A week of volunteering

Overview of the UC Student Volunteer Army Earthquake Response to date:

The University of Canterbury Student Volunteer Army (SVA) initiated its Emergency Earthquake Response Plan on Monday 14th November in the immediate aftermath of the quakes. At first the SVA response was put in 'standby' phase to await calls and messages from those requiring assistance and respond with help as needed. We recognised the importance of ensuring people were not only physically safe but also mentally safe. As a result, we used our Facebook page, which has over 29,000 'likes', to encourage people to connect with their neighbours and nearby friends and family to check that they were okay. We also used our Facebook page to distribute key messages from Civil Defence, an Earthquake Support Helpline phone number and update the public with weather warnings.

This response stage quickly shifted to proactive volunteering and collaboration with other response organisations. The quakes struck during the University holidays, so our exec and volunteers are spread across the country. We managed to utilise this, by pulling on our people and resources in Christchurch, Wellington, Malborough and elsewhere to be mobilise volunteer efforts across the country.

We worked with local students, community members and groups in both the Wellington and Marlborough regions to advise them on setting up their own volunteer groups to help those in need. This resulted in the creation of two new Student Volunteer Army's- the Victoria Student Volunteer Army and Marlborough Student Volunteer Army.

Later on in the week, and with the situation in Kaikoura clearer, we began to focus our efforts to this area. On the night of Wednesday 16th the SVA recruited over 100 wonderful volunteers with less than 2hrs notice, to help with the arrival of evacuated tourists from Kaikoura. Our volunteers in Christchurch helped to prepare 210 beds at the University of Canterbury Uni Hall student accommodation. We also had a team of 30 volunteers travel across to Lyttleton at midnight to unload the 7 tonnes of luggage from HMNZS Canterbury. Another team of volunteers met the evacuees when they arrived at Uni hall. 

Following a scouting mission by SVA to Waiau on Friday 18th, we found that the community up there was sufficiently supplied and their needs are being taken care of due to the amazing work done by other disaster response organisations and other volunteer groups. As a result, we are sending a small contingent of volunteers to Waiau to carry out a number of projects aimed at helping members of the Hurunui community get back on their feet.

We have been inundated with positive feedback and well wishes from members of the public throughout the week, with hundreds of messages, Facebook comments, emails and phone calls. Our Facebook page has received an extra 800+ 'likes' and we have reached over 200,000 people via social media. In just this week, our Facebook page updates and posts have been shared more than 350 times. We were also fortunate enough to be donated tickets for our volunteers to attend a earthquake fundraising concert by Six60. The support from the other response organisations we have collaborated with, including All Right?, Red Cross, Civil Defence and the Farmy Army, has been immensely helpful. Obviously none of this could be made possible without the tireless and enthusiastic support of our volunteers who have given up their time to help others in a time of need- a true credit to the community spirit of New Zealand. 

The SVA response is not over yet, we have rebranded our earthquake response to a 'Sustained Effort' and will continue to make our volunteers and resources available long term. 

If you wish to get in contact with a representative from the SVA please contact Jared McMahon (SVA Club President) on 027 241 2223 or email president@sva.org.nz