Student Volunteer Army sets up online grocery service for the vulnerable

Jessica Satherley
Student Volunteer Army sets up online grocery service for the vulnerable
The group is helping New Zealand’s most vulnerable amidst the Covid-19 pandemic by partnering with New World.

The Student Volunteer Army was created after the 2010 Christchurch earthquake, but now the group is helping New Zealand’s most vulnerable amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Ten years on from the earthquakes they are no longer students, however, founder Sam Johnson, who sits on Westpac NZ’s Sustainability Advisory Panel, says they’re all still “students of life”. 

“We have 2,000 volunteers all around the country at the moment, who are delivering groceries to vulnerable people,” Johnson says. 

Photo of Sam Johnson

Sam Johnson, founder of the SVA

In response to Covid-19, the group has developed an online shopping grocery service for people who are aged 65 or over, medically vulnerable, or a healthcare worker in essential services. 

“There’s the same motivation to help others at the moment, like there was after the earthquake. 

“We’re doing around 100 orders a day and we’ll continue the service even after lockdown ends because there is a real need to help vulnerable people. 

“Older people would need the same help after a hip operation for example. 

“And the real difficulty of any crisis is the recovery, not the response, so the worst is yet to come,” he said. 

The SVA partnered with New World to create the not-for-profit service and their volunteers deliver the following day, while wearing masks and gloves. 

Shoppers choose their items through the SVA online grocery store and then enter their payment card details, but they are not charged until the order is delivered. 

Volunteers leave the groceries at the shopper’s door and call by phone to let them know the delivery is there instead of knocking on the door, so everything is as contactless as possible. 

Any surfaces that are touched are sanitised by the volunteer afterwards. 

Hyundai has also joined the efforts of the SVA by providing vehicles to mobilise their volunteers across the country

People interested in the service should only go through the official Student Volunteer Army website or call their 0800 005 902 number. 

Johnson partnered with a payments expert in the U.S. to help build the secure platform. 

Anyone interested in volunteering can also apply on the SVA website. 

“We especially need more volunteers in remote areas of the country, as we have great service in Auckland and Christchurch,” the 31-year-old Cantabrian says.  

Ordering groceries to be delivered to parents or grandparents through the service can also be done as a gift. 

Donations can also be given through their website. 


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