What the past 12 months taught us about connection

The world has changed a lot in the last 12 months. For me personally, it’s been a reminder of how the important things in life, like human connection, can be taken away from us in a blink of an eye. But for our friends, that’s a reality every day.

I always get a little overwhelmed through such a poignant period like the holidays to make sure I form those really special connections in my own life. I feel very grateful that I have the opportunity to connect with my friends and family over this time, but what I’m always reminded of is that you don’t need a season or a special day to do that.

Conversations happen every day of the year on our six orange chairs, and we want to make sure we can continue that over the holidays by providing 1,400 shifts. What that means is over 1,400 opportunities for people from all walks of life to come together and connect. Whether that be an opportunity for a friend who might be doing it tough over the holidays to have a conversation, or a volunteer who is potentially lonely or isolated being able to connect with a friend; behind every one of those shifts is a really unique story and a really unique connection.

One of the toughest decisions we’ve had to make since starting Orange Sky was the decision to pause our shifts at the beginning of the pandemic. In our origin story, we talk about breaking a few sets of washing machines and letting our first ever friend, Jordan, down. Throughout 2020, there’s been people that Orange Sky hasn’t been able to help, and that’s been a really difficult thing for us to grapple with. We hope through our efforts and through our community, we can continue to show up and provide as many services as we can for people who need it.

What we’re looking at in the next couple of months is actually operating at a level higher than we were before COVID-19. That’s something that I’m really proud of. Being out on shift is really important to me, having conversations is really important to me and connecting with those amazing people who support Orange Sky is important to me.

Every day, I’m incredibly proud of the people who support Orange Sky – particularly our volunteers, who have put their own lives on hold this year to ensure that our friends have access to the services they need. From myself and from the whole team, we just want to say a massive thank you for continuing to show up over the holiday period and helping us deliver every one of those 1,400 shifts. We hope that at whatever point you have connected with Orange Sky, you know that your service has had a massive impact.

Last year, we could never have predicted or expected what has happened in the last 12 months. What gives me confidence is that the community has really rallied around each other during this time and found a way to get through it together. Although we’re still unsure what 2021 has in store for us, services like Orange Sky can hopefully make the world a better place.

Help Orange Sky provide 1,400 shifts these holidays by making a donation today. 

Support our friends

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Giving & Good Deeds with Biome

We know that certain times of the year, like the holiday period, can be harder than usual for our friends on the street. Someone looking to make those times a little easier is Tracey Bailey, founder of Biome Eco Stores. Tracey has worked extremely hard to empower people to make more earth-conscious choices. We sat down with her to find out why giving is important to her and how she connected with Orange Sky.

1. Tell us a little about the Biome story?

I launched Biome in 2003 as an online store to help people live with less waste, less toxins and to make choices that matched their values such as cruelty free and palm oil free.  Biome was Australia’s first online eco lifestyle store, and one of the few in the wider-world.

Two years later we opened our first physical store in Paddington, Brisbane and now have four more stores located in Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, Balmoral, Gold Coast and Melbourne.

Biome has led the way for many years introducing and championing sustainable living. Biome was the first retailer in Australia to sell KeepCups and champion reusable water bottles, has never offered plastic shopping bags to customers, and recently, was the first Australian retailer to receive B Corp certification and the world’s first Palm Oil Investigations certified retailer for being 100% palm oil free.

The mission of Biome has always been to be part of the solution to the world’s environmental problems. Rather than despairing about what is going wrong in our world, we can all feel empowered and positive about the contribution we make to the planet each day.

2. Why is giving important to you?

Giving is one of the many reasons I started Biome.  By giving to people less fortunate, you positively impact their lives and in doing so, you improve your own life by living in a way that is true to your values and ethical beliefs.

Having the power to improve the lives of others is a true privilege. Giving not only makes the world a better place, it also inspires others to give. We all can perpetuate the cycle of giving and by broadening our influence we extend our positive impact.

3. Tell us about 12 Days of Good Deeds and Good Deals?

12 Days of Good Deeds and Good Deals is a campaign we run every year at Christmas to highlight the importance of charitable giving during this time. This is a small way Biome gives back by promoting non-profit organisations whom we admire throughout the year.

For 12 days, we share with our community 12 charitable good deeds they can support. Each good deed is accompanied by a good deal from Biome.

Over the years we’ve supported many wonderful organisations including the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation, QLD Koala Crusaders, Rainforest Rescue, Share the Dignity, Australian Conservation Foundation, WaterAid, The Orangutan Foundation and of course, Orange Sky.

4. Why did you choose Orange Sky as one of the 12 Days charities?

We chose to support Orange Sky as we not only admire their laundry and shower service, but more importantly, the community connection they provide for people in need.  Christmas is a time for giving and we wanted to share with our community the opportunity to give back to someone who might not receive a gift or have a family to be with during this time. The gift of clean laundry, a warm shower and – most importantly – genuine conversation for $24 is an affordable gift that makes a big difference to someone in need.

