Listening that counts - Johnson

20:07, Feb 07 2013
sam johnson
INSPIRATION: Former Student Army leader and 2012 Young New Zealander of the Year Sam Johnson was guest speaker at the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce young chamber event.

Relationships make such a difference in the world.

Inspiring words from Sam Johnson, organiser of the Student Volunteer Army in the immediate aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes of September 2010 and February 2011.

He spoke of the challenges and lighter moments before members of the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce last night.

In the days after the quakes, Mr Johnson was instrumental in forming teams to help with the massive cleanup. Word spread and more than 13,000 students volunteered at the movement's peak.

Their mission was to add a cheerful presence to the broken streets of Christchurch and aid others.

"Everything that the Student Army do is what people in places like Timaru do every day.


"It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from; relationships make such a difference in the world," Mr Johnson said.

The past couple of years had taught him about listening, he said. "When you want to make a difference, it's actually listening that counts.

"How can we take what's great about communities around the world and create it here?"

He said the army was working with 300 community groups in Christchurch.

"We take negative spaces, engage volunteers, and create positive space," he said.

"How do we make Christchurch stand out as a city where heaps of people want to come?"

Mr Johnson is also a trustee of the Ministry of Awesome which seeks "awesome" ideas for Christchurch.

The Timaru Herald