Students vs. The Machine: Lessons Learned in the Student Community following the Christchurch Earthquakes
The Earthquakes and Formal Emergency Response
Using the ‘Tools in Our Pockets’
How It Worked
We would encourage young people to identify needs and take responsibility for an area of their interest. Working organically and establishing new teams for different purposes (equipment, funding, welfare, food, logistics).
Each morning, volunteers would scan their student ID or driver’s license to register, rather than pen and paper, and were dispatched and relocated via text message through mobile management software, Geoop.com, as the operation grew. At the highest point, 1800 volunteers were being coordinated to various areas.
While the initial priority was the cosmetic clean-up, the impact on community mental health and wellbeing was phenomenal. The physical volunteering helped the grieving process, and allowed individuals to feel that were contributing to the recovery of the city. Each day volunteers were encouraged not only to focus on manual labour, but to spend time listening and talking to residents, strengthening intergenerational connection and recreating physical, not only virtual, communities.
At the very core, Student Volunteer Army is a platform that utilises a pattern of communication to discover who needs help, and who wants to help, together with the flexibility to do whatever is needed to help those people.