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Student Volunteer Army becomes UC’s largest student club

Student Volunteer Army becomes UC’s largest student club

The University of Canterbury’s (UC) thriving student clubs scene, has now been taken over by an army – with the Student Volunteer Army now the largest student club on campus.

After reigning as UC’s largest student club for most of the University’s 119-year history, the Engineering Society (ENSOC) has this year been outnumbered by the Student Volunteer Army (SVA).

The SVA has its roots in a Facebook movement initiated by UC student Sam Johnson, following the 22 February 2011 Canterbury earthquake. At one stage, more than 11,000 people were involved.

Student membership for the SVA in 2011 only reached the hundreds but by 2016 it has grown to a new record with 2,088 active members, up a third from 2015, and for the first time surpassing ENSOC, which has around 1600-1700 members.

The result shows volunteering still has huge relevance in the absence of disaster, according to SVA president Alex Cheesebrough.

“Each year we’ve continued to run projects throughout the community with something on every weekend, and the publicity from Prince Harry’s visit also made a big difference,” he says.

UC Students’ Association president James Addington says it’s been fantastic to see the continued growth of the SVA.

“We all know about the great work they did in the aftermath of the quakes, but there was a risk they might fade into the background as time went by. It’s a real credit to the many passionate students involved that they’ve managed to continue the momentum, and establish the SVA as a unique fixture in the Canterbury student community. We’re all excited to see them roll out the new campaigns and projects they have planned for 2016,” Addington says.

Cheesebrough adds: “I believe more people are getting involved because we're making it easier for students to access the benefits of volunteering events. Whether you do it to meet new people, feel rewarded or because you're getting some other benefit out of it, these are all more obvious than they were before.”

SVA’s next big event is City Care Connect the Community on 14 May where the SVA will work in areas of Woolston and Ferrymead on a range of volunteering projects involving around 200 students. Projects include river clean-up, bird habitat restoration and native tree planting.

“These big events are all about sending a message to the community that we're here to help,” says Cheesebrough.

Student Volunteer Army’s largest mobilisation since quakes "On Saturday 14th May 2016, The UC Student Volunteer Army will again be returning to the streets of Christchurch - this time to help out residents of Woolston. Each year City Care ‘Connect the Community’ is the largest mobilization of the Volunteer Army, with hundreds of students helping out residents on a variety of community projects.

Following on from the successful ‘Serve for NZ Campaign’ run in the lead up to Anzac weekend, the upcoming Woolston event looks set to have the biggest turnout of volunteers that the SVA has been seen in recent years.

Last year, work done in the suburb of New Brighton, involved over 150 members of the club, this year a turnout of over 200 volunteers is expected; equating to more than 800 volunteer hours, with an additional 100 hours of volunteer time by the SVA Executive Team to organise the event.

The high numbers are further expected due to the club recently attaining status as the largest student-led club for the first time at the University of Canterbury with over 2100 members. This suggests that volunteering and a sense of service are ever popular with students attending the University.

Connect the Community is proudly sponsored by City Care. CEO Onno Mulder said the company was pleased to help make the City Care Connect the Community event happen, and proud to support the great work done by the SVA in the community.

“City Care is all about building better communities from the ground up, and the SVA has the ultimate “hands-on” approach. What better way to provide a boost to the people of Woolston, than to team up with the students to really make a difference in these neighbourhoods that have been through so much.”

Volunteers will be ‘mucking in’ across the suburb to respond to calls for help from local community groups and residents. There will be a variety of projects student will be getting with including property clean-ups, cleaning up the Heathcote River, tree planting and helping out community establish further habitats for the endangered black-billed gull. All of this will be culminating in a community lunch at Bamford School for volunteers and residents to enjoy the day.

Driving this event is the desire of the Volunteer Army to make service part of the student lifestyle, with intergenerational collaboration and heightened community engagement that was generated with the people of Christchurch during the initial earthquake response still remaining strongly within the club five years on."

What’s happening on the day:

- Volunteers catch free bus from University Foundry Carpark to Woolston (8.20am)

- 9am Briefing at Bamford School (6 Gould Crescent, Woolston)

- 9.30-12pm Volunteer Work

- Free community BBQ at Bamford School

Video Footage:

- Raw footage taken by our videographer Joel Wallen (Ph. 027 813 6912) will be made available after the event

- A short edited video clip will also be made available after the event

Photo opportunities:

- Up to 200 volunteers and community members engaging in volunteer work

- Volunteer work will include tree planting, river clean ups, gardening, habitat restoration.

- Community BBQ

If you come along on the day you can meet with:

- Volunteers

- Members of our SVA Executive Team

- Our Sponsors City Care

- Key Community Members


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