Fuelling the way for Darwin

Although our laundry and shower vans are based in the one location, they travel hundreds of kilometres every week to connect with our friends, providing free laundry, warm showers, and genuine, non-judgmental conversation. 

The list of things that keep the wheels turning on our vans is pretty long, with the main one – of course – being fuel. 

In Darwin we’re incredibly lucky to have Pat from FuelXpress Darwin by our side. 

Each week, Darwin’s hybrid shower and laundry van ‘Betsy’ makes stops across Darwin City, Palmerston and Casuarina thanks to support from Pat, who provides us with free fuel as well as a place to park the van when it’s not on shift. 

We caught up with Pat to find out a little more about why FuelXpress supports Orange Sky. He recalls first hearing about Orange Sky from a LinkedIn post. 

“The post resonated with me because it was putting into practice one of our key values - whatever we do, we must benefit as many people as possible. Orange Sky fulfils this vision and what it stands for.”

Over the past few years, FuelXpress has generously offered their services to Betsy – and they don’t plan on stopping. The business is continuing to expand and increase their capacity to hopefully host more Orange Sky services in various locations.

“Let’s not forget the less fortunate in all this. The homeless are often the loneliest and most troubled. Orange Sky, on behalf of the community, reaches out with compassion and understanding in a disarming non-denominational setting – ‘the first contact’ of connecting them back to the community they came from.”

Any contribution from business owners like Pat can help to offset the cost of running our operation, as demand for Orange Sky services continues to grow. For companies like FuelXpress, it can also be an opportunity to fulfil their ethos of social engagement and give back to the community.

“By contributing to Orange Sky we are also riding with them on their journey providing services to our communities across Australia, from the orange sky of sunrise to the orange sky of a setting evening sun – what a privilege to be associated with such a worthy community service and their team of volunteers.”

The rates of homelessness in the Northern Territory are more than 12 times the national average, and with Pat’s support, we have operated over 500 shifts across Darwin, providing over 2,100 loads of laundry, 1,300 showers and connecting with our friends through 4,400 hours of conversation.

Has Pat inspired you to give back to your community?

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Your body is your machine. Look after it.

As an organisation that thrives on our ability to innovate, you’d be right in guessing that things move pretty quickly at Orange Sky. 

But for the last few months, every Wednesday at 12pm, we’ve been rolling out our mats and stretching out our limbs in a group Pilates session. Just for a moment, we slow everything down and connect with ourselves.

Errol, our resident UX/UI Designer and un-official (but pretty official) office Pilates instructor, shares his story about his relationship with movement, and touches on the importance of staying mobile and connected whilst at work. Here’s Errol… 

Pilates came into my life 16 years ago as a result of an injury after falling while climbing a rock. As someone who is quite adventurous and loves trying everything, my body was my main tool and needed to be repaired immediately. 

I started to work with a personal trainer. When I first started, he focused only on simple weight training as my therapy, however he did convince me to join a Pilates class. As a young and naive person, I was skeptical of Pilates and yoga. Today, 16 years later, I am still grateful to my trainer for encouraging me and even guiding me to not only attend classes, but also to become an instructor.

Our body was designed in harmony with nature thousands of years ago. From those days to these days, especially after the industrial revolution, the way we use our body has changed a lot. For the last few decades, we have introduced ourselves to office life and fixed ourselves on our comfortable chairs and desks. While we may have adjustable desks, spine-supporting cushions, an unlimited source of chocolate and the opportunity to take a break during the day as we want, our body eventually wears out. 

I can easily say that as someone who has worked in an office for many years and spent a considerable part of the day looking at screens, I have suffered from back, shoulder and joint pain like everyone else. Since bringing Pilates into my life, I have eliminated fatigue, pain, sore joints, sleeping issues and many other problems related to my body.

Increasing your mobility also affects your quality of daily life. The founder of Pilates, Joseph Pilates said, “You are only as young as your spine flexibility.”

It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise it is, what style or how we do it; we must get our bodies moving. Further to that, doing activities with friends or colleagues is one of the most important factors that strengthens team spirit and relationships.

