We talk to WeVisit’s Sam Johnson about how we’re supporting our communities.
People like Sam Johnson and his WeVisit co-founder Tyler Brummer don’t come along every day, but when they do, they make a big impact. Take Sam, for instance. Raised in rural mid-Canterbury, where neighbourly support came naturally, community spirit is in his blood. In 2010, as a student at Canterbury University, he saw a need and met it, responding to the crisis of the September 4 earthquake by starting the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) with the creation of a Facebook group that informed people how they could help. Hordes of students were mobilised to provide aid – 11,000 volunteers in total. When the February 2011 earthquake hit, they rallied again; today the SVA has thousands of members who take part in projects as diverse as tree planting, playground clean-ups and habitat restoration.
Along with Tyler, Christchurch-based Sam went on to start WeVisit in December 2016. The social enterprise enables Kiwis to enrich each other’s lives, providing visitors for individuals and families to combat isolation. From young people teaching older people tech skills, to older people mentoring those just starting out, to strangers who simply need a friend, visitors are paid for their ‘work’ – but it’s about much more than that.
Says Sam: “My life’s work seems to be about recreating the feeling I grew up with and that we had in Christchurch after the earthquakes – the desire and ability to easily help each other, which we naturally have when something goes wrong or when someone needs a hand. My dad got cancer last year and passed away in April, and it was sitting in hospital with him that sparked the idea of WeVisit.”
Now, WeVisit has united with Mycare to help even more community members connect. “This is a bad name-drop,” smiles Sam, who has taken on the role of Mycare’s Head of Community Innovation, “but I met Hillary Clinton after the earthquakes and asked how she knew about the Student Volunteer Army. She said, ‘It’s because you used the tools in our pockets’, meaning Facebook, ‘to make a positive difference.’ She commented that we need more of that – more people using technology to help. I’m really excited to do this with Mycare. We can use our technology to enable people like my old man to access the assistance they need to make life easier.”
Sam believes connection between youth and the elderly can help tackle complex social issues, including mental illness, youth suicide and loneliness. “Social interaction is key to improving health in New Zealand. It’s amazing the difference having a friend or someone to rely on can make to a person’s wellbeing. We’re pleased to join Mycare because of the incredible capacity to empower and connect more people for mutual benefit. We’re a human-centric, kind team of people who want to find new ways to apply our technology to help others. I’m looking forward to working with government and the health sector to provide people with meaningful work and community support – with them in the driver’s seat.”
For Sam, it’s personal. “When Dad was dying, we had to fight pretty hard to keep him at home and had no choice about who came to look after him. The people the health system sent were wonderful, but we have a neighbour who’s a nurse and could have been there more often if there was a mechanism to empower us to self-direct Dad’s care. That’s why I’m excited to be joining forces with Mycare.”
If you or a loved one would benefit from hiring an in-home carer, or you’d like to offer your time to someone in need, simply sign up here, or contact Mycare’s Customer Success Team on 0800 677 700 or [email protected] to find out more.