Have disaster? Willing helper

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 10:28 05/01/2013
Jason Pemberton, who started work with the Volunteer Student Army after the September 2010 earthquake, has gone on to work with international disaster response agencies.
Don Scott
Jason Pemberton, who started work with the Volunteer Student Army after the September 2010 earthquake, has gone on to work with international disaster response agencies.

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Jason Pemberton first became seriously involved with the Student Volunteer Army when he was handed $50 and told to "go get these kids some food".

He was among the thousands of volunteers who gave up their time after the September 2010 earthquake and has gone on to work with international agencies in the aftermath of natural disasters.

The 25-year-old studied human resources and psychology at the University of Canterbury and worked as a musician while the Volunteer Army Foundation was set up.

"I remember in February [2011] there were three of us heading the mobile dispatch unit, sending carloads of people to specific addresses that requested help. It was a hell of a learning curve," he said.

The Student Volunteer Army has taken up a large chunk of his time.

He has also been involved with the Life in Vacant Spaces project, the TEDx Christchurch events, theatre shows, community projects in New Brighton and Greening the Rubble.

"Through all of that I'd have done a good 40 or 50 projects and tried to throw people and resources at as many others as I could."

While the role has been difficult, it has been invaluable.

"Being able to carry ideas and experience into another environment and offer them up to decision-makers is something I didn't really expect to be doing at 25," he said.

"The feeling that you're actually making a useful contribution is really the only highlight worth noting, I guess."

Pemberton has recently returned from New York, where he helped co-ordinate the volunteer response to Hurricane Sandy.

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- Canterbury

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