Just like my trainer convinced me, I have convinced the team at Orange Sky to try out pilates and increase their flexibility. I knew that if I saw the benefits of pilates as an office worker, they would see it too. Especially in today’s world where lockdowns are the ‘new normal’, getting together for a short lunchtime pilates session is a great way to connect with each other, even if it over Zoom.

If you spend 5-6 hours of your day sitting in a chair in an office, you should strive to do stretch movements every hour. With some movements that are as simple as drinking water, you can increase your mobility and help to improve your quality of life. 

Inspired by Errol’s passion for Pilates? Here’s six stretches you should do if you’re sitting at a desk each day

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Orange Sky's Community Response Support

In early June, severe storms hit Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, leaving thousands of residents trapped in their homes without power. Orange Sky was proud to be involved in the recovery efforts to support people in the Dandenong community.

Ever thought about what happens when Orange Sky’s vans aren’t out on shift providing friends with free laundry and shower services?

Our Community Response Support (CRS) model caters to exactly that, providing urgent, temporary support for people impacted by natural disasters.

After hearing about the significant damage caused by the Dandenong storms in early June, we kicked into action to mobilise our CRS. With guidance from the Country Fire Association and SES Lilydale, we decided to base ourselves in the towns of Kalorama and Olinda. But before we could bring our vans in, we needed to wait almost a week for the roads to be cleared. The wild weather had caused widespread damage and debris – risky conditions which prevented emergency services from responding quickly.

Belinda Blair is an Orange Sky volunteer and HQ team member who was involved in the support efforts on the ground. She describes what the drive up the ranges was like…

“Driving up, I couldn’t believe the number of trees that had fallen and the ones that were on a tilt. And then try to imagine the sound of them swaying, creaking and then crashing - it must have been frightening.”

Belinda was just one of our incredible volunteers who gave their time to support. In less than two hours after sending our first volunteer callout, we had almost 30 people register. This meant that we could fill our first four shifts and get started the very next day. And it only grew from there. Orange Sky volunteers from across Melbourne were putting their hands up to help, so we added more shifts. Importantly, we were able to slot these into our van calendars without affecting any of our regular Melbourne shifts.

In just 11 days, Orange Sky’s Community Response Support team completed 15 x 4-hour shifts across three vans – Dasher (7 shifts), Sadie (6 shifts) and Jellyfish (2 shifts) – with 50 volunteers providing 117 loads of washing and countless more conversations. Belinda reflects on one conversation in particular: “There was a friend on the last day at our Olinda location named Craig. A tree had crashed into his house, and they were staying with friends, so he grabbed the clothes that he could from around his home. We were able to wash and dry 10 loads of laundry for him.”

With winter setting in and temperatures dropping to zero overnight, the Dandenong community was grateful for the comfort of having clean and dry clothes. “When you hand back someone’s washing and they hug it because of the warmth, and you know they are going back to their home with no power, it’s a pretty overwhelming feeling,” Belinda said.

Over two weeks, the Victoria SES recorded more than 9,500 calls for help and around 200 homes were lost. Fortunately, restoration efforts in the Dandenong Ranges were well underway at the time of our last shift on 27 June, with only 40 homes still left without power.

Having responded to other natural disasters in the past 18 months, including the East Gippsland Bushfire Recovery in February 2020, Perth Bushfires in February 2021 and Port Macquarie Region Floods in March 2021, we’ve improved our CRS processes significantly. Each scenario presents new learnings to prepare us for the next, and our goal is to build specific assets and a dedicated volunteer team for CRS so that we can deploy services quickly, without impacting our regular shifts.

Living in a country exposed to natural disasters, Orange Sky is committed to being there for our communities when these events occur. If you’d like to help us reach more communities in need, please donate today.

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Celebrating Five Years At Orange Sky

Lisa Sprlyan has been a fixture at Orange Sky since almost the very beginning. She started out as a volunteer five years ago, before jumping in to a role at HQ in the Operations Team. Lisa has been on the ground for a staggering eight van rollouts, including one in New Zealand, and is our resident expert when it comes to ensuring our vans are making the biggest possible impact in the community. 

