental organisation working on relief efforts.

Sam Johnson says two Global DIRT staff will assist the SVA in setting up the volunteer effort. He says they have established local connections through the relief structures running in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture and have informal support for the student volunteer project from the Nippon Foundation (

“From the conversations I’ve had with people on the ground in Japan I believe that we will be able to initiate and assist in the co-ordination of a large scale volunteer clean-up programme similar to the two we ran in Christchurch.

“We’ll be teaching students how we ran the Army and train them to act as administrators and directors so they can run it themselves.

“I expect a new and very different SVA will be created however the work will be similar – one of the first missions will be to help clean mud out of houses in Ishinomaki.

“It’s especially satisfying to know that we will be assisting people from a country that sent rescue crews to aid Christchurch,” says Sam Johnson.

The duo will travel to Japan on Saturday and spend two weeks in Tokyo where they say they will be taking every necessary precaution given the circumstances.

The New Zealand Government, Japanese Embassy, Civil Defence and the Christchurch City Council have all been informed of the mission.

The SVA would like to thank Air New Zealand for sponsoring the return flights to Japan and Macpac, Untouched World and Cactus for supplying clothing and equipment for the mission.

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