Volunteer armies invading town

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An army of university students will descend on Oamaru next Friday.

About 100 members of the Student Volunteer Army (SVA), from the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, have put their hands up to volunteer for a variety of community organisations and projects in Oamaru and the wider Waitaki district from May 13 to 15.

Events manager Breanna Greaney said it was the biggest volunteering camp SVA had organised, and the first time the Canterbury and Otago branches had collaborated. She was excited to bring so many people to her hometown for the weekend.

Breanna and her twin sister Alyssa are on the SVA executive team, and pitched Oamaru as the location for the camp. While it was a small town, there were a lot of volunteering opportunities and there was a lot for the volunteers to do outside of their work, Breanna said.

SVA is a student-run club, created in the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, focused on providing meaningful volunteering opportunities for young people in New Zealand.

The students will be based at Camp Iona for the weekend. They will split their time between planting and weeding at Cape Wanbrow with Forest and Bird, doing mountain bike track maintenance at Herbert Forest, planting at the Waianakarua River with the Herbert Heritage Group, sorting waste at the Waitaki Resource Recovery Park, and lending a hand at the Waitaki Community Gardens, Camp Iona and Waitaki Girls’ High School.

‘‘It’s going to be a full-on weekend,’’ Breanna said.

‘‘There’s heaps of people wanting work . . . we’ve got so many projects on so it’s going to be very fun.’’

SVA camps were a chance for members to contribute in a meaningful way to communities outside of their own while experiencing parts of New Zealand they otherwise may not have the chance to visit. The Canterbury branch organised two camps a year, and had previously gone to Hokitika, Nelson, Akaroa, and Kaikoura.

‘‘It’s such a cool opportunity to bring people around the country and be able to experience different communities and how we can contribute to those,’’ Breanna said.

There were about 1000 members of the SVA at the University of Canterbury, and the camps were a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, she said.

Breanna, who is now in her third year of university, has been on the SVA events team for two years.

‘‘It’s just such a fun job being able to hold all these big events and make such a big difference in the communities that we visit.’’

Volunteering had always been ‘‘quite a big part’’ of her life.

‘‘My older brother had cancer as a child and so Mum has instilled a volunteering mindset and just giving back when we can.’’