We sat down with Lisa to take a look back at some of her experiences and adventures over the past five years.

How did you first hear about Orange Sky and what made you want to apply to become a volunteer? 

Back in 2016, I was actually taking some time out from my previous career so had a bit of time on my hands. One day, I received a message from an old colleague in Melbourne, with the link to volunteer with Orange Sky in Perth. I opened the link and within minutes I had completed an online application to volunteer. Not long after, I received an invite to an ‘Orangetation’ (information session) and turned up to a small group of applicants, like myself, keen to know what Orange Sky was all about. During the session, I remember Jo (former Orange Sky CEO) asking me, “So, why do you want to be a Team Leader?” I sat back and said, “I’m just here to wash clothes but hey, I’ll give that a crack!”

Your first shift with Orange Sky was five years ago. Do you remember much from that first day? 

My first day with Orange Sky was memorable for many reasons! I was lying in bed and at around 7.20am, and I got a call from Alek (trainer) to say, “Hey Lisa, where are you?” My first response was, “Um… the shift doesn’t start until 9am?”

Somewhere along the line, I had gotten the wrong time. Anyway, I didn’t live far so I said I would be there in 15 minutes. My first Friday at the Tranby Day Centre in Perth was a busy one with several washes straight up. Given it was my first shift, Alek had so much to run me through so I was ready to train my new team the following week. One of those really important things was how to fill out an incident report. Just after completing a test report, I found myself involved in what we would refer to as a ‘red incident’. For obvious reasons, I can’t share exactly what happened, but I was so impressed with the support I received from Orange Sky in the minutes after that. I came back the next week, and the rest is history!

Have your perceptions or ideas around homelessness changed from when you first started with Orange Sky five years ago?  

Before being involved with Orange Sky, I’m disappointed in myself that I really didn’t have much of an idea of what was happening in my own city, let alone around the country. My eyes have been opened a lot over the last five years to the challenges around being homeless or simply doing it tough. Most of my time with Orange Sky has involved a lot of conversations with the many amazing organisations out there helping people in our communities. I have learned SO MUCH and feel so privileged to be part of what we all do together, helping those who just need a hand.

Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and give yourself advice when first starting out with Orange Sky, what would it be?  

When you’re heading out to shift for the first time, it can be quite overwhelming learning how to use the van, getting the washing sorted, meeting other new volunteers and thinking about what to say to our friends. My advice to any new volunteer is to just take your time and work together as a team. I guarantee within three to four weeks, your shift will run like clockwork. Remember that the people who use our services are everyday people, just like you, so strike up an everyday conversation as a starting point. The most important thing you can do is say ‘hello’.

You transitioned from volunteer to staff member in 2017, but you’re still very closely involved in the delivery of our service to friends. How important is it to stay connected to your community and be part of achieving positive outcomes for our friends? 

Since moving into a staff role with Orange Sky, I’ve held several roles but all of them give me touch points where I get to connect with our friends, volunteers and service providers – something that’s really important to me. Our mission is to positively connect communities and I think that having those personal connections is very powerful and helps to really drive outcomes for our friends. 

Can you share some of your biggest achievements or favourite moments from your time as a volunteer & staff member?

It’s very hard to pick one biggest achievement, and I have so many favourite moments – every shift brings something special. I’ve been a part of eight van launches across Australia (and New Zealand) and every single one is a highlight for me. A personal favourite moment for me was getting to meet Sunrise Weatherman, Sam Mac (I’m a bit of a fan!). 

I will always remember the moment I found out that two of our friends, George and Lizzie, found out they were getting a house. It was a very special and emotional moment for me and for them, and a memory that I will always think of with so much love.

Can you share a conversation or moment that’s stuck with you the most over the past five years? 

There are so many conversations I’ve had with friends all over Australia and in New Zealand. Many conversations that have sometimes left me fighting back tears, both happy and sad. Two that stand out were learning a friend found stable accommodation after living in a car for ten years, and seeing a friend who was living on the street learn they would soon have a job and their own place to live. 

