I’ve been an Orange Sky Volunteer for four years, here’s what it’s taught me.

I learned about Orange Sky during a conversation over our family dinner table. My brother had come home from school beaming after hearing about a laundry and connection service for people doing it tough. He told me about the two young speakers – Nic and Lucas – who spoke to his school. Looking back, it’s fitting that a special conversation was the way that I learned about Orange Sky. After volunteering for four years and becoming part of the head office team over the past year; I’ve learned that ‘conversation’ is what it’s all about. 

I had just graduated high school when my brother told me about Orange Sky’s work. At that time, I was seeking something that would push me out of my comfort zone. I’d always been quite reserved and played it safe, but I was looking for a new opportunity. Something that would improve my mental health and actively help people.

When I registered for Orange Sky, I loved the flexibility and array of shifts I could join. I was leading a pretty busy lifestyle, so the Fortitude Valley morning shift worked really well. What I quickly learned was that the laundry service was merely a footnote of an Orange Sky shift; the main aspect is the sense of community. Whether that be conversations happening on the semi circle of orange chairs, or people standing together chatting over a warm breakfast and cuppa. Others may be sitting alone or reading a book. What I saw was people from all walks of life, enjoying time in each other’s company in a safe space.

Four years into my volunteering, I’m now lucky enough to work in the Head Office Team in operations. Also, I get to visit schools, and talk to kids about homelessness and the work that Orange Sky does. Given the impact the school talk had on my brother and my life, this is particularly special to me. Now, I get the chance to learn from and share with young minds about such an important aspect of our community. 

From these school presentations, I’ve learned more about the stigmas of homelessness. At the start of each talk I ask kids to share words they associate with homelessness. Most often, I hear “dangerous”, “dirty”, “scary”, or “alcohol”. When I explain that these are people like us, who didn’t have the same support networks, or that tough instances occurred that changed the shape of their lives; the kids respond so well. By the end of a talk, often children are sharing how wrong it is that people have to be in this situation. Other kids ask me how to sign up to volunteer. It’s so heartwarming. 

What I’ve learned during my time with Orange Sky is that there are some very inaccurate and heartless stereotypes that exist around homelessness. I understand as I had these same stigmas. Fortunately they were quickly reversed since joining Orange Sky. Now, I see the importance of reconnecting people in the community and the power of a conversation. 

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One word that symbolises the last 12 months

I could sum up the past 12 months by a simple word and symbol; the word ‘change’, accompanied by the triangle, ∆ or Greek symbol ‘delta’. Change has been prevalent this year for Orange Sky, as it has been for many. Although nearing the end of 2021, I see that our crazy and broad ambitions have begun converging towards clear targets; much like the pointed edge of a triangle.

From our first wash in Sudsy to launching our volunteer management system Volaby (formerly Campfire); Orange Sky strives for innovation. We set a new five-year target to help 40,000 people by 2025, identifying the ongoing importance of innovation in everything that we do. This led to the development of Team Delta, a department focused on imagining new ways of helping people. I took on the role of Chief Delta Officer, with a mission to help more friends, develop new rigorous revenue streams and cultivate and curate Imagination and Innovation in what we do best!

I approached this new department by thinking as broadly as possible. The brief was simple; dream up innovative ways of helping communities that need us most, by giving some ideas a crack.

Our investigation to find communities needing laundry and connection support gave rise to the remote venture. Over a three month period, three team members and I hit the road in our orange truck, Rosco. We washed and yarned our way through 29 remote communities, with the intention to connect, learn and grow our remote services.

I cannot overstate the extent to which the venture informed Team Delta’s direction. While the washing was on, we sat with locals and community leaders, listening to stories that date back over 60,000 years. From central to top end Australia, children and Elders alike, it illustrated to us the importance of togetherness and Country.

Despite this, the ongoing disproportionate impacts of colonisation upon First Peoples was evident. In many places, limited access to health hardware, such as washing machines, continues to have significant impacts on health and wellbeing. It was clear that we needed to play a role in this space.

Following the remote venture, our team is now well on their way to tripling our impact in remote communities. In November, we launched a new service in Wadeye, with more locations ready for early 2022.

While in Central Australia on Anangu land, the powerful sun was beaming down and an idea was born. It was here that the Waru Dryer was designed. To improve our environmental impact and build costs, Team Delta imagined a new dryer that ran on solar power rather than generators.

