Scarfie Army: A community of Dunedin student volunteers

Monday 15 October 2012, 10:17AM
By Scarfie Army


A pilot project for the establishment of an ‘army’ of Dunedin student volunteers gets underway next week, as Automotive Engineering students from Otago Polytechnic service a fleet of community vehicles free of charge.

Scarfie Army is an Otago Polytechnic initiative developed in conjunction with Social Innovation co- founder, Louis Brown, who mentored Sam Johnson as he created Canterbury’s Student Volunteer Army. The Scarfie Army concept draws inspiration from the remarkable success of its Canterbury counterpart.

“Our vision is that student volunteering becomes as much part of the Dunedin scarfie culture as pulling an all-nighter in the computer lab or having a red card at your flat,” Louis says. “We want to foster a sense of community-mindedness that will see students perform feats of generosity for people, animals or ecosystems in need.”

“This initiative provides an important link for our students between their studies and their community,” says the Polytechnic’s Health and Safety Manager, Terry Buckingham. “There is value in the experience students gain as volunteers, and we want to formalise a programme that provides them with volunteering opportunities that are linked to their studies.

“Employers often look at work experience when reviewing candidates for jobs. If they are able to see that our students have carried out a number of hours volunteering then they are likely to view this positively,” he adds.

As part of the pilot project for the Scarfie Army, vehicles belonging to the Cancer Society, the Child Cancer Foundation, Canteen and clients of the Dunedin Methodist Mission, will be given a full complementary service on Tuesday 16 October. 20 Automotive Engineering students will carry out the work under the supervision of staff, and Appco Auto Parts in Dunedin has generously donated the oil and filters for the servicing.

“This is a fantastic community project,” says the Dunedin Methodist Mission’s Charles Pearce. “We know that car maintenance is often a really low priority for our clients because they are on very limited budgets. And when maintenance doesn’t happen, things are more likely to go wrong with vehicles.”

The second part of the pilot project will be a coastal clean-up on Tuesday 30 October, to be undertaken by students of the Polytechnic’s Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure.

Once the pilot is complete, it will be evaluated with a view to officially launching the Scarfie Army in 2013.

“Over the past six weeks, we have initiated discussions with the wider community and key potential collaborators to identify ways in which the Scarfie Army can best meet the needs of our city. These discussions will be continuing,” says Terry Buckingham.