My most common conversation is one that ends with, “Thank you so much for washing my clothes.” I never would have thought those few words would mean so much to both our friends and myself.

Are there any particular relationships that stand out for you? Maybe a story about a friend or volunteer whose journey you’ve been a part of?  

Being based in Perth, I’ve nurtured some great relationships with friends on shifts over this time.  One of the very first friends that I met was Allan. Allan and I have shared various adventures together during our respective Orange Sky journeys. Allan, if you’re reading this, I know we haven’t seen each other out on shift for some time, but know your Orange Sky family is still out there for you. Hope to see you soon!

Reflecting back on five years with Orange Sky, how important is a conversation?

In the early days of OS, everyone thought it was just a few people washing clothes. What we do is so much more. The conversation is the most important thing that can happen on shift. Just a simple ‘hello’ can brighten someone’s day, and a conversation where someone genuinely listens without judgement can change someone’s whole outlook.

Help to positively connect your community.

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Donors vital to support people doing it tough

Donors vital to support people doing it tough

New data analysis by Orange Sky reveals that of the top 20 wealthiest member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australia has the third largest overall poverty rate and the highest for those over 65. This places Australia behind other wealthy countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Germany in tackling poverty and homelessness (1).

With only a small change in events separating poverty from homelessness, those living in poverty may actually be dangerously close to not having a permanent roof over their head. Financial difficulties, family and domestic violence, housing affordability and availability, relationship breakdowns and ill-health, are just some of the many reasons people find themselves doing it tough.

Homelessness is complex and involves more than just a lack of housing. A staggering 3.24 million people in Australia now live below the poverty line (2), with data from Australia’s most recent census reporting that enough people are experiencing homelessness (116,427) to fill Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium twice over. Of the one in 200 Australians experiencing homelessness, five percent are ‘sleeping rough’ and 95 percent are staying in shelters, boarding houses, temporary accommodation, or severely crowded homes(3). Orange Sky helps Aussies in all situations, regardless of their sleeping arrangements, regain their dignity with warm showers, clean clothes and meaningful conversations.

Orange Sky Co-Founder Lucas Patchett said that he’s seen first-hand how a small change of events can change a life.

“The pandemic has impacted all of our lives in some way, but for people who may have already been struggling, it’s now made it even more difficult to get by.

“Without a strong support network in place, it just takes one or two things to go wrong for someone to find themselves homeless. We hear stories like this around our six orange chairs all the time.”

Orange Sky Australia is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people who are experiencing homelessness, or simply going through a tough time. What started as an idea to improve hygiene standards and help restore dignity has evolved into 31 services operating in Australia and two in New Zealand. .

“After pausing our services in March last year due to COVID-19, we’ve rebuilt from the ground up to deliver over 8,200 shifts across Australia in the last 12 months. But we know there’s more people out there who need our support, and it’s concerning that demand is growing,” says Patchett.

Orange Sky is striving to deliver 12,500 shifts in the next financial year, which is an increase of over 50% to meet demand. As a result, the charity is encouraging Australians to help people doing it tough as the end of the financial year approaches. A tax-deductible donation will provide clean clothes, warm showers and genuine, non-judgemental conversations.

“Our donors are absolutely essential to keeping our bright orange vans on the road and to continue to scale our operations so we can help as many people as possible,” says Patchett.

Jasmine Ongley is an advocate for Orange Sky for this very reason, “The work Orange Sky does is so important in providing those living rough with some basic dignity and much needed company. Homelessness can be much closer than many of us think and it is heartening to know that the wonderful services and volunteers of Orange Sky are out there in the community.” says Jasmine.

Patchett says, “Our donors like Jasmine are invaluable; without them we wouldn’t be able to support Aussies who have unexpectedly found themselves experiencing homelessness.”

Australians who are able to, are encouraged to visit the website to make a tax-deductible donation to support people doing it tough.

About Orange Sky

Orange Sky is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness – an idea founded in a Brisbane garage by two 20-year-old mates, Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett. In late 2014, the boys installed a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of an old van and visited parks around Brisbane to wash and dry clothes for free.

