New Zealand Law Society - Law Student Sam Johnson is Young New Zealander of the Year

Law Student Sam Johnson is Young New Zealander of the Year

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Sam Johnson
Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson has been named Coca Cola Amatil Young New Zealander of the Year at an awards ceremony in Auckland on 16 February 2012.

Mr Johnson was chosen for this category of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards from a pool of hundreds of other 15- to 30-year-olds, nominated for making a positive impact on our nation.

A 22-year-old part-time law student at the University of Canterbury, Sam Johnson says that looking at the list of young people nominated for the award gave him great hope for the future.

“Each and every person on the nominee list is an absolutely remarkable young person achieving some great things around the country,” he says.

In September 2011, Mr Johnson founded the student volunteer army (SVA) in Christchurch to assist with the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes.

The SVA’s sole purpose was to put students out onto the street. Whether it be shovelling liquefaction or having a cup of tea with affected residents; SVA is all about matching a need with the assistance.

“It’s intergenerational integration in communities,” says Mr Johnson. “It’s a pattern of communication where the people that want to help are matched with requests.”

Mr Johnson has managed to mobilise 9,000 people since February 2011. Those people have completed over 75,000 hours of volunteer work.

“It’s helping your neighbour on the other side of town.”

“I think that there has been a problem in New Zealand, where after a natural disaster there are so many people that want to help, but often it’s very difficult to find an organisation which facilitates that assistance,” he says.

Using Facebook(, twitter (#UCvolunteerarmy ), website ( and word of mouth, SVA has helped many in need and made a considerable contribution to the earthquake response effort.

“There has been a core team of us that have channelled this project through. It has been such a success because of every single person involved. Picking up a shovel, baking a muffin, or donating money – it all helped,” he says.

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