On September 4th 2010 Christchurch was struck with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The Student Volunteer Army was created via a Facebook page and served as a platform where people could find the necessary information about how to volunteer. Over the next two weeks we provided safe and organised volunteer placement, transport, food and support for over 2500 students. We focused on low risk areas during the immediate response period and as a result the SVA cleared over 65,000 tonnes of liquefaction.
Far greater damage was sustained on the 22nd of February where the 6.3 earthquake took place. Many lives were lost, homes and businesses destroyed and the thousands in our communities continued to face emotional hardships. In overcoming the challenges after the first earthquake, we became more efficient and effective. As an example we used everyday technology to improve communication to successfully dispatch thousands of volunteers within a three week period.
While the central task was the mass-deployment of volunteers to shovel liquefaction from properties, a strong focus was put on the wellbeing of residents; showing a presence in the streets offering hot meals, clean water and guidance to professional assistance. The SVA also supplied and managed operations for various organizations including multiple government departments, Civil Defence, and city council. Our objective was to increase the efficiency in specific services, for example delivering chemical toilets and information pamphlets, laying sandbags, staffing data entry and manning call centres.
One of the greatest challenges we faced after both earthquakes was to locate the areas where volunteers were most needed. With the help of Geoop.com, we designed a mobile management system whereby residents could register their need for assistance via a free call number, text message service or website. Each job was examined and prioritised by our call centre. In delegating team leaders to guide small crews to these sites the SVA cleared over 360,000 tonnes of liquefaction in over 75,000 volunteer working hours. The Facebook page had over 26,000 followers after March 2011 and continued to act as a platform to organise and coordinate volunteers and non-skilled labourers in Christchurch communities throughout 2011.
This year, the UC Student Volunteer Army has established itself as an organisation that prides itself on assisting with, the empowering of students to volunteer in Christchurch. SVA is an incorporated society, and is governed by an elected committee. It is an affiliated club to the University of Canterbury Students Association, though it is not exclusively for UC students.
The Founders of the Earthquake clean up also established the Volunteer Army Foundation Trust. This trust is the support vehicle of the SVA and provides continuity to the club. The Trust will be working in collaboration with other groups, and seeking to further the development of Volunteering in New Zealand, and youth involvement in natural disasters.