Sam ‘moves mountains’ and earns National recognition in the process!

02 Apr 2012

We were delighted to learn recently that Sam Johnson, who spent a Gap year at Christ College in 2007/8, has just been named Young New Zealander of the Year for 2012.

Deputy Head of Christ College, Simon Spencer commented: ‘Sam is one of many former students of Christ’s College, Christchurch, who have been Gap Assistants at CCB; he made a great impression on all those who knew him here, especially in the areas of music and drama. We have followed his extraordinary contribution to Christchurch’s recovery in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in February 2011; this award recognises his galvanising leadership of the young people of Christchurch as they helped clear up and begin the process of re-building lives and homes.’

The Young New Zealander of the Year Award acknowledges those aged 15 to 30 who are outstanding and exceptional young New Zealanders and who are striving to improve themselves and their communities and are brimming with the potential to produce a bright future for New Zealand. The Young New Zealander of the Year Award gives special recognition to honour and encourage our leaders of tomorrow and promote youth leadership.

As the award recognises, Sam has proved to be one of the most valuable young citizens of Christchurch and New Zealand over the past 12 months. Sam began his invaluable contribution to the community many years ago but it wasn’t until the first shocking Canterbury earthquake in September 2010 that led to Sam rallying together thousands of students forming the Student Volunteer Army that then provided invaluable assistance after the devastating February quake last year.

Utilizing social networking skills, Sam created a Facebook page that brought the students, carrying shovels and wearing gumboots, onto the streets of Christchurch to help with the earthquake clean up. Sam then worked with local authorities coordinating the students relief effort, organising teams and equipment to help clean up those areas most affected by the quake damage. The SVA has grown to have a support base of over 26,000 people and continues to provide a student volunteering community for Christchurch, both Earthquake related and unrelated.

Sam was also able to transfer his skills to help Japan after their devastating tsunami and earthquake, where he worked with Japanese students to help them set up a similar scheme. Sam’s ability to pull together resources and lead a team of volunteers inspired glowing recommendations from across the globe and contributed to a more positive image of students!

Since these enormous efforts and contribution, Sam has kept to his determination to better the world, travelling to the Young Leaders International Forum in India. Here, he shared his knowledge of post disaster response to the planet’s brightest young leaders to aid in their endeavours and efforts across disaster prone areas of South & South East Asia.

The New Zealand Government’s Youth Affairs Minister Paula Bennett congratulated Sam by saying: ‘This young man mobilised the Student Army to help Cantabrians clean up after the earthquakes and made a huge impression on New Zealand. He used Facebook to amass an army of 26,000 volunteers. He got thousands of students willingly turning up day after day with shovels and wheelbarrows ready to do whatever was necessary to help others. When I met Sam in Christchurch after the earthquakes, I knew he’d move mountains and he did – mountains of liquefaction!’

She added: ‘The effect on the community of seeing young people getting stuck in to help has been huge and really broke the stereotypes some had of young people.”

Mr Spencer concluded: ‘We’re very proud of Sam. Our good wishes go to him, his family, and all our friends in Christchurch.’