‘Earthquake Boy’ inspires in Wanaka

Volunteering Central was thrilled to host an evening with social entreprenuer Sam Johnson this October.

Integral in establishing the Student Volunteer Army in Christchurch following the earthquakes, Sam and the volunteer army team have worked for five years to develop community mobilisation strategies with community leaders, universities, UN agencies and volunteer groups throughout the Asia/Pacific region that all started after the Christchurch earthquakes with the UC Student Volunteer Army.

Sam gave a community talk to around 70 people gathered in Wanaka. A highly humourous, entertaining and poignant evening was enjoyed as the ‘earthquake boy’ shared his journey from establishing the Student Volunteer Army, to volunteering in Japan and Nepal and his current work with social enterprise WeVisit – connecting students and elderly in Christchurch.


With staggering facts about the student involvement in Christchurch, such as 11,000 students clearing nearly 400,000 tonnes of liquefaction over five clean ups, Sam shared how the SVA lead 1500 22 year olds a day “who really didn’t know what they were doing” into an amazing community wide project that continues today and has evolved into so much more.

“There is no doubt we helped Christchurch, but it also changed our entire university experience to where our whole university life was focused away from the university; it was the best thing for us as students.” said Sam.

Sam also acknowledged the amazing work being carried out in Wanaka and discussed the ideal situation in which a movement can be created. “People and organisations need trust and permission to make things happen. With that trust, communities can build a movement.”

In addition to speaking at Edgewater Sam spoke to students at across the region in Cromwell, at Mount Aspiring College in Wanaka and also at Wakatipu High School. He was a fantastic speaker, relaxed, humble and happy to chat to people afterwards about his work. Central Lakes Trust brought Sam to the area and we jumped at the opportunity to host him in Wanaka.

To read more about Sam Johnson check out his website here and the Student Volunteer Army here.