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A collaboration between Citycare and the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) formed in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes and now known as the Community Guardians was honoured at the recent New Zealand Recreation Association (NZRA) Awards, being named ‘Outstanding Community Recreation Programme’.
Commencing in a formal sponsorship relationship in 2011, the bond between Citycare and SVA has matured and strengthened into a model that consistently drives meaningful and positive community-oriented change agendas in local Canterbury communities.
Under the mantles of Connect the Community, the Big Give and The Mother of all Clean-ups, this enormously successful partnership has racked up a significant annual tally of volunteer man-hours, with Citycare managing the safe community action work of as many as 800 volunteers at some of these annual events, right down to 20-30 people for smaller initiatives.
The volunteers come from a range of sources, with University of Canterbury students and Citycare employees turning out in large numbers, and additional volunteer support also coming from the community being impacted, neighbouring schools and local action groups or social enterprises.
Citycare Group Executive General Manager Strategy & Growth, Nige Cottingham, says Citycare and SVA were the ideal partners to ignite a step-change in community engagement.
“The SVA had an army of well-intentioned and very capable students, who had received resilience training from Civil Defence. Citycare had an army of employees who were familiar with the local assets and who had the skills and experience to fix things that were broken (or at least put in place work-arounds), as well as plant and equipment and a strong safety management system.
“Bringing these organisational ingredients together into a pragmatic partnership was always going to deliver a more efficient and improved result over one-off volunteering, funded by a third party,” says Nige.
The real social innovation in this relationship is now truly being realised with the official launch this year of the Community Guardians scheme, an umbrella programme through which an ongoing and expanding programme of events will be delivered.
Says Nige: “Community Guardians has built on the solid foundation of the Citycare / SVA collaboration, extending the scheme nationally and expanding into vocational training and an audacious new community contract delivery model that leans into the central government’s Future of Work challenge.”
Recent Community Guardians projects included a volunteer planting day at Ouruhia Reserve where 3,300 native trees (mostly Totara) were planted, a Connect the Community event in Linwood where volunteers completed planting, painting, graffiti removal and general clean-up projects, and a morning of native vegetation restoration at the Southshore Spit Reserve.
Commenting on last week’s award, NZRA National Project Manage, Deb Hurdle, said: “The judges saw [Community Guardians] as community engagement on a grand scale and were impressed by the scalability of the programme and how it could easily be adapted in communities throughout New Zealand.
“I think it may be a case of watch this space to see where it goes in the future.”
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While participating in The Big Give volunteer project at Christchurch's Styx River Catchment, the Student Volunteer Army were also one of the first to use Eco Gard plant protectors, the brainchild of 12-year-old entrepreneur Julia Christensen.Read More