Orange Sky has expanded to provide shower services and remote vehicles, and is now operating 31 services across the country, providing people doing it tough with access to free laundry and shower services.

What started as an idea to improve hygiene standards and restore dignity to people doing it tough has evolved into something much bigger and more powerful. Orange Sky volunteers have engaged in 236,734 hours of conversations to date, helping to challenge the perception of homelessness and positively connect communities all around Australia.

After growing their laundry and shower services across Australia, Orange Sky expanded into New Zealand in 2018 taking the organisation international with a vision to help the 41,600 New Zealanders experiencing homelessness.

Data Citations

A change of events can change a life. But so can your support. 

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National Reconciliation Week

The Orange Sky team is currently approaching its third leg on our remote venture, where we hope to visit as many remote communities as possible from April to June 2021. With their hearts full, washing baskets empty and the Northern Territory now in their rear-view mirror, the team now has their sights set on Cape York as they continue to grow Orange Sky’s understanding and relationships with remote communities across the country.

On board the van, Rosco is Richard Cassady; a Traditional Owner from Palm Island and Cultural Navigator for the trip. Richard has played an important role, in a similar capacity, in the rollout of Orange Sky’s Palm Island service, which is one of three remote services currently in operation across Australia.

‘More than a word. Reconciliation takes action’ is the theme for National Reconciliation Week this year, urging a reconciliation movement towards braver and more impactful action. To break it down further, we turned to Richard to ask what this means to him through the lens of a Cultural Navigator.

Taking some time out in the shade at Fitzroy Crossing, escaping the notorious Top End heat, Richard shares a candid yarn with our team about all things Reconciliation Week and the importance of creating a ‘together space’ through organisations like Orange Sky.

“Here’s the thing, mob will tell you very clearly whether there’s quality in your program or not. They’ll engage and say – hey this is absolutely great – or they’ll vote with their feet and go to the footy. So for me, when I see the level of engagement, I think Orange Sky’s doing some really great things in terms of engaging with people.

“Whether you’re a First Person in a remote setting, or someone in Perth or in Brisbane, Orange Sky is engaging with humanity without condition and I reckon that’s a pretty cool space to occupy.”

You can watch Richard’s full interview below. To learn more about how we’re supporting remote communities, click here

Orange Sky currently operates three remote services. If you would like to support us to expand our services in remote communities, please consider a donation. 

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Notes From The Road: Beyonce, Football and Funeral Shoes

With the first leg (covering South Australia) of Orange Sky’s Remote Venture trip now complete, the team is making ground across the top end in our purpose-built van, ‘Rosco’. Orange Sky’s Program Manager Judith Meiklejohn, who is currently on location with Rosco, provides an update from their stopover in Wadeye NT, where 88 loads of washing were provided across the local community in just 12 hours.

It was dark by the time the Orange Sky Remote Venture team pulled into Wadeye after a slow, dusty, bumpy, yet beautiful drive from Katherine. Our first morning in Wadeye was met with lots of inquisitive, and almost confused looks from onlookers across the community. Many people were surprised to learn the big bright orange truck, ‘Rosco’, had washing machines on board. Better still, they were excited to learn that our team was there to provide free laundry services to anyone who needed it. What we learnt was that for many people, our arrival meant that they got a momentary reprieve from having to borrow someone else’s machine to wash. After an hour, each load would be handed back clean and warm.

It was clear that our services were in demand. There were so many requests to wash that we eventually ran out of time. In the three days we spent in Wadeye, the Orange Sky team provided 88 loads of washing, across four shifts, in three different locations. Each shift had a busy crowd from the community that gathered to organise themselves, sort washing, and yarn with each other as well as with the Orange Sky team. That is also such an important part of our service; to provide a platform to start conversations and positively connect communities in this way. It was a valuable opportunity to learn more about the Wadeye community from the residents themselves and we loved connecting and learning from them as they went about their everyday lives around us. There was such a positive vibe radiating across each shift; it left our team feeling elated at the end of each day.

