What we plan to do with $1 million…

Four years ago, Orange Sky co-founder Nicholas Marchesi put two red p plates on an orange van and picked up his best mate, Lucas Patchett, in Brisbane. Charged with a brand new van with two washers and two dryers, they were en route to Melbourne to help people doing it tough. This was the second van they had built and the first heading outside the safe confines of Brisbane. 

Launch day was a great success but there was one massive challenge – they had no tool to recruit, roster, measure or protect volunteers, donors, and most importantly friends.
Twenty-seven vans, 11,000 volunteer applications, 40,000 shifts, 3,000 incident reports and 850 tonnes of washing later, Orange Sky has designed a web app to help us deliver our mission to Positively Connect Communities. It allows us to track the number of washes, showers and hours of conversation we provide for our friends. The app also supports our volunteers by reporting any safety incidents and ensuring our vans are on the road every day. 

The $1 million from Google has given us the opportunity to grow our web app and provide the entire sector with the same technology that drives Orange Sky. There is so much to do, but with this support, we know that we can scale our technology to make a massive difference for people doing it tough all over Australia.
Tonight in Australia, 116,000 people are experiencing homelessness and over 3,000 service providers are trying to help. Orange Sky has connected 17,000 people but working together, as a sector, we could help thousands more. 

‘Orange Sky Connect’ will enable charities and community groups to record and track their mobile outreach service delivery. The web-based solution will empower these charities who provide essential services including food, health, hygiene, and housing to measure the impact of those services on people in need. This will be the first and only centralised solution that accurately and consistently tracks and measures homelessness service delivery and impact.
 Stay tuned for regular updates and walk with us as we progress towards this amazing opportunity for the Australian not for profit sector.

Help to positively connect some of the 116,000 Australians doing it tough.

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Annual Report Test

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Big Ben Blog

There’s a lot to love about George.

He is passionate about his community, always up for a chat, and never fails to put a smile on your face.

It’s no surprise that when he heard that an Orange Sky van was headed for his local area in Perth South, he was the first in line to know about it.

“I thought, ‘this is going to be interesting. I’d like to see how the van is set up’,’’ he said.

He decided to bring some washing down to our first shift at Rockingham to have a chat with volunteers and learn more about the service. Since that initial visit, he is now one of our most regular faces on shift – sometimes he comes to do his laundry, other times for a hot shower, but always for the conversation.

“I quite look forward to it every week, simply because I know you guys are going to be here. I can rely on you,’’ he said.

“It’s things like this that enable me to do the right thing. I don’t have to worry about trying to get some money together just to wash my clothes. Community is really important, I like to look after the community and the people in it.’’

George has spent the past eight years living on and off the street and said it was the simple things that often had the biggest impact.

“When you’ve been homeless for such a long time, it’s the small things that can give you a little bit more hope,’’ he said.

“I won’t go looking for a job if I stink and my clothes are dirty, but if I’ve got nice clean clothes and I smell nice and someone wants to talk to me about having a look at a job, I’ll definitely be in it.

“I can come down [to shift] and start talking about fishing, camping, whatever and you guys are always a good laugh and join in. You throw your stories in and have a good laugh,” he said.

“It just alleviates a lot of pressure out of people’s lives and that can really help people.”

When George reflects on all of his conversations with volunteers, it was one from his first ever visit to Orange Sky that comes to mind

“So that little sort of scenario can set up other scenarios that will help better my life, and if it betters my life, how many other lives can it better?”

He admitted that while it was easy to become withdrawn from the community, the weekly conversation and banter with Orange Sky volunteers helped him to feel connected.

“I told her a little bit about where I was from up North and it was quite interesting, we just sat there talking like old friends for a good hour and a half while the washing was getting through. It was great, I really enjoyed it. It was fantastic to see that some people like to share themselves as much as I do.’’

It’s our privilege to be able to wash George’s clothes and offer him a hot shower each and every week, but an even bigger honour to enjoy his conversation and have him as a part of the Orange Sky community.

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Keith's Passion for Connection

We met Keith on a cold winter morning in Fitzroy where he told us about a “fella in a wheelchair” that he once met on his way to the shops. The man had a sign resting on the floor asking for donations and was also unable to speak. Keith didn’t have money to offer him, but said “good day” to him in sign language (it was one of the few words Keith could remember in sign language – along with all the vowels).

“It just rung with him and he looked like a different fellow altogether because I’d said good day to him. He was really miserable before that,” Keith said.

It was clear to us to that Keith understood the power of connection and the value of a simple conversation to a person experiencing homelessness. He has first hand experience living many years on the streets of Melbourne feeling disconnected from the community.

“I had my own house once and things happened. I got assaulted on the street and it took me two years before I could walk straight again,” he said.

“I lived in parks and things like that but I didn’t stay in the same place every night, I kept on moving around the suburbs. Once I got used to living in that way, it became a way of life. And then the St Vincent’s Hospital [in Melbourne] found out how I was living and they found me a room to live in. It was a great help.”

