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Sam Johnson

Inspiring Young New Zealander of the Year + Student Volunteer Army leader!

Travels From:

Consultant, MC, Speaker

Inspiring, Engaging, Uplifting, Visionary, Empowering, Passionate, Energising, Motivating, Motivational, Inspirational

Communication, Inspiration, Leadership, Strategy, Teams, Attitude, After dinner, Change

Sam Johnson is the 2012 Young New Zealander of the Year - during the Christchurch earthquake his student volunteer army were a driving force in the massive community clean-up.

Sam believes it’s really important that young people get involved in communities. This motto seems to have led him down a fairly interesting path over the past few years. The Christchurch earthquakes destroyed the Christchurch everyone knew and loved. It rocked the community physically, emotionally and mentally and it will continue to do so … but there are incredible opportunities ahead, and great teams of people working to make the city the best in New Zealand!

Sam grew up in Christchurch before spending a “gap year” overseas. When he returned to NZ he started University reading law and political science at the University of Canterbury.

In 2010 he was elected to the Riccarton/Wigram Community Board because he was sick of being stereotyped as a ‘good-for-nothing student’ and decided to get off the couch before burning it and find out what was happening in the communities. He found there was a lot going on and most of the time it was really interesting!

When the first earthquake attacked Christchurch he started a Facebook page which evolved into the Student Volunteer Army and the Volunteer Army Foundation Charitable Trust. Both are incredible team projects.

He is the Director of the Volunteer Army Foundation and founder of Christchurch’s 9,000 strong Student Volunteer Army (SVA), an elected member of the Riccarton/ Wigram Community Board and is studying law and political science at the University of Canterbury. He’s a trustee of the Ministry of Awesome and does a wide range of speaking engagements for corporates and non-profits on leadership, organic processes, spontaneous volunteering and youth disaster response.

Sam worked in Japan with the SVA after the Tsunami and presented on ‘Youth in Disasters” at the World Summit on Youth Volunteering in Colombia. He received a ‘Special Leadership Award’ from the Sir Peter Blake Trust.

Sam was awarded the 2012 Coca Cola Amatil Young New Zealander of the Year – he says that the award is deserved by each of the 9,000 students who volunteered, and particularly the core SVA team who managed the various operations during the Christchurch earthquake and beyond.

Keynote Presentations:

  • What do Facebook, Royalty and Shovels have in Common? -  It’s commonly thought technology, tradition and good old spade work don’t mix. I beg to differ! 
  • Dream it. Plan it. Do it! - Building a project and making a change in your community.
  • Using the Tools in Our Pockets - How can the technology we use everyday be better employed to bring positive social change
  • The Skill of the Unskilled - Leadership, teamwork, resilience, overcoming conflict.
  • People are Just People - I am privileged to have met some of the most famous people in the world. Our team's message to the world is that no dream is impossible and no job is unreachable.  Dream it. Plan it. Do it!

 Workshop topics:

  • Engaging Volunteers As per the title. How to engage with volunteers, and keep them coming back!
  • Creating AWESOME How to create ‘awesome’ in your community
  • Getting Blood out of a Stone: Fundraising 101 Basics of fundraising, building corporate partnerships, public speaking and presenting.
  • What Really Happens in a Team Facilitation, team work and conflict resolution.
  • Say Cheese: Media 101 The media… how to get in, or out of the public eye. Media, branding and campaign building to impact others.
  • Make Friends with Bureaucrats Tips and tricks from Local government about working within tight procedures, processes and controls.

Sam is an inspiring, passionate and engaging young speaker!


Thank you for suggesting Sam, he gave a fantastic session at our 2013 TradeQual dinner for Southlands’ Trades Graduates. We knew he'd be great – and we weren’t disappointed! Sam’s tales of his experiences in Christchurch, forming the Student Volunteer army were 100% relatable to our audience and their guests. Sam’s academic angle to a room of Trades Grad’s on Christchurch and his work in the Philippines added some real colour and meaning, transfixing our 300 guests. His easy manner & interaction with guests across the evening made our time with Sam a real pleasure.
Marketing and Events Manager, Southland Chamber Of Commerce

Sam followed our brief perfectly, everyone was really interested in what he was saying and he came across really well. All our requirements were met well and truly.
D Shears - Mt Hutt College PTA