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Source: University of Canterbury

08 October 2020

The SVA is searching for the extraordinary New Zealand secondary school student who has completed the most volunteering hours this year.

  • SVA was founded after the Christchurch Earthquakes in 2010 and has since diversified to administer programmes aimed at developing a volunteering culture across Aotearoa at all stages of education.

The SVA is searching for the extraordinary New Zealand secondary school student who has completed the most volunteering hours this year.

For the first time, Top Volunteer Awards will be presented to students in 200 high schools nationwide with one exceptional student being awarded the inaugural SVA Top Volunteer Award and a fully funded trip for two people to attend the famous SVA ‘Big Give’ in Canterbury in February 2021. (More information on how to enter below.)

Any kind of service, mahi aroha or takoha can count towards the SVA Service Award, including volunteer firefighting, home caring, walking your neighbour’s dog, home tutoring or sports coaching. Already this year more than 43,000 students from 200 schools have received SVA Service badges recognising their service. 

The University of Canterbury (UC) is behind the initiative, having been a principal partner and supporter of the SVA since its inception at the university in 2010.

“We are proud to help secondary students develop academic rigour around their service and mahi aroha,” University of Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey says. “I encourage high school students to use the SVA Service Award as a way to be recognised for the many different acts of service for the community they do.”

Students who enjoy engaging in their community might consider the new Bachelor of Youth and Community Leadership (BYCL) degree at UC as a way to turn their passion into a career. From Covid-19’s community implications to climate change to technology-driven disruption, modern challenges have global and local consequences, and solving them requires collaboration and new models of leadership. The new degree, is one of the many responses to the interest young people have in being active in their communities. 

SVA Founder and Chief Executive Sam Johnson says: “There’s never been a more important time to help others and to demonstrate what you have done to potential employers”.

The SVA Service Award assists students to create and download a Summary of Service, which acts like a CV of all their volunteering.   

A total of 300,000 hours have been logged with 37,000 Service Records created by over 9,000 students over the last two years. The average volunteering time per record is 8 hours, meaning the students are continually engaging with their communities and not just doing one-off, one-hour volunteer projects. 

Kapiti College Year 10 student Seini Denicaucau is a great example of a student volunteer.

“I’ve really enjoyed having the Service Award to help me track what I do over the year, and I’ve learned a lot from my community,” she says.

“I signed up to SVA in Year 9 to help record all my hockey and other sports volunteering. I’ve learnt that giving up my time to help others is enjoyable and makes me learn more about what I’m teaching other people. It’s enjoyable spending time with people who are excited to be there and to give everything a go. I’ve realised that spending my time sharing my knowledge and supporting others, and giving them guidance is something I really value.”

Henderson High School student Rishant Kumar volunteers at Shri Ram Mandir, a Hindu Temple in Auckland. He helped get food from the main mandir [temple] and bring it down to the community hall. “We plated the food onto about 200 plates before serving it to the people, so [in that way] I helped the Hindu community,” he said.

Brendon Powell of Edgecumbe College has logged 50 hours with the SVA as a volunteer firefighter. “During the lockdown I attended many fire calls. We also had training at the station which still had to be done during this time.”

  • To be in for a chance to win Top Volunteer Awards, high school students need to register their volunteering at before midnight on Tuesday 20 October. 

For media enquiries and interviews with CE & Founder, Sam Johson or any students within the Student Volunteer Army, contact

UC Communications team,, Ph: (03) 369 3631 or 027 503 0168