There were several special moments for each of us, ranging from dancing along to Beyonce with the children and women, spontaneous games of ‘front yard’ AFL, and yarns about family, bush tucker, hunting and growing up in an ever-changing community. But one standout moment for all of us was the moment a little boy named Wilford, around 10 years old, arrived at our shift. On arrival he quickly grabbed a chair next to Richard, our Remote Venture Cultural Navigator, connecting with him instantly. While the other children got busy cleaning washing machines or playing footy, this little boy sat quietly, talking with Richard. 

Wilford asked politely if he could get some washing and brought back a white basket full of clothes. He sat close by the basket to protect his belongings, and although he was a fair way at the back of the line, he did not seem worried. He sat respectfully and graciously as he waited for his turn. At one point, he silently went away to have a shower and returned clean with combed hair and dress pants on. At another point, he left to change out of those dress pants and returned to pop them in the basket to be washed. 

As it neared Wilford’s turn, Nic (Orange Sky’s Co-Founder) asked about washing his shoes, noticing the white sneakers he had brought along to wash. Wilford told us that they were his funeral shoes.

It was one of those moments that stuck with us all; a realisation that this young boy clearly understood concepts that most children his age would be shielded from. We never got to see who his guardian or parent was, but to all of us, he seemed wise beyond his years. We all felt so grateful that we could help him to clean his clothing, bedding, and funeral outfit. We vowed to be a little bit more like him; wise and gracious. It was experiences like this that made it more difficult to leave Wadeye when it was time to pack up the truck to head for our next destination.

The Orange Sky Remote Venture has so far been an incredible experience for which I am personally very thankful to be a part of. We have driven across some of Australia’s toughest terrain, surrounded by stunning natural beauty to reach some truly remarkable remote communities. Along the way, we have met some extraordinarily committed service providers, talented artists and storytellers, inspirational leaders and strong people who are connected to land, community, and culture.

It is astounding to me that in 2021, there are still people in such a wealthy country like Australia who do not have their basic needs met – things like clean clothing and bedding. It is alarming to understand first hand that access to regular and reliable laundry services is out of reach for many people in remote Australia. 

Orange Sky has made a commitment to work alongside as many remote communities as possible to be part of the solution. We can’t wait to visit and check in with more communities to learn and understand how we can best help, now and in the future.

You can hear more about Wilford’s story in the video below, with footage shot by the team during their time in Wadeye.

Orange Sky currently operates three remote services. If you would like to support us to expand our services in remote communities, please consider a donation. 

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One Shift, Three Generations of Volunteers

Each fortnight for the last four years, Racheal Higgins – a proud Torres Strait Island woman – has volunteered with the Orange Sky team to provide free washing and shower services to vulnerable members of the Brisbane community who are doing it tough.

As well as working and studying full time, Racheal has undertaken 73 shifts, and given up 148 hours of her spare time to help positively connect the community. She has a particular interest in connecting with vulnerable members of the Indigenous community.

Over the four years since volunteering, Racheal has influenced members of her immediate family to volunteer alongside her. Racheal (49), her Mum Kristina (68), daughter Lily (23) and son Zane (24) make up three generations of one family who come together at Musgrave Park (in Brisbane) to connect with a very special place in their hearts.

We sat down and had a chat with Racheal about all things Orange Sky, the importance of non-judgmental conversation, and what Reconciliation Week means to her…

What’s your role with Orange Sky?
I’m a volunteer Team Leader with Orange Sky’s shower van and head out to Musgrave Park every Tuesday evening. We welcome any vulnerable people who are doing it tough to come along for a chat and shower. All of the Orange Sky volunteers feel that most importantly, it’s about the connection we make that says to our friends on the street, “Hey I see you, I respect you, and you deserve the dignity of using the services that we’re offering.”

