Christchurch's Volunteer Army to aid Superstorm Sandy cleanup
A street in Belle Harbor, where the Volunteer Army will be based (Reuters)
By Thomas Mead
Two representatives from Christchurch’s Student Volunteer Army flew to New York overnight to help disaster relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy.
Jason Pemberton, 24, and Jackson Rowlands, 23, are hoping experience gained in quake-damaged Christchurch will help assist the cleanup in New York.
The pair will be based in Belle Harbour, teaching local workers to use special mapping technology to efficiently organise relief efforts.
Sam Johnson, the founder and director of the Volunteer Army, said the mission was all about “paying it forward”.
“We've done five earthquake cleanups here and each one was better than the other because we learned from the past,” he says. “We're pretty confident that some of what we've learnt is of use to other people.”
Mr Johnson, who became a household name during the quakes, said the New York mission was about more than just physical manpower.
"It's not so much helping out physically. One of the things in disasters is that help can be perceived the wrong way if you're sending people in to physically do the work, especially from another country,” he says.
Instead, relief workers in New York were interested in the Volunteer Army’s ‘Mobile Management’ technology.
The advanced mapping tool was used by the Volunteer Army to organise thousands of people during the Christchurch cleanup.
Mr Johnson says the Volunteer Army is entirely funding the rescue trip.
"It's quite funny though, because we run off of the smell of an oily rag, it literally costs nothing, only the cost of flights,” he says.
The pair will be in New York for two weeks, before returning to their post with the Volunteer Army.
The organisation has set up a Give A Little account for anyone who wishes to donate to the Sandy cleanup.
To donate towards the project, visit http://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/hurricane.