Being part of a community is important to Keith. He came to Australia from Manchester in 1956 for the Olympic Games, and said he felt “at home” in Melbourne where the architecture was similar to Manchester.

Keith visits the Orange Sky laundry and shower van in Melbourne each week and said that everyone deserves a feeling of connection to the community.
“Since I’ve been in the Fitzroy area, I’ve seen lots of people sitting in doorways late at night, and most people just walk past them and give them a dirty look,” he said.
“I’ve found them to be very interesting people. Many of them have had a really good education, and they’ve had a rough trot in life and have hit the bottom.
“They’re on guard because they’ve had bad experiences, but just by saying hello and giving them a smile and a little chat, their personality comes out that is hidden.”

Keith said he hoped for more understanding across the community for people in tough situations.

“There’s a big gap between people that are right at the bottom end and people that have everything,” he said.

“When you’ve got everything you want and you want more, you’ll have more than you need and you’ll lose sight of other people that are struggling.

“Communication between everyone in the world is a very important thing.”

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Not Just a Shower

“Hi, my name is Pete and it was 18 days since I last had a shower. I live in the middle of a lake and the dirt out there is pretty thick…it’s going to take a few more showers to get that dirt off. I am glad you will be here next week as well.

I have been living at out Lake Richmond now for the last 18 days and I have been homeless on and off for about five or six years. A lot of people couldn’t live how I do. It is a hard life and what makes it even harder is the fact that my partner passed away out there four years ago. Even though that happened, I find it very safe to live there.

I have a daughter, a mother and a sister in Perth but I don’t see them much. They are all upper-class people and when I hit the streets they disowned me…they didn’t want to know me. One of the reasons for this was that I was a bad heroin user. But…I am proud to say that I haven’t used the drug for four years now…when my partner passed away it was a massive wake up call.

I don’t really mix much with anyone. Nearly everyone in the community have no idea about homelessness, they just look down on us. It’s as if we are not part of their community because we don’t live like they do. I feel like no one wants to help us because we will just go and buy drugs or make bad decisions. Not many people want to sit down and hear my story and actually empathise with what got me into this situation.

I first heard about Orange Sky about five or six months ago now. I met you at the Salvation Army and I thought it was a good idea, you don’t get many people supporting the simple things like washing clothes and having showers.

As soon as I spoke with Lisa (Service Manager), I knew I could communicate with her. I don’t connect with many people in the community but there was something about the way she spoke to me that made me at ease. I am a very stubborn person but I was able to have a very normal and easy conversation.

I come here every Friday now and love the idea that I can have a shower and have a chat. It’s ten times as good as any shower I have had in the last five years. I feel like a new man, it’s very good that you have come along.”

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Dot's Impact

That’s Dot O’Neill, she’s 76 years old and has been volunteering at Transit in Narre Warren for more than seven years.

Dot told us about her experience as a volunteer in Melbourne’s South East and said it was an opportunity to give back to the community.

“We’ve got a bit of everything – pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, noodles, baby food, canned food, jams, Vegemite. Whatever we’ve got, we give out,” she said.

“You get a lot out of it yourself… it’s something really special.”

Transit provides people in need with access to hot meals and groceries, but Dot said there’s another part of the service that is equally important.

“Some of [our guests] actually live on their own and just come here for companionship,” she said.

“Someone came in the other day and said ‘I pick up [groceries] not because I necessarily need it but because I need to get here and talk to people.’

“The atmosphere here is amazing. If you’re here for a while, you’ll see that we’ve got a team of volunteers that come in and give of themselves and at the moment, we’ve just got this lovely, friendly atmosphere.”

Dot said she felt part of a community at Transit and valued the opportunity to connect with people doing it tough.

“A lot of these people you get to know really personally. You sometimes hear the story of their life and you just feel that love for them,” she said.

“Having a mother come in here with her daughter and say to me ‘I’ve given food to my daughter but I haven’t been able to eat for a few days because I’ve just had absolutely nothing,’ that’s not an uncommon story.

“One woman had been moved from place to place and she had absolutely nothing. Just recently, she got a home and it’s just a real blessing to here.

“These are the sort of stories that really mean so much to us.”

Orange Sky operates at Transit in Narre Warren every Monday afternoon. Visit our volunteer page to find out more and register to get involved.

Orange Sky operates at Transit in Narre Warren every Monday afternoon.
Visit our volunteer page to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


Meet George

There’s a lot to love about George.

He is passionate about his community, always up for a chat, and never fails to put a smile on your face.

It’s no surprise that when he heard that an Orange Sky van was headed for his local area in Perth South, he was the first in line to know about it.

“I thought, ‘this is going to be interesting. I’d like to see how the van is set up’,’’ he said.

He decided to bring some washing down to our first shift at Rockingham to have a chat with volunteers and learn more about the service. Since that initial visit, he is now one of our most regular faces on shift – sometimes he comes to do his laundry, other times for a hot shower, but always for the conversation.