We were honoured to be chosen as one of the 12 Days of Good Deeds and Good Deals charity partners. We love that Tracey uses her business to connect her customers to people in need. If you’d like to find out more about Biome, you can check them out here.

You can continue to grow Tracey’s gift on connection these holidays by supporting our friends with clean laundry, warm showers  and genuine conversation. 

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Holidays, Connection & Our Six Orange Chairs

Every year as December rolls around, I always feel this really interesting dichotomy between what is going on in the world and what is happening on our orange chairs. On one hand, people are making plans, connecting with their families and looking ahead to the new year; then on the other side, there are service providers closing down for the holidays and friends who are disconnected from all of the things above.

Although Orange Sky is still in the rebound and rebuild phase after COVID-19, we’re about to break our record for the total number of shifts delivered in a month. This is a testament to our incredible volunteers and our amazing team leading this, however it also tells us that there’s more we can be doing in the communities we already operate in to support people doing it tough.

The holiday period is a time when more and more people want to volunteer and find ways to support their community, whereas for our friends, it’s sometimes an even more challenging time than normal. I think for some people, it can be a big reminder about the connection that they don’t have with their community or family, it isn’t always a celebration of having family and support around you; it can be a matter of just getting through the days.

What an orange chair represents for me, and I think for our volunteers and friends as well, is really a sense of normality. It’s a sense of when you’re sitting there, you’re having a yarn with someone, you’re talking to a volunteer, you’re talking to someone else who might be in a similar situation to where you are, but it’s a place of no judgment. It’s a place to just have a normal chat. So whether that’s Christmas Day, New Year’s day, or in the middle of June, it doesn’t really matter. I think what we all want is to be a part of something; to be part of a community and to have that sense of normality.

This will be the sixth year that some of my family and I have headed out on shift on Christmas Day. I have a relatively small immediate family and we don’t have massive get-togethers or anything like that, so it’s been really cool incorporating Orange Sky – which is such a big part of my life – as part of our holiday traditions.

Our Christmas Day shift will be one of the 1,000 that we hope to run over the holidays to support our friends, like Crystal, and lay the foundation for an even bigger 2021. $300,000 is the magic number, and thanks to support from the Flannery Foundation and another anonymous donor, any donations we receive from the community over the holidays will be matched dollar for dollar.

To all of our friends; I hope we can do our best to support you through this time and ensure an orange chair is there for a chat whenever you need it.

To all of our volunteers and team; a massive thanks for sticking with us (or joining us) in 2020. It’s been a challenging year, and I can’t wait for us to create an even greater impact together in 2021.

Finally, to our community, thank you for your help to make all of this happen. We’re so grateful for your support of our mission to positively connect communities, and if you’re able to make a donation these holidays, you’ll be providing double the impact for our friends doing it tough.

Can you help make sure an orange chair is there to support our friends these holidays?

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Make a difference, if you're "bothered"

I’ve been volunteering with Orange Sky for four years, since they started on the Sunshine Coast.

I’ve always realised that there’s a very fine line between any one of us and homelessness, but I wasn’t aware of how many people and the demographic. We meet women who are in domestic violence [situations], as Orange Sky does everywhere. We meet people who are camping in their cars, women who keep having to move their cars because it’s unsafe for them to be parked in places, and people who are doing it tough and living in flats where they have very little comfort.

It’s been a big learning curve for me in lots of ways, but I love it. I love it because it’s something that every person deserves. Basic conversation and connection between people and having clean clothes; that should not be something that people don’t have.

I think at its very base level, Orange Sky makes a difference. It’s a difference to the way someone feels about themselves. It’s a difference to someone – like one of our friends – saying, “you’re my family.” And when you speak to our friends, all they want is someone to treat them like a fellow human being. There’s an old saying, ‘be bothered.’ I think ‘be bothered’ everyone, be bothered to say g’day and to not step over someone.

With Orange Sky, I think it’s so true – the positive connections that people form. [Friends] don’t want to be bogged down; some of them like to share their problems, but a lot of them, they just want to be happy. They want to be around happy people. They want to share a joke. And I’ve learned so much… every shift I go home and I say to my husband, “Hey hun, do you know that just…”. Everything’s a learning thing, so I think we can learn from each other.

I teach 11, 12 year olds and they are really interested. They want to know the stories about what sort of people I meet on shift. I don’t share lots of personal stuff obviously, but kids want to know things and I think we have a responsibility as adults to teach our children that there are people from every walk of life who have circumstances that change their direction somewhat.

