Students from Freyberg Community School in Te Atatu South are “bubbling with excitement” at the prospect of ‘adopting’ their local Roberts Road Reserve. They plan to upgrade it through painting, track building and planting.

The project has come about through the school’s participation in the Student Volunteer Army’s (SVA) new Primary School Programme. The students are among the 32,000 students and 1000 schools from around New Zealand to join SVA’s new programme.

They will be joined at Roberts Road Reserve in Te Atatu tomorrow (4 August) by cabinet ministers, MPs and students from 20 Auckland primary students to celebrate the official launch of the programme.

Freyberg teacher Matt Reyland says the students can’t wait to get started.

“We want to encourage our students to be active, contributing citizens and to value making a difference to others by how they live their lives.”

This is exactly what SVA founder Sam Johnson had in mind when he instigated the programme following a request from teachers seeking to adopt the SVA project management model into their curriculum.

“The SVA story has influenced young people all around the world,” says Johnson, who says there has been sustained interest from New Zealand primary school pupils, as well as groups of secondary students.

“The concept of working together, having fun and helping out in the community is clearly something that young people clearly have a natural affinity with.”

The initiative will see classrooms turned into SVA platoons, tasked with carrying out volunteer projects in their local community. Students are tasked with organising a volunteer project with the purpose of meeting a need they have identified in their local community. Each platoon will provide photos of their service project and share the impact of their work on social media.

Projects in the pipeline or already underway include making local parks predator free, adopting a conservation area, book drives, and sending get well cards to hospitals.

The SVA has partnered with School Kit Ltd to make the programme available to all primary schools throughout the country. Teachers are provided with a Volunteer Action Kit to develop an SVA Primary School Platoon in their own classroom.

Kylie Power from School Kit says the SVA’s programme is a unique way of empowering and motivating students to think beyond the school gate and get hands-on in their communities.

“The tools in the kit make it easy for students to come up with a unique idea and turn it into reality using the tried and true SVA project management model,” says Power.

“Using this model each student has a defined role and set of responsibilities like managing finances, logistics, equipment or safety. Teachers report that the beauty of the challenge lies in what it draws out of the young people themselves – how they step up, speak out, solve tricky problems, work as a team and stick to a plan,” she says.

Funded largely by the Government’s Community Leadership Fund, the curriculum-based resource materials have been developed by specialist teachers and designed to integrate with years 4-10.

The programme also received funding support from Bill and Tolly Kermode. The NEXT Foundation CEO and his wife believe in the power of volunteering and know the sector well.

“NEXT’s vision is to create lasting, positive change for our country – it supports projects that are transformational and inspirational. SVA’s new Primary School Programme fits all those descriptions and Tolly and I are proud to support the team taking the SVA movement to the next level,” says Bill Kermode.

Teachers can freely download the SVA Primary School Programme via www.sva.org.nz or search for it on ITunesU.

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