‘Waru’, meaning ‘fire’ in Pitjantjatjara, represents a meeting place as well as one of humankind’s first inventions. This meaning aligns to the journey and intention of our mobile laundry vehicles. The world’s first solar powered Waru Dryers continue to be rolled out across Australia; saving 80% of electrical energy each shift.

The phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ certainly applies to the build of our new remote vehicles (RV). To support our existing and future services in remote communities, we knew that our city-dwelling vehicles needed redevelopment. Reliability is essential in geographically inaccessible locations.

The RV3.0 is the world’s first solar powered laundry van, with three washers and three dryers onboard, and equipped with our latest mobile laundry innovations including the Waru Dryer. 

At this point, it would be remiss not to mention how Team Delta’s namesake became a COVID-19 strain that swept the globe this year. It feels almost suited that COVID would impact our imagination department, as it has done for many of our services and our daily lives. The Delta strain and pandemic continued to teach us to become more adaptable than ever to support our friends doing it tough.

Back at HQ in Brisbane, the team strived to new heights as well. Our volunteer software, Volaby, gained new incredible partners and was awarded the iAwards Queensland Not-for-Profit and Community Solution of the Year. Team Delta also launched two new laundromat offerings to extend our ways to help more people. Beginning in Toowoomba, the Laundromat of the Future, is a way for Orange Sky to perform volunteer-run shifts from existing laundromats to support friends. In November, we launched a Social Impact Laundromat in Adelaide (pictured below). This laundromat operates as a standard paid laundry service for the entire Adelaide community, with the added benefits that funds go towards powering our other free services. 

This year, we have achieved some of our greatest innovations since beginning Orange Sky. Despite the flows of change, I’m grateful to see the continuation of connection found on our six orange chairs. This togetherness is what Orange Sky is all about and is particularly important around holidays. It brings me warmth knowing that across Australia and New Zealand, our core values are emulated by incredible volunteers, and made possible by our team, supporters and service providers.

I found it interesting to learn that originally the delta symbol was a Phoenician letter meaning ‘door’. As we close out 2021, there is a sense that we are stepping through the door and into a landscape of new and exciting change and growth ahead of us.

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Why connection is still the most important part of what we do

There’s been a lot of change for Orange Sky this year; growing our services, redesigning our vehicles and continuing to navigate through the unknown of a global pandemic. On a more personal level, I stepped into the role of CEO earlier this year, while my best mate Nic took on the leadership of our newly created Innovation and Imagination department, Team Delta.

Through change comes growth, and we’ve certainly experienced some epic milestones in 2021 that have supported us on our journey of helping 40,000 people by 2025.

What I’m most proud of though is the ongoing connection that has taken place on orange chairs across Australia and New Zealand. Every day this year, people from different walks of life came together for a common goal of sharing genuine conversation, free washing and warm showers. Despite the milestones, this remains the heart of our service.

As I write this, I’m reflecting on the fact that many of us are fortunate to be connecting more than ever; Christmas parties, social gatherings, and time spent with loved ones. In contrast to this, many of our friends doing it tough are more disconnected than ever at this time of year. 

Each holiday season, Orange Sky works hard to bridge this gap with the support of our incredible donors, volunteers, service providers, and team.

Orange Sky typically sees 20% reduction in shifts over the holiday period due to service provider closures – these partnerships are critical in the delivery of our laundry and shower service. This year, we have mobilised a number of pop up shifts to continue supporting our friends over the holidays, and expect to see only a 16% reduction in shifts.

We have also conducted a match giving appeal for a second year (thanks to the support of the Shine On Foundation) and we’ve been blown away by the generosity of our donors to support friends doing it tough. Damo’s story of transitioning from a friend of Orange Sky to a regular volunteer has certainly resonated with many people. As Damo told us, “homelessness doesn’t get a holiday,” and it’s an even more important time for our services to continue operating. 

This Christmas, I look forward to going out on shift, sharing a chair and a chat with our friends and volunteers.

Connection is important all year round, but is heightened over this important period. We all deserve this very basic human right. It’s been another challenging but impactful year, and I’m so grateful to our entire community for helping us continue to connect in 2021. 

Wishing you all a happy holiday, and see you in the new year!

These holidays, give the gift of connection.

