Volunteering its own reward but real prizes are up for grabs too

Student Scarfie Card scheme creator  Aaron Thompson  displays some of the cards at City College,...
Student Scarfie Card scheme creator Aaron Thompson displays some of the cards at City College, one of two colleges participating in the pilot scheme this year. Playing with the cards behind him are residential assistants (from left) Bianca Burgess-Heald, Mitch Nganeko, Kate Alfeld, Alesha Clark and Sally Cao, watched by head of college Joy Crawford and associate head of college Ben Pereira. Photo by Linda Robertson.
In return for a few hours' work, Dunedin tertiary students will soon be able to claim rewards like meals out, ski passes, concert tickets and free admission to tourist attractions.

It is a concept which has taken students some time to get their heads around, Scarfie Card creator Aaron Thompson said.

"It has been met with a bit of pleasant disbelief. They are going to get stuff which is actually worthwhile. They probably thought they would get balloons or lollipops."

Mr Thompson, director of Christian campus organisation Student Life, came up with the idea as a way of diverting attention from Dunedin's perceived student drinking culture and reconnecting students to their community.

He has spent more than a year crystalising the details, developing a website and bringing partners on board.

There are now more than 20 partners including the Dunedin City Council, Otago University Students Association, University of Otago, Age Concern and several local businesses.

Brochures have been printed and distributed to places like doctors' rooms, physiotherapists' rooms, kindergartens, schools and sports clubs.

A $25,000 funding injection has enabled project manager Allister Laurent to be employed and the scheme to be launched as a pilot this year to all Castle St residents and to students living in two residential colleges, Aquinas and City College.

Initially, only 1000 students will be able to sign up, with more than 500 rewards on offer.

Asked what would happen if rewards ran out, Mr Thompson said it would be "amazing".

"I see the rewards as a bonus and would hope students would too."

The other element of the scheme involves distributing a free pack of playing cards to students - this year to the students in the pilot group.

The cards list things to do and places to see in Dunedin and surrounds, directions on how to get there and links to various websites.

"Even if they never volunteer, the cards are a gift from the city ... to show students that there is plenty to do here. I got tired of hearing students say they were drinking because there was nothing to do. It's rubbish. I hope the cards will motivate them to explore the community and get out and meet people."

Interest in the volunteering Scarfie Card scheme was high right from the time he announced the concept six months ago, he said.

Mr Thompson did not know how many students would volunteer but was optimistic, saying: "Our hope is that if students try it out it will become contagious and they will get others involved."

Head of City College Joy Crawford said she had been talking to and listening to Mr Thompson for several years.

Both shared a desire to change the perception among some students that excessive drinking was the norm.

She was right behind the Scarfie Card.

"It is a fabulous idea. It must be, otherwise we wouldn't buy into it."

Scarfie Card
• Voluntary work opportunities posted on website, www.scarfiecard.co.nz Students register to complete projects.
• Students receive points for labour, redeemable for rewards.
• Work opportunities and students' work monitored by project manager; students must adhere to code of conduct.
• Pilot scheme only this year, starting March 1.
• May be expanded to all students next year, if successful.
• Students involved in pilot all receive a pack of Scarfie Card playing cards listing things to do and places to see in Dunedin and surrounds. allison.rudd@odt.co.nz

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