More than 1,000 schools and 32,000 students throughout New Zealand have signed up to the Student Volunteer Army’s (SVA) new primary school programme – one of the largest mobilisations of its kind.
The initiative will see classrooms turned into SVA platoons, tasked with carrying out volunteer projects in their local community.
SVA founder Sam Johnson instigated the programme following a request from teachers seeking to adopt the SVA project management model into their curriculum.
“The SVA story has influenced young people all around the world,” says Mr Johnson. “While no other New Zealand university has fully replicated the SVA model, there’s been sustained interest from New Zealand primary school pupils in particular, as well as groups of secondary students. The concept of working together, having fun and helping out in the community is clearly something that young people clearly have a natural affinity with.
“Local communities throughout the country stand to benefit from this new initiative, particularly as momentum continues to build. We are excited about harnessing the power and enthusiasm of these young volunteers to help tackle important local issues.”
One of the schools to join, Freyberg Community School in West Auckland, has “adopted” a local reserve and plan to upgrade it by planting, building a track and painting.
Teacher Matt Reyland says students are “bubbling with excitement and ideas about how we can get out and help others in our community”.
“We’re creating such a fantastic project and can’t wait to get started. We want to encourage our students to be active, contributing citizens and to value making a difference to others by how they live their lives.”
Minister for Community and Volunteering Hon Alfred Ngaro says the programme is a great opportunity for “our youngest New Zealanders”.
“We know that people are more likely to continue volunteering if they start early, so this is also a great initiative for the future of volunteering in New Zealand.”
The SVA has partnered with School Kit Ltd, which develops curriculum-based resources for teachers, to make the programme available to all primary schools throughout the country. Teachers are provided with a ‘Volunteer Action Kit’ to develop an SVA Primary School Platoon in their own classroom.
Funded largely by the Government’s Community Leadership Fund, the resource materials have been developed by specialist teachers and designed to integrate with years four to ten.
Students are tasked with organising a volunteer project with the purpose of meeting a need they have identified in their local community. Each platoon will provide photos of their service project and share the impact of their work on social media.
Projects in the pipeline or already underway include making local parks predator free, adopting a conservation area, book drives, and sending get well cards to hospitals.
Kylie Power from School Kit says the SVA’s programme is a unique way of empowering and motivating students to think beyond the school gate and get hands-on in their communities.
“The tools in the kit make it easy for students to come up with a unique idea and turn it into reality using the tried and true SVA project management model,” says Ms Power.
“Using this model each student has a defined role and set of responsibilities like managing finances, logistics, equipment or safety. Teachers report that the beauty of the challenge lies in what it draws out of the young people themselves – how they step-up, speak out, solve tricky problems, work as a team and stick to a plan.”