Sam Johnson (activist)
Sam Johnson (born 14 February 1989) is a social entrepreneur based in Christchurch, New Zealand who rose to prominence as the founder of the internationally acclaimed Student Volunteer Army and was named 2012 Young New Zealander of the Year. Johnson was reported in 2012 as having a 98% approval rating in Christchurch by The Press and is ranked number 22 on the New Zealand Readers Digest top 100 trusted people list. Johnson has presented as a keynote speaker worldwide with highlights being in London at the 2012 World Volunteer Conference, in Saudi Arabia as a guest of Princess Al Alnoon Foundation for Youth Development, and Japan at the Google Big Tent on Technology in Disasters.
Johnson is an advocate and ambassador of several causes and actively volunteers his time to work with youth on disaster resilience and community development. In New Zealand he is a Hello Sunday Morning Ambassador, promoting sensible consumption of alcohol, and works closely with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNIDSR) on building disaster resilience. Recently, Johnson was successful in getting Christchurch City Council to sign up to the UNISDR Making Cities Resilient Campaign.
Johnson was born in Ashburton and grew up on a farm in Mayfield.
Johnson successfully stood for the Riccarton-Wigram Community Board of the Christchurch City Council in the October 2010 local body elections. At the time, he was a member of the National Party and was endorsed by Prime Minister John Key for his election campaign. Key said of Johnson that he "might be Prime Minister one day." Johnson declared in July 2011 that he had no intention to run for higher public office in the near future. In January 2013, it was reported that he may consider running for Christchurch City Council in the October 2013 local body elections. The Press reported on 20 April 2013 that Lianne Dalziel will challenge Bob Parker for the Christchurch mayoralty, and that she has asked Johnson to be her running mate, with a view of Johnson becoming deputy mayor. The newspaper expressed surprise by this pairing, given that Dalziel is a Labour Party member, and Johnson has conservative views. Johnson eventually decided against running, saying it wasn't the "right thing for me right now".
In 2011, Johnson won a leadership award from the Sir Peter Blake Trust before travelling to Delhi, India as a Global Changemaker to attend the British Council Asia Youth Summit. In 2012 Johnson was named Coca Cola Amatil Young New Zealander of the Year for 2012 and Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) Communicator of the Year. Johnson has hosted a string of international icons and celebrities in Christchurch, most notable being the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibett.
Student Volunteer Army
September 2010 earthquake
In the days immediately following the September 4th Christchurch earthquake, while the university's Ilam campus was closed to enable the buildings to be checked for structural safety, 21-year-old Johnson started a Facebook event called the "Student Base for Earthquake Clean Up" and invited friends to join with him in assisting local residents with non-lifesaving tasks, in particularly cleaning up soil liquefaction residue on the streets and gardens of the city.
Johnson invited 200 friends to the event which soon grew to have over 3000 attendees and over 2500 volunteers contributing to the clean up.
Johnson met Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she toured Christchurch in 2010.
In an effort to continue the momentum of the initial cleanup, Johnson and the key organisers of the student initiative, Jade Rutherford, Gina Scandrett, Chris Duncan, Tommy Young and Sam Gifford, decided to work with the University of Canterbury Students Association President Kohan McNab to create a student club focused on student volunteering; named the UC Student Volunteer Army.
February 2011 Earthquake
The devastating 6.3 magnitude earthquake again struck Christchurch at 12:51 on 22 February 2011, causing widespread devastation and destruction. 185 people were killed, thousands of homes were damaged, and hundreds of buildings were uninhabitable. Johnson and the six original team members of the Student Volunteer Army teamed up with the University of Canterbury Student Association team, led by President Kohan McNab, Louis Brown from the Te Waipounamu Foundation, Nathan Durkin and Anthony Rohan from White Elephant Trust together with student clubs ENSOC, LAWSOC, and MUSOC.
The February operation of the Student Volunteer Army was managed by a core team of 15 people and a wider administration of 70 people who managed the three core operations which the SVA focused on; battalions, squadrons and street teams.
