In July 2018, 28 student leaders from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School traveled to New Zealand to engage with 30 members of the 2018 Student Volunteer Army Executive. The two groups participated in a week long exchange of ideas on youth-led change, sustainable movements, leadership and activism.
On the seventh anniversary of the 22 February earthquake, the University of Canterbury dedicated the Unicycle pathway along University Drive as a commemorative pathway to acknowledge the courage and contribution of the University community, and the losses and injuries sustained by students, staff, alumni and friends of the University in the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes.
As part of this dedication, a specially commissioned sculpture, Roimata, was unveiled at the Clyde Road end of the Unicycle pathway. It has been designed for UC by Māori artist Riki Manuel.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the UC Student Volunteer Army was an example of extraordinary generosity.
SVA founder Sam Johnson and former UCSA President Erin Jackson also spoke at the event. Sam said he was often asked if there would be an SVA without the earthquakes and mentioned the thousands of primary school children who took part in SVA voluntary work across New Zealand last year. He praised the ongoing momentum and strength of the current SVA and noted that the SVA is now the largest student club at the University of Canterbury.
The sculpture Roimata tells a story of remembrance, and depicts a community ritual that has emerged from a tragedy that is now an inherent part of the heritage of Christchurch. The sculpture depicts a koru facing down, as it represents a life taken before fully grown. The undulating surface is rippled, to represent the river Ōtākaro Avon, and a scattering of brass roses, cherry blossoms and daffodils on top represent the flowers that the people of Ōtautahi Christchurch throw into the river each year on 22 February, in remembrance.
After the unveiling UC staff, students and guests were invited to throw flowers onto the river to flow into the city in time for the formal remembrance service at the National Earthquake Memorial in central Christchurch.
Pro Chancellor, Sue McCormick, Vice-Chancellor, Dr Rod Carr and UCSA President, Josh Proctor
My fellow councillors: Anne Galloway, Vicki Buck, Jimmy Chen, Mike Davidson, Phil Clearwater, and Sara Templeton
Thank you for the honour and the privilege of sharing this occasion with you as we unveil this commemorative sculpture, Roimata, and dedicate this part of the cycleway to the memory of the February 22 earthquake in 2011, both acknowledging and remembering the losses and injuries sustained by students, alumni and friends of the University.
Events to commemorate that day, act as reminders of all that we have lost, but on this occasion we will also be called upon to reflect on the incredible spirit that emerged from the community, exemplified at this place, the University of Canterbury, by the Student Volunteer Army.
I have not yet seen Roimata, but I am confident that when we see her, we will feel that Riki Manuel has captured both the sadness we feel on remembering that day and the generosity of spirit and courage that became the hallmarks of what followed.
The events of February 22, 2011 and the weeks, months and years that followed may have changed the face of Christchurch forever, but the heart of what makes us who we are as a community, a university and a city has been strengthened by our shared experience of grief and loss, coupled now with our immutable optimism for the future.
The University of Canterbury can be proud of the role it played and will continue to play as we turn lessons learned into global best practice for the future.
And today you can be proud of creating this special place of remembrance and honouring our shared sense of loss and the spirit that flowed from the tears.