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How homelessness led me to Orange Sky

Meet Damo, an Orange Sky volunteer on the NSW Central Coast. Damo first met Orange Sky as a friend accessing our laundry and shower services in Sydney, before finding safe, permanent housing on the Central Coast. He described the Orange Sky shift as the ‘most positive social event of [his] week’ – restoring his confidence, and dignity. After settling into his new life, Damo wanted to give back, and became a volunteer for Orange Sky – providing the same conversation, respect and connection that he experienced years ago. Here’s Damo.

Hi, I’m Damo. I’ve spent most of my life seeking refuge by living on the streets, but now I’m an Orange Sky volunteer and team leader.

I was born in New Zealand and have spent over 20 years living in Australia. Since the age of seven, homelessness was prevalent in my life. To seek refuge from violence in my home, I ended up on the streets. Those early traumas affected me psychologically and led to a great deal of my life spent without a home or a normal existence.

I don’t think people can understand the loss of identity and isolation that comes with homelessness. It is soul wrenching and takes a long time to recover from. Throughout each day, it was rare to feel recognised or have anyone to engage with.

When I came across Orange Sky in Sydney in 2017, I was blown away! Using the service and interacting with volunteers was the most positive social event of my week. It was a breath of fresh air to engage with people who treated me with dignity and respect. I cannot understate the importance of being recognised; for someone to remember your name, your face and your story.

Life today has changed dramatically. I am living in a house on the Central Coast of NSW and reaching heights that I’d never imagined. The support of Orange Sky helped me recover a lot of my identity, dignity and self respect. I am now a volunteer and team leader with Orange Sky’s Central Coast team. Every shift I try to emulate the experience volunteers gave to me.

Giving back to my community is so important because of my journey with homelessness. I’m in a unique position to relate to the experiences of people who are still struggling, because I’ve faced those obstacles. Christmas, in particular, is tough for people living on the street. Homelessness doesn’t get a holiday or a day off. People’s needs don’t change because it’s a holiday.

This Christmas and beyond, I hope I can keep doing more to support friends doing it tough and be available for those I cherish. My life is a humble existence for sure, but it’s… it’s an existence. Helping others is pretty much my life’s work now.

The holidays can be a tough time, especially for our friends experiencing homelessness. If you’d like to help ensure that volunteers, like Damo, can continue supporting our friends over the holidays, please consider a donation today.

These holidays, give the gift of connection.

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The "magnetic personality" behind Gold Coast volunteer, Dave

There are many things we have learned in our years of operating. One of the first and most important lessons is that volunteers are at the core of positively connecting communities. More than the logistical running of a shift, Orange Sky volunteers (who we often refer to as ‘vollies’) are the heart and soul behind what we do. From Wadeye to Wollongong, thousands of volunteers across the country don an orange shirt and support their community through the provision of clean clothes, warm showers and genuine conversations.

Today is International Volunteer Day, and we want to say THANK YOU to every legend who dons an orange sky shirt. From Wadeye to Wollongong and across the ditch to Wellington, we’re grateful to the thousands of volunteers who provide friends with access to clean clothes, warm showers and genuine conversations.

Gold Coast volunteer Dave McConville is one of those people. For the past five years, he’s provided support to his community and has become a valued member of the Set Free shift team. 

People like Dave are the reason that friends feel safe and excited to return to shifts each week. And while Dave’s tagline might be, “it’s too easy”, our friends, volunteers, and service providers benefit from the seeds of trust and support he has sown. 

We had the pleasure of speaking with two Gold Coast volunteers to learn a bit more about what makes Dave so special. We hope you enjoy reading a little about a vollie who has made such a positive impact on the Gold Coast community. Thanks to Jane and Pat for sharing your memories with us!

Tell us a little about Dave.

When I think of Dave, I think of his willingness to help anyone and any situation. If I could describe him in three words it would be by his most common catchphrases; “it’s too easy” and “it’s no worries”. No matter the issue – a generator, hot water or safety precautions – his relaxed and conscientious attitude made our Gold Coast shifts run so smoothly. Beyond this, at his core, he is simply a great person with a magnetic personality. 

Do you have a moment or story about Dave that is particularly special?

Dave volunteered for five years and I can truly say that all moments, shifts and conversations have been special. He is just like that! But an important moment for us came during the first wave of COVID lockdowns. There was a lot of uncertainty, however, Dave did everything he could to support us starting our shifts again as early as we could. There were quite a few volunteers who weren’t able to return to shift, but Dave went the extra mile to ensure we could get back out there and help friends. He worked hard to set and follow all safety protocols on shifts, which alleviated fears. Despite the physical distance and barriers needed during those early COVID shifts, Dave still had a way of fostering connections with friends and easing concerns. It takes someone special to be able to form strong connections from a distance and at such complex times.