“I quite look forward to it every week, simply because I know you guys are going to be here. I can rely on you,’’ he said.

“It’s things like this that enable me to do the right thing. I don’t have to worry about trying to get some money together just to wash my clothes. Community is really important, I like to look after the community and the people in it.’’

George has spent the past eight years living on and off the street and said it was the simple things that often had the biggest impact.

“When you’ve been homeless for such a long time, it’s the small things that can give you a little bit more hope,’’ he said.

“I won’t go looking for a job if I stink and my clothes are dirty, but if I’ve got nice clean clothes and I smell nice and someone wants to talk to me about having a look at a job, I’ll definitely be in it.

“I can come down [to shift] and start talking about fishing, camping, whatever and you guys are always a good laugh and join in. You throw your stories in and have a good laugh,” he said.

“It just alleviates a lot of pressure out of people’s lives and that can really help people.”

When George reflects on all of his conversations with volunteers, it was one from his first ever visit to Orange Sky that comes to mind

“So that little sort of scenario can set up other scenarios that will help better my life, and if it betters my life, how many other lives can it better?”

He admitted that while it was easy to become withdrawn from the community, the weekly conversation and banter with Orange Sky volunteers helped him to feel connected.

“I told her a little bit about where I was from up North and it was quite interesting, we just sat there talking like old friends for a good hour and a half while the washing was getting through. It was great, I really enjoyed it. It was fantastic to see that some people like to share themselves as much as I do.’’

It’s our privilege to be able to wash George’s clothes and offer him a hot shower each and every week, but an even bigger honour to enjoy his conversation and have him as a part of the Orange Sky community.

Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page  to find out more and register to get involved.

Volunteer Now


The Streets Barber meets Orange Sky

He takes to the streets with a pair of scissors and eagerness to hear the stories and experiences of others. His name is Nasir Sobhani, but you might know him as ‘The Streets Barber’. He has an Instagram following of around 91,000 people and we were lucky enough to – literally – run into him on the streets of Geelong while we were in town launching our van ‘Bluey’. After a quick chat, we’d lined up our co-founder Lucas to receive his first ever cut throat shave.
We arrived at Nasir’s studio the following day and Lucas was ready to be clean-shaven for first time since he was 18. Nasir prepared the room and we were able to capture everything on film. It was amazing to hear the philosophy behind his passion for providing haircuts to people experiencing homelessness and the connections with Orange Sky’s free laundry and shower service.

“I have something that can actually make someone feel really really happy. I feel like it’s my duty to give back to humanity,” Nasir explained.
The two talked about the power of storytelling and why it is important to share people’s experiences with the community. Everyone has a story and everyone has different reasons for being in a particular situation in their life. The services that are provided by the Streets Barber and Orange Sky are only a small part of our stories. It is the power of connection and conversation that comes about by engaging with someone in a genuine and non-judgemental way.

As Nasir finished Lucas’ shave, it became clear that this was only the start of an amazing relationship with the Streets Barber in Geelong. It’s just another way that Orange Sky is positively connecting communities through strong partnerships and connected services for our friends on the street.
Check out the full video below.


Life, Art and Community

“I love showing people my art. Not many people use the colours I do, to me it’s like fire in me… when I paint it’s like fire,” he said.
Gerard, or G-Burger as we affectionately call him, has been part of Orange Sky since day one. His paintings adorn the walls of the office, and his presence within the Orange Sky community is always a familiar one. For as long as we’ve known him, art has been at the centre of his world – but it hasn’t always played a leading role.
G-Burger’s life has been a nomadic one, characterised by an array of jobs, colourful experiences and extensive travel across the country (he once walked 400km from Sarina to Townsville). His time spent living on the street and his sense of belonging to country provide him with a connection to the land that most of us could not comprehend. At many points in his life, the absence of a place to call home was an escape and – despite its unpredictability – provided a sense of routine. It also led him to discover his passion for art.
“I’d get up at 4am and walk into the city, catch the coffee van, then I’d wash my clothes and have a sleep in the park with the possums… I’d go up to Sandgate every Saturday because I liked the beach; I felt free,’’ he said.
“One day I just happened to go into a church where people were painting and I was invited to join in. I’d never even thought about painting before. The first thing I painted was a crocodile. After that I never looked back – I did my first exhibition in 2008 with just five paintings.’’
G-Burger’s vibrant paintings are reflective of his rich Aboriginal heritage, and with each brush stroke, he reminds us of the power of community and connections.
“I’m really proud as an Aboriginal person, as an Aboriginal Elder, as an Aboriginal community leader. I’m proud of my paintings, I’m proud of my people, I’m proud of my country and I’m proud of Orange Sky.”


The Power of Connection

Thomas is a friend from Canberra , who candidly opened up to us about his experience with homelessness, drug use and how he managed to find his feet again.
“A connection can be that first step to a new start. It can give you a bit of dignity and a bit of pride to go on so you’re not down there feeling like a piece of crap. You need to have connections to at least get a foot up so you can start rebuilding your life.