The mass deployment of volunteering, dubbed ‘Battalions’, was the initial focus which saw a maximum of 1000 volunteers, fed, watered and allocated to the worst affected areas of Christchurch via charter buses. Squadrons filled a similar role, except instead of students combing the streets and methodically searching for work, the squadrons responded to requests from individuals for assistance that came via the website, call center, and partnerships with Civil Defence and city councils. Up to 450 car loads of students were allocated via this system, using a mix of software, texting, and Google mapping. Street teams managed volunteer engagement for various organizations including multiple government departments, Civil Defence, and Christchurch City Council.
"The objective was to increase the efficiency in agencies providing a service; for example delivering chemical toilets and information pamphlets, laying sandbags, staffing data entry and manning call centres. While the perceived focus was on shovelling silt, what mattered most was the intergenerational connection being created and the conversations that occurred between residents and students. Nothing beats a friendly face to talk with.Two of the greatest challenges faced after both earthquakes was locating the areas where volunteers were most needed, and prioritizing the work load. With the help of Geoop.com and Snap Internet, Jonas Bergler and his team designed a mobile management system for the Squadrons whereby residents could register their need for assistance via a free call number, text message service or website. Each job was examined and prioritised by the call centre, manned by the Musical Theatre Society.In delegating team leaders to guide small crews to these sites the SVA, together with the Federated Farmers Farmy Army, helped clear over 360,000 tonnes of silt and clocked up over 80,000 volunteer working hours. The Facebook page had over 26,000 followers and continued to act as a platform to organise and coordinate volunteers Christchurch communities throughout 2011 following the June earthquake, and the shake of the 23rd of December."
The team worked to increase the efficiency of distributing chemical toilets and pamphlets, as well as manning call centers. The student group become known as the Student Volunteer Army, with the Volunteer Army Foundation being the supporting Charity focused on disaster preparedness, youth engagement and service.
A strong focus was also placed on the well-being of residents in the harder hit areas. Volunteers were encouraged to be a cheerful presence on the streets, offering food, drinks, and assistance in finding professional help. Johnson and the other members of the Student Volunteer Army were highly visible and featured in much of the news reporting of the earthquake. Organised using Facebook, and social media, the concept enabled thousands of students and residents of Christchurch to make a contribution to those most affected by the devastating earthquakes. At its peak, there were 13,000 students volunteering per week. The team of organisers received high praise from officials in New Zealand and this resulted in them speaking with Prince William about the potential programmes of volunteering involving young people.
Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami
UNESCO Youth Beyond Disaster Forums
Johnson chaired the planning committee for the inaugural "Looking Beyond Disaster's" (LBD). LBD is an initiative of the NZ National Commission for UNESCO in partnership with the Bangkok UNESCO Office and the UNESCO Office of the Pacific in Apia. The focus of the program is to bring together young people who have experienced natural disasters in the Asia Pacific region to share disaster experiences and develop realistic action plans to rebuild communities that meet the needs and aspirations of young people.
In 2012 the Volunteer Army Foundation, led by Johnson and Jason Pemberton, created an initiative designed to lure youth into experiencing volunteer activity, based on RockCorps. On 3 November 2012, they hosted a 10-hour music event at the New AMI Stadium in Addington, Christchurch. The way to get a ticket was to volunteer at least four hours of time on any one of over 900 volunteer projects and events advertised through the custom built website. 8,000 tickets were sent out to individuals who contributed to over 50,000 hours of volunteering.
24 New Zealand bands all volunteered their time for the event organised by Jonnie Halstead of Picnic Events.
The 50,000 hours of volunteering were contributed her Majesty the Queens's Diamond Jubilee project called the 'jubilee hour'. Johnson spoke in 2012 at the House of Commons in London at the Official Celebration of the Jubilee Hour being one of the major contributing organisations.
Ministry of Awesome
Johnson worked to assist mobilising young Nepalese volunteers following the Nepal earthquakes in 2015. 
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