We’ve had lots of success stories here at Orange Sky. We’ve had people go on to get married. We’ve had people go and find jobs. We’ve had people who find their way and then move on and that’s a lovely thing. You can make a difference, if you’re bothered.

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

Help us make sure an orange chair is there to support our friends these holidays. 

Donate Now

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

One Year on the Orange Sky Board

It’s been 12 months since Andrew Fraser joined Orange Sky Australia as Chair of the Board, and he’s helped steer the ship during the most challenging year in Orange Sky’s history. Andrew is a former Deputy Premier of Queensland and was previously an executive at the National Rugby League. He has since taken on a number of board and advisory positions including the Chair of Sunsuper and Motorsport Australia, advisory board member at Ernst & Young, and board roles at the New Zealand Rugby League, BESIX Watpac, 3rd Space and Hear and Say. Over the past year, he’s worked closely with Nic and Lucas to ensure Orange Sky’s sustainability and resilience as we work together to set Orange Sky up for long term success.

“When stepping into my role as Chair of the Orange Sky Board in November 2019, the success of the organisation was obvious; growth, commitment to the mission, innovation and a culture that is its best asset. 

Orange Sky is now an organisation that engages with people from all walks of life who are connected and committed to our purpose. We’ve got an obligation to stakeholders, starting with the people who rely on us, to continue to deliver our service when times are tough. That’s about building resilience, particularly from a financial perspective… but I very much see my role here as not interfering with the ‘secret sauce’.

Having more mature governance processes doesn’t mean suffocating the original entrepreneurialism, innovation and agility that has defined Orange Sky. It means we need to be calculated about the risks we take and have a view about long-term sustainability, but it also means we should absolutely keep front and centre how we got here in the first place.

What’s being built here by the Orange Sky team is a really different proposition to how it originally began in a garage six years ago. The maturity of a governance system has got to match the maturity of the organisation, and Orange Sky today is a different beast to Sudsy, and Nic and Lucas with two washing machines in 2014. Everything needs to evolve and mature, and that’s the same with the board structure.

As Director and Chair of the Board, my role is to make sure that, as an organisation, we’ve got the systems and strategy in place to ensure that Orange Sky can keep doing what it’s doing and evolve.

Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic changed our world and we were confronted with a real-life drill on the organisation’s resilience. We are far from the end of this pandemic, and even further away from dealing with its many consequences, but for Orange Sky – we know that we will be part of the solution. The team responded with agility; problem-solving, re-designing and re-imagining the way we operate from the ground up. It was distressing to make the call to pause our services, but heartening to see how quickly we re-established them again.

When you’re asking people to pledge their money or provide their own resources towards a charitable effort, you need to give them the comfort that the effort they’re making is going to be directed to what it says on the tin. And what I mean by that is we’ve got to deliver on that trust and ensure that if people give money to support this organisation, it’s going to go and do good things.

I think as the donor market becomes more exacting and demanding, people have an expectation or a desire to see how an organisation is structured, how it’s run, how it’s going to ensure that their money is being applied in a way that they expect. And so it’s really a community expectation now, and I think as time rolls on, that expectation is only going to increase.

There’s thousands of charities out there who are all well-intentioned and at various levels of capability. The distinct proposition for Orange Sky, I think, is that it approaches its task in a way that is innovative and agile, and seeks to keep the people who it serves at the forefront. And when you have that singularity of purpose, that’s when you can truly achieve great things. When organisations become organisations for the sake of themselves, then you can lose the focus. I think the focus here remains the same and that’s why you’ll still see Nic and Lucas, and the Board members out on shift. The job isn’t to sit inside the boardroom. The job is to actually live the values of the organisation.

Orange Sky is a people business. We need to think about everyone who’s a part of the organisation and keep that at the forefront of our understanding; that’s the single biggest asset that we have.”

Andrew celebrates one year on the Orange Sky Board alongside Non-Executive Directors, Paula Holden and Sommer Davies. You can learn more about Orange Sky’s Board of Directors here

Want to know more about Orange Sky’s Board of Directors?

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Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Community Recovery Support

“We’ve seen big fires but we’ve never really seen fires this big and this fast before.”

This is what my new friend, Macka, told me when I asked how the recent fires in East Gippsland compared to previous fire seasons. Macka has spent the last 30 years of his life fighting fires, both as a volunteer and a professional. He currently volunteers at the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Johnsonville.
When I asked what motivates him to run towards a fire, when everyone else is running the away, he shrugs and says, “It’s just the Aussie way to get in and help someone else out”.

That sentiment was something we saw over and over again on our trip. We visited communities all the way from Bairnsdale to Mallacoota. At every stop along the way, we were welcomed with open arms. Communities that had lost so much couldn’t wait to share cups of tea and swap stories.