Why is Musgrave Park significant to you?
Musgrave Park is a place of family. I grew up in West End in the 70s, and would regularly take walks through the park and would often see my Dad. A lot of my Dad’s extended family visited there, and for me it was like a second home. It was where everyone came together and felt a sense of belonging and camaraderie. My Dad came from the Torres Strait to find work in the city and found it quite difficult adapting to the western ways of living in the city. There was an expectation about how Australians should be and it was the dominant narrative at the time. Like many others, he struggled with this, developed addiction issues, and as a result, became homeless and spent time in Musgrave Park.

What kind of people do you meet on shift?
Generally we have about 20 people who come along to each shift and utilise our shower or washing machine services. There are a few regulars who we have built up a good rapport with over time. At Orange Sky, we prefer to call people we meet ‘friends’ as it portrays respect and equality within our relationship rather than us just being a service provider.

Each week I bring along my portable speaker as a drawcard and I use that as a way to connect with people through a love of music. I usually play country music to encourage some of the First Nation’s friends to come and chat with me. I find that I can relate to them and for that reason particularly seek them out to make a connection. I play a lot of the songs that my Dad listened to, as it reminds me of him, such as Charley Pride, Tammy Wynette and Roy Oribison. But some of the locals also request ABBA and Grease! We often have a bit of a dance and a singalong. It’s always a lot of fun.

How do some of the stories from Indigenous friends differ?
Some of the stories of the Indigenous Friends and how they came to be homeless can be difficult to hear. It is common to hear about the effects of colonisation and intergenerational trauma suffered that have contributed to their personal situations. In particular, one man I met became very upset after sharing his story with me. All I could do was listen and empathise.

Making an impact on someone through genuine connection by volunteering each week is very meaningful to me. Every time I leave the shift, I hope that I’ve made a positive contribution to somebody’s day. I find it really rewarding whether it’s talking, listening, or playing a favourite song, I really look forward to it each week.

Your kids also volunteer with you, how did that come about?
I always try to be non-judgmental and to accept people as they are and have instilled this value into my children, as it was instilled in me from my own upbringing. My mixed race European/Indigenous family were very forward for the time as my grandparents welcomed and accepted everybody and I followed by example.

My youngest daughter Lily, started volunteering at Orange Sky alongside me from the age of 19. My son Zane was interested in our stories and wanted to check it out too, and Mum has now joined us as well. Initially I started on a different shift, but was keen to join the Musgrave Park shift as I have a connection to it through my Dad and other family members who have frequented there over the years.

The friends on shift are sometimes surprised that we are all family as we all look quite different but one of the Friends calls me Mum now too, which shows how we have made a close connection. It’s great that all of us are now on the same shift as we use this time to catch up as well as chat to friends – we’re all like a big family!

Generally it might be hard to ‘switch off’ after a more difficult conversation on shift and being exposed to sad stories, but it’s great to have the support of my Mum and kids who get to share the experience with me. It’s a unique situation to be able to share my volunteer experience with my family in that way and have an opportunity to debrief.

What do you think it does for your kids in particular?
I think it opens up a whole new perspective on life really. They can see and hear firsthand how other people live, and can reflect on their own lives in a meaningful way. Volunteering opens up a whole new world and view on humanity.

What does Reconciliation Week mean to you?
I try to be a part of reconciliation every day. I think Australians as a whole should speak up about injustices and show support for Indigenous people by standing beside them. It’s about trying to make a difference in the community and bringing all of the cultures together, particularly First Nations. It’s more than just a week, and it’s more than just words.

What do you think it takes to be an Orange Sky volunteer?
I think good communication skills are essential as you need to listen without judgement. It sounds simple, but it can actually be quite difficult for some people. But mostly I think you need to be authentic, show your true self. By doing this, you invite people to trust you and feel comfortable to open up to you and share their stories.

I would say to people considering volunteering with this service, that it’s a rewarding and life changing experience where you meet people and can open yourself up to new and interesting experiences. I highly encourage anyone to join particularly if you have the capacity to do that at this point in your life.

Learn how you can take braver and more impactful action this Reconciliation Week

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It's National Volunteer Week!

