Media advisory – Public Information Update – Student Volunteer Army steps down, 1600, Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Student Volunteer Army, who have offered invaluable support to the local community since the 22 February earthquake, have significantly reduced their operations as they return to study this month.

A final push for volunteers took place on Sunday 20 March, resulting in a total of 500 volunteers helping to clean up parks and private properties throughout the city.

Sam Johnson, Student Volunteer Army spokesperson, says the service has had a phenomenal effect on the people of Christchurch.

“The SVA became a platform of coordinated volunteering that allowed volunteers of all ages to be safely deployed and effectively involved in the restoration of people’s lives.”

Mr Johnson says while the focus has been the cosmetic work such as clearing liquefaction, the value of the students’ work extends much further into mental heath and welfare spheres.

“We actively encouraged students to spend time speaking with residents about their experiences and offering them assistance both inside and outside the home or directing them to the specialists who were able to help. We’re extremely proud of everyone who has helped make this project a success, whether shovelling, baking a cake, fund-raising or just being the voice of encouragement at the end of the phone. We really do appreciate what everyone has done.”

Around 80 percent of volunteers were students from the University of Canterbury and the remainder made up from community members, high school students, CPIT Students and Lincoln University Students.

In total, the SVA helped to clear a total of 260,000 tonnes of silt, deliver 21,000 chemical toilets, and drop off over 500,000 pamphlets, as well as laying sandbags.

Mayor Bob Parker says the battalion of more than 6,000 volunteers has offered incredible support to Civil Defence.

“Without hesitation, these students and volunteers have rolled up their sleeves day after day to help those in need in our community.

“Volunteers’ lives have all been affected by this earthquake too but they have put their own issues aside for the benefit of helping others and that demonstrates the outstanding community spirit that exists in our city. They are my heroes and I am proud of each and every one of them.”

While the volunteer army are no longer recruiting for new volunteers, they will continue to offer support to the city, through the delivery of pamphlets to homes that NZ Post cannot access, helping to deliver chemical toilets to those in need, hosting a number of community events and the distribution of funding .

If you are looking for ways to offer your help, or need to request help such as in the removal of silt, please contact Volunteering Canterbury on 03 065 6943, or visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Volunteering-Canterbury/76308735321

You can also register on Trade Me at http://www.trademe.co.nz/christchurch-earthquake-support.

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