Seeing the devastation firsthand was something else. Driving through whole areas of charred forest, passing blackened road signs and driveways with no houses left at the end of them was confronting to say the least. I expected to see grief, loss and mourning but I really didn’t expect to see so much hope, happiness and camaraderie. I didn’t expect to listen to stories that made me laugh followed by stories that made me cry. I didn’t expect to meet people that would have such an impact on the way I thought about my life, and what I can contribute to others.

I think that Louise, who is a former mental health nurse and the wife of the CFA Ensay Captain, summed it up beautifully.

She told me that, “All of our communities are strong but quite isolated in a lot of ways. It’s opened up a dialogue about mental health and started a lot of conversations. Communities have really been able to pull together through this.”

At Orange Sky, we always say that the most important part of what we do isn’t providing clean clothes and warm showers, it’s the six orange chairs we bring to every shift. People can sit down, be part of a non-judgemental conversation and connect. The people we met on our community recovery trip were so grateful for the small gesture of clean uniforms, but they were far more grateful for the chance to share their experiences.

We travelled over 3,000 kilometres. We visited more than 15 communities and washed 50 loads of laundry. I think that the most important part of this trip wasn’t kilometres travelled, loads washed or shifts completed. It was something that can’t be measured with metrics; connection.

Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Eddie's Story

It's birthday week for Orange Sky Australia and New Zealand so who better to yarn with than, the living legend, Eddie Uini who is the brains, the brawn and the heart of Orange Sky New Zealand. Every time Eddie speaks to the Orange Sky Australia team there is not a dry eye in the house. We hope you enjoy his reflection as much as us.

I first found out about Orange Sky when I was living in an apartment in Melbourne. I had recently moved in with two of my friends and they had similar passions for supporting people that were doing it tough. Without much of a plan, we found ourselves walking around the city at night in with the hope of finding people that we could help in some way.

We met some really cool people on our walk and just as we were about to call it a night we noticed a couple of tents set up under the bridge. We walked over to see if we could say hello and were greeted with open arms.

We had only been chatting a few minutes when they invited us to come along to a regular food service nearby. The first thing I noticed when I got there was a bright orange van. There were two people in front of it with orange shirts on and I had no idea what they were doing. My housemates went inside while I stayed behind to chat with the guys ‘orange shirt people’. They explained how they provide free laundry and it was clear that they had a passion for giving people a place to chill and have a genuine conversation. It was the first time I had seen anything like it really struck a chord with me. As much as I loved the idea of Orange Sky, I ended up volunteering at a night shelter instead…but it wasn’t to be the end of my story with Orange Sky.

I’ve know Nic and Lucas for almost three years now. The best way that I can explain our connection is that we are three opposite sides of a triangle in terms of personality. But, at the center is a common purpose and passion to help positively connect communities.

Nic is the explorer – I’m amazed daily by his constant ideas and creativity. I have no idea how he is able to cram so much activity into a single day.

Lucas is the anchor – he brings everyone who believes in this vision together. I could never thank him enough for all the work he puts in behind the scenes. He provides the security that ensures everyone has the chance to continue our work supporting our friends long into the future.

Me? – Well, I am the passion. My life revolves around supporting people. Orange Sky has provided me with the tools and resources to make this happen. Every day I get the chance to build a positive connection with someone that might be struggling and build a community of volunteers that can make it scale to hundreds and thousands of conversations every day around New Zealand.

I will never forget Hugo’s (our van) first was with our friend Mike in Onehunga. There had been so much work behind the scenes to get Hugo on the road but, in the blink of an eye, we had made an impact on one person’s life. Mike was so excited to wash his clothes, have a shower and, most importantly, have a genuine chat with people that were passionate about scaling this to as many people as possible across New Zealand. Every wash is important but, as I’m sure all our volunteers can attest, you never forget your first wash!

As a team we have accomplished a lot in two years, but, all I can really think about is all of the friends I have made along the way. I now know the impact a wash or shower can have on someone’s day but it’s always been the connections and conversations that have kept me coming back. I’ve shared heart breaks just as often as I have shared victories. Everyone who has thrown washing in one of our machines and sat down for a chat are not just a nameless face. They are genuine friends that I have now come to know and appreciate.

Our growth has been steady and our mission remains the same. I’m sure we are not alone in the challenges that 2020 has brought us and we are learning to adapt and continue to safely provide our service during these difficult times.

There are still too many people in New Zealand that don’t have access to a hot shower or clean clothes. My dream is a New Zealand where everyone that is doing it tough and has access to a washing machine or shower in the form of a bright orange van.

I am proud of the efforts of Orange Sky New Zealand and know that we will continue to adapt our service to fit the needs of our Kiwis doing it tough. Sometimes I get emails from people in random countries around the world asking about this crazy idea. It is obvious we have something important to offer and I can’t wait to see where we can end up!

Volunteer Today

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Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

My Experience as an Orange Sky Intern