What type of connections did Dave facilitate on shift?

Dave’s personality is magnetic. What I mean by that is that within a minute, people feel like they already know him, and he them. Dave is so genuine and non-judgemental. It didn’t matter who walked on shift – their age, background, or what stage of life they’re in. He welcomed everyone wholeheartedly, and that connection was always reciprocated. Dave is a friend to everyone.

What impact has Dave had on the service?

We cannot understate the magnitude of Dave’s support for the Gold Coast shifts. Not only does he foster a wonderful energy, he is always willing to give things a go to keep shifts running. He managed all of our mechanical and technical components on shift while making people feel safe and heard. Dave is just a great guy who wholeheartedly emulates what it means to be an Orange Sky volunteer.

So, from the Gold Coast team and everyone from the Orange Sky family, thank you Dave. We are so grateful for your efforts and gift of time to our community! 

Become an Orange Sky volunteer today.

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Why Volunteering is Elliot's Favourite Part of the Week

Of the 2,000+ Orange Sky volunteers across Australia and New Zealand, no two volunteers are the same. Each volunteer brings with them a different perspective, a different experience, and a different idea on what it means to belong and feel connected.

Nineteen-year-old Elliot has been volunteering with Orange Sky for six months and has a unique perspective on what it means to be an Orange Sky family member. 

Elliot has Autism and an intellectual disability, which impacts his ability to read social cues and interact in social settings. However one thing that helps him to focus and calm his thoughts, is washing.

“Volunteering with Orange Sky means so much more to Elliot than what others could imagine,” Elliot’s mum Emma says. 

Elliot can find it hard to focus as sounds, lighting and other stimuli break his concentration and affect his mood in ways that most neurotypical people can’t relate to. 

As Emma explains, the sensory feedback Elliot receives from watching clothes spin around in the washing machine calms him.

“Since Elliot was a young boy, if we couldn’t hear him or he wasn’t in our direct line of sight, we would always know that he would be in the laundry watching the washing machine,” Emma said. 

Elliot’s passion is washing, with Emma telling us that going to shift is Elliot’s “favourite part of the week”. 

“Not only does it calm him down and bring him joy, but volunteering has also helped Elliot socially. His verbal and social skills have grown significantly since volunteering. It is a relaxed way for him to speak with other people and learn social skills, without it feeling forced.

“He is so excited to go to shift each and every week. It’s something he loves and it means so much to me and the rest of Elliot’s family that he is supported by Orange Sky to do what he loves.”

Elliot currently volunteers one day a week with our van on the Gold Coast, and plans to pick up a second shift with our permanently-fixed laundry pod later this month. 

Today is International Day of People with Disability, and we want to take this time to celebrate and thank Elliot for his contribution to the Orange Sky service.

Fellow Gold Coast volunteer, Melisa says the passion and energy Elliot brings to each shift really rubs off on the team. 

“Elliot and I have been volunteering together since he started with Orange Sky. We have built a really special bond and he’s certainly come out of his shell over the months – not only with the volunteering team, but with our friends too, which is really special to see,” Melisa said. 

“His passion for washing is like no other. Being able to see how much he truly enjoys coming to shift and being a part of it is really heartwarming.”

Melisa and fellow volunteer, Kerry have become so close with Elliot through volunteering with Orange Sky that they both attended Elliot’s graduation from Mudgeeraba State Special School last month (pictured).

International Day of People with Disability is aimed at increasing public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with a disability. It is a day to challenge the way you think about disability and help grow a more inclusive Australia. 

We are so proud to have Elliot as part of the Orange Sky team and want to thank him for his passion and dedication to supporting our friends doing it tough.

Learn more about International Day of People with Disability

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The world's first solar powered laundry van

Of the 25 million Australians around our vast country, no two of us are the same. And of the almost eight million square kilometres of Country, no two communities are the same. Our environment, culture, people, and businesses are all unique to where we live – which is why not every Orange Sky vehicle is built the same.  

As we began to increase our services in remote parts of Australia, our team quickly realised that our existing city-dwelling vehicles weren’t going to be suitable long-term in the outback. With harsher weather conditions and much longer distances from parts and repairs, we required our remote vehicles and hardware to be more robust, in order to provide a reliable service to our friends in remote locations.