This week marks National Volunteer Week – Australia’s largest annual celebration of volunteers. Here at Orange Sky, we are proudly celebrating the efforts of more than 2000 volunteers who enable our organisation to alleviate some of the hardship faced by people experiencing homelessness, by providing access to free laundry, warm showers and non-judgemental conversation. Orange Sky’s Program Manager, Daniel Glaubert, reflects on a particularly challenging year with the pandemic as the organisation went from 1,800 to zero volunteers almost overnight.

From Monday 17th to Sunday 23rd May 2021, National Volunteer Week will celebrate the significant contribution of Australia’s almost six million volunteers. Each year these volunteers dedicate over 600 million hours to help others.

Orange Sky is one such organisation powered by volunteers to deliver our services across the country. Thanks to the support of our volunteers, we’ve provided friends doing it tough with 1.7 million kilograms of laundry and over 250, 000 hours of engaging and meaningful conversation since launching with just one van, and two volunteers, in 2014.

Daniel Glaubert, who heads up our national volunteer program, has seen first-hand the direct impact of volunteers across the community. He says National Volunteer Week is not only a chance to celebrate the work of volunteers, but an opportunity to reflect on a particularly challenging year with the pandemic.

“Recent events have reminded us of the importance of our volunteers and their contribution to our work. In March 2020, the pandemic saw us pause our operations where we went from 1,800 to zero volunteers overnight. We’re really celebrating our volunteers more than ever this year as we have worked tirelessly to build back up,” he said.

“Our volunteers have been and will remain an integral part of our work- before and after the pandemic. Volunteers provide us with the kind of things we can’t put a dollar figure on; positively connecting communities.

“This year more than ever we say thank you- there’s no way that I could possibly put into words the difference those people are making across our community. On behalf of Orange Sky, and all of the Friends who utilise the service, thank you to each and every one of you. You are so very special, valued, and the difference you are making coming out on shift could never be measured.”

Orange Sky is currently recruiting for new volunteers in some priority regions for our services across Australia. Your support will enable us to run our current services at their full capacity, increasing the amount of shifts we can offer in each community. We are reaching out to people with an interest in supporting our cause in the following locations:

  • Geelong, VIC
  • Melbourne, VIC
  • Cairns, QLD
  • Northern Rivers, NSW
  • Central Coast, NSW
  • Darwin, NT
  • Hobart, TAS
  • Adelaide, SA  

You can find out more about how to volunteer here.

Help to positively connect your community.

Volunteer Now

A Different Kind Of Celebration

Orange Sky on the Sunshine Coast recently celebrated its fourth birthday, but we did not celebrate.

As a team of 70 volunteers, we are not able to serve and connect with our friends due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It is devastating for everyone, especially for the most vulnerable members of our community.

All the volunteers are missing our connection to our friends at this time, especially when we feel we are most needed.

We all miss the connection and being able to check in on our friends. After four years on the Sunshine Coast, our volunteers have connected with friends in lots of ways we didn’t realise we could. But we are also missing the connection that our friends in the community give us, in accepting us for no other reason than they like the connection as well.

We are missing attending shift and putting out the six orange chairs that is Orange Sky’s symbol of ‘come have a seat and a chat, all welcome,’ but we are also missing the banter, jokes and clever conversions that happen on shift.

We are missing the connection of knowing our friends are safe; some of our friends do not have the choice of staying at home in comfort, we worry about them as some already have health issues. We also worry about the amazing service providers and whether they are able to continue to provide take away meals to our friends.

We worry because a lot of the places they normally spend their time have closed – are they staying dry, cool, warm and safe from the elements?

We are not sure how long it will be before we are able to go back on shift, but I can assure you we will get back our there at the first chance we have. We will all have the biggest smiles on our faces when we do reconnect with our friends – and then we will celebrate.

Lesley is Orange Sky’s volunteer Service Leader on the Sunshine Coast and does an amazing job of coordinating more than 70 volunteers across 10 shifts every week. Over the past four years, volunteers have provided more than 9,800 loads of washing, 14,700 hours of genuine and non-judgemental conversation and 1,329 shifts between Caboolture and Noosa.

Support volunteers to continue connection with friends doing it tough

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