Polytech builds on 'scarfie army' idea

By Vaughan Elder

Otago Polytechnic automotive engineering student Issac Sonntag works on an oil change as part of the polytechnic's "scarfie army" initiative. Photo / Peter McIntosh.
Otago Polytechnic automotive engineering student Issac Sonntag works on an oil change as part of the polytechnic's "scarfie army" initiative. Photo / Peter McIntosh.

Otago Polytechnic has drawn inspiration from the success of Christchurch's "student volunteer army", with the launch of a pilot "scarfie army" initiative, which it hopes will help ingrain volunteering in Dunedin's student culture.

The first project of the "scarfie army" pilot got under way yesterday, with Otago Polytechnic automotive engineering students servicing vehicles for Dunedin community organisations free of charge.

Otago Polytechnic launched the initiative with Social Innovation co-founder Louis Brown, who was the head organiser of the Christchurch's "student volunteer army", which helped with the clean-up after the February 2011 earthquake.

"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.

"We want to foster a sense of community-mindedness that will see students perform feats of generosity for people, animals or ecosystems in need," Mr Brown said.

The concept of the "scarfie army" drew inspiration from the success of its Canterbury counterpart.

Otago Polytechnic health and safety manager Terry Buckingham said the experience students gained as volunteers could help them when they applied for jobs.

As part of the pilot project, vehicles belonging to the Cancer Society, the Child Cancer Foundation, Canteen and clients of the Dunedin Methodist Mission were given a full service yesterday.

Automotive engineering students carried out the work under the supervision of staff, and Appco Auto Parts in Dunedin donated the oil and filters for the servicing.

Dunedin Methodist Mission's Charles Pearce said it was a "fantastic" community project.

"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," Mr Pearce said.

The second part of the pilot project will be a coastal clean-up by Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure on October 30.

Once the pilot is complete, it will be evaluated with a view to officially launch the "scarfie army" next year.

- Otago Daily Times

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