This month, we have proudly launched the RV3.0 – a new range of laundry trucks, designed with sustainability, reliability and self-sufficient features to support Orange Sky’s remote community expansion.

Features of the RV3.0:

🚚 Equipped with a solar and lithium battery system
🚚 Three washers and three dryers
🚚 Reduces electrical consumption by up to 80% per shift
🚚 Solar technology can produce more power than it uses
🚚 New Waru Dryers on board
🚚 Supported by REDARC and Canva

By 2025, Orange Sky’s mission is to triple our impact and help 40,000 people doing it tough. Of the 116,000 Aussies experiencing homelessness on any given night, over 20% identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. In remote communities, access to affordable and reliable health hardware, such as washing machines can be challenging, and in some cases, impossible. That’s why Orange Sky is committed to improving access to free laundry services and genuine non-judgemental yarns – irrespective of the location. Hardship doesn’t discriminate on location, so we must be willing to find ways to reach communities far and wide. 

With our ‘Imagination and Innovation’ team striving to think outside of the box to create smarter and more efficient ways for Orange Sky to drive greater impact, the RV3.0 vehicle was born.

Orange Sky Co-Founder Nic Marchesi, who heads up our Imagination and Innovation team, says, “The RV3.0 allows Orange Sky vehicles to venture further than ever before and the new systems on board can increase the duration of shifts. These innovations are at the heart of what Orange Sky is about – helping more people.”

Preliminary plans and sketches for the new range of remote trucks were developed by Orange Sky, using Canva to quantify sketches. The real life RV3.0 vehicle has been brought to life in Orange Sky’s Brisbane workshop, powered by REDARC solar panels and a battery management and charging system. These new systems capture and store more energy than is needed to power the laundry vehicle’s use. Overall, the new power system reduces electrical consumption by up to 80% per shift.

The remote upgrade of the RV3.0 range has been made possible by the addition of the new Waru Dryer. The Waru Dryer, designed and built by Orange Sky, is the world’s first diesel and solar powered clothes dryer. Engineering this innovation has allowed Orange Sky’s vehicles to operate without generators, which was the springboard to the RV3.0 advancements. 

Orange Sky Lead Engineer, Ben Battaglia said, “We built the Waru Dryer with the aim of significantly reducing buildt costs, environmental impacts and maintenance needs. The dryer upgrade has reduced the electrical consumption by 90% when compared to regular clothes dryers.”

In addition to the improved environmental footprint, we are proud to play a part in enhancing social and health outcomes of the communities we operate in. From a remote landscape, our impact has been growing since launching in Lockhart River – QLD in 2014. Since then, Orange Sky has launched in Palm Island – QLD, Maningrida and Wadeye – NT and Bidyadanga and Fitzroy Crossing – WA. 

In 2021, Orange Sky embarked on a remote venture, connecting with and washing for 29 communities. Judith Meiklejohn, Orange Sky Remote Program Manager, led this venture and has witnessed the ongoing demand and engagement with our services in remote communities. 

“Many people and families in remote communities don’t have access to basic facilities like washing machines and if they do, they are often overused and don’t last long – with new washing machines being extremely expensive and the geographical location making it challenging to find a technician to repair items,” Judith said.

“Since introducing the RV3.0 vehicle to Wadeye alongside our local partner Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC), we have been overwhelmed with the response from the community. The laundry van not only meets the strong demand for laundry facilities, but it brings together so many different families and clan groups, which is a really beautiful outcome.”

Orange Sky has been fortunate to power these ideas with the support of our National Power Partner, REDARC Electronics. Managing Director, Anthony Kittel says REDARC believes in Orange Sky’s mission to ‘positively connect communities’, a mission that strongly resonates with REDARC’s values.  

“We are delighted to partner with Orange Sky to support their remote community expansion plans. REDARC’s mobile power tech provides a more reliable and sustainable mechanism for Orange Sky to deliver their critical mission,” Mr Kittel said.

Similarly, Canva Co-Founder and COO, Cliff Obrecht says, “It’s fantastic to see Canva being used to help raise awareness for important causes and initiatives such as Orange Sky. Their team is doing an incredible job in remote communities across Australia, and we’re glad to be a part of their journey.” 

As part of our mission to support the nation’s most vulnerable communities, we will be introducing a total of eight RV3.0 laundry vehicles to our fleet, and fitting out three of our current laundry vehicles with the REDARC gear. All eleven speciality laundry trucks are set to be introduced to remote communities by the end of the year. 

RV3.0 was designed and built on Yuggera land. Despite this innovation being a world first, ideas and innovation are not new to these lands. With ancestral ties dating back over 60,000 years, Orange Sky pays respects to the first inventors and connectors that have paved the way for the possibilities of today.

Learn more about Orange Sky’s remote communities expansion plans

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Learn more about the Waru Dryer – the world’s first solar and diesel powered dryer

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Genuine connections that make us human

Sophie Grewcoe has been an Orange Sky volunteer for three years. Spanning three different shifts (Wickham Park, Ivory Street and now Jaeys Street) and playing a large part as team leader for the Beddown pod collaboration in Brisbane, Sophie understands the compassion it takes to bind people of all walks of life together. 

“Orange Sky is now a big part of my life – I can’t imagine not being a part of this amazing organisation. Not only because, yes, I’m helping others and connecting with people… but how it affects me personally. It is a humbling experience, and has made me so grateful for the fortunate life I live.”

Today is World Kindness Day; a global day that promotes the importance of being kind to each other, to yourself and to the world. Sophie is one of many in the Orange Sky community who inspires the kindness and compassion we rely on to continue to deliver on our mission to positively connect communities. 

On how volunteering has impacted her personal life, from her social circle to her family, Sophie says, “Being able to educate them and open their minds to a world they aren’t exposed to has been one of the most rewarding aspects.”

“From Kinz and Lenny [Orange Sky friends] sharing a machine every shift to save a load, to Jo with the biggest, most colourful load of washing… Every shift I look forward to Eddie turning up, seeing him waving from across the park. 

“Not only do I get to listen to their life story, but they also know a lot about me. These genuine connections are what it’s all about.” 

Sophie says that it tends to surprise people when they find out that not all Orange Sky friends are without a home – like Lenny.

“He was a regular every week throughout COVID, purely because he was lonely. His wife was stuck overseas for months and months, so he found us and kept on coming,” she said. 

“We joked that we needed to get him a plaque with his name on it, because he sat in the same spot on the same bench every week. Everyone knew it was Lenny’s spot.”  

These genuine connections, says Sophie, are what make us human, and the impact on volunteers is just as tangible as the impact on the people they help every day. 

“For them to know that people really do care about them and that they aren’t invisible makes it all worthwhile. I don’t have the ideas, or the resources or the ability to ‘fix’ all the problems in the world, but I do have a heart and I intend on using it.” 

Help to positively connect your community.

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It's International Volunteer Managers Day!

Orange Sky is fortunate to be supported by an amazing community of leaders who volunteer their time to help us deliver our services. From rostering volunteers, to getting new shifts up and running, sending newsletters and making sure our vans get out on the road each day – our volunteer leaders are the backbone of our service, and we could not operate without their support.

On International Volunteer Managers Day – and every day in between – we recognise and thank each of our 101 leaders across Australia and New Zealand who work so hard to support our friends experiencing homelessness.

One of those people is Charlotte Robinson, who has volunteered for Orange Sky for the past six years and held a number of leadership roles across our Perth and Sydney services. A few months ago, she also joined the Orange Sky HQ team on a part-time basis to support our community impact team.

We sat down with Charlotte to find out more about her volunteering experience, and the impact it’s had on her life.

After almost six years of volunteering with Orange Sky, it’s safe to say that the service has followed me on my personal journey. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve stayed on; the adaptability, as well as the impact. Orange Sky understands the importance of people’s lives and their commitments.

I found Orange Sky when, in 2015, a friend had mentioned their mobile laundry service and I loved the ethos. I attended an ‘Orangentation‘ (Orange Sky’s version of an orientation session) and before I knew it, I was on shift and then a Team Leader in Sydney.

One year later, I moved to Perth for my postdoctoral research in oceanography. In addition to relocating my life, I was able to relocate my volunteering! At the time, Perth had just received a new Hybrid (laundry and shower) van to support areas south of Perth. I worked with the incredible Lisa Sprlyan from Orange Sky HQ to expand our service, which I proudly volunteered for as a Service Leader and Team Leader for four years, until recently returning to Sydney.

For me, family, sport, learning and community are really important. When I’m not working in marine research, in my role with Orange Sky or volunteering, I’m soaking up time with my family and playing water polo. But I also love the impact of the time my volunteering has. After six years, it still warms my heart that the simple act of volunteering for three hours can have a significant impact on people’s lives. Not just for friends, but for volunteers too.

Other volunteers might understand this feeling, but when I’m about to head out on shift I’m feeling a mixed bag of emotions. I’m excited to reconnect with friends, volunteers and service providers. As a Team Leader, I’m also operationally aware, ensuring our environment is safe for all. 

Most of all, I feel a sense of pride. Proud to wear the shirt, proud of the Orange Sky organisation, and proud of my teammates.

Any time someone asks me to recall a memorable moment on Orange Sky shift, I’m always brought back to meeting Bec in Sydney. I met Bec in my first year of volunteering, at our Kings Cross Wayside Chapel shift. Bec had endured immense hardship and instability. Life had been unkind to Bec in many ways, but she was kind to me and the Orange Sky team. Despite being let down a lot, she formed a trust in our service. Each week we were there – consistent and caring – which meant so much to her. I will always remember Bec’s motto, “It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, it matters where you’re going”. I think that sums up so much about the experiences in our lives. That our past, or the pasts of others, doesn’t always define us, and there is always hope for the future. 

Before volunteering with Orange Sky I don’t think I understood how quickly homelessness can happen to someone. It is painfully common for someone who has been economically or socially privileged to have a series of events that quickly unravel their lives and force them onto the street. The stereotype isn’t true, homelessness can happen to any of us. And that’s why community support is so important.

My volunteer work has indeed shaped my life. Though it has been unpaid, it is another career path that contributes skills and experience. My young adult years volunteering with St John Ambulance influenced the person I have become. This, and my work with Orange Sky, has given me the confidence to step into leadership roles. Volunteering has truly cemented my thirst for helping people and confirmed who I want to be.

Orange Sky reminds me that every little bit counts and simple acts can make a difference in people's lives. Sometimes the smallest actions can have a lasting impact. Saying hello, having a conversation, or washing someone's clothes can make a big difference to someone.

Become an Orange Sky volunteer today.

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Orange Sky launches in Wadeye, NT

Orange Sky’s newest laundry truck has found a home in the Northern Territory’s Top End, recently launching in the community of Wadeye.

The truck arrived in Wadeye to a humble welcome from the community, with mud handprints placed on the rear of the vehicle – a special community touch. Remote Service Support Officer, Caleb Cassady was part of the Wadeye launch and said it was the trust in the service that was most valued.

“From the moment of our very first wash, the community response has been overwhelmingly positive. It felt like we seamlessly fit into the groove of Wadeye. Most days we have requests from a minimum of five houses that we unfortunately can’t fulfil. With consistency, we will get there.”

Wadeye is a five to eight hour drive southwest of Darwin – the time variation depends on the season, which can significantly impact road access. The precarious drive and typical Top End heat meant that we needed to build a fit-for-purpose vehicle, which features upgraded power sources (solar, diesel and battery) and the new Waru Dryers.

Read more about Orange Sky's Waru Dryer

The service in Wadeye is Orange Sky’s fourth in a remote community, alongside Maningrida, Palm Island and Lockhart River. After our remote venture trip earlier this year across Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, Program Manager Judith Meiklejohn felt that a more permanent service would be on the horizon in Wadeye.

“During our initial scoping trip, we had such strong and positive engagement from community members and service providers like One Tree Safehouse, West Daly Regional Council and Wadeye Health Service,” said Judith. “It was clear to us and to the community that improving access to laundry services was important.”

In addition to confirming community desire, Orange Sky worked with local Aboriginal-owned not-for-profit organisation, Thamarrurr Development Corporation (TDC) to establish a partnership to bring the service to the community

A community partner is an integral aspect of Orange Sky’s success. Aligning with a local and well-respected organisation in remote communities ensures that the service can have the best possible impact.

“Community partners are so important because they know their community best. Partners like TDC know where washing is most needed, are trusted in the community, and can facilitate the employment of local people to run shifts. We are very grateful to learn from and work alongside TDC to deliver Orange Sky shifts in Wadeye,” Caleb said.

Orange Sky arrived in Wadeye in late September, and alongside the TDC team, we have hit the ground washing! In our first month, we’ve trained and employed 8 local team members who have supported the community with:

🧡 39 shifts

🧡 A massive 472 loads of washing!

🧡 468 hours of connection around the van

Learn more about Orange Sky’s commitment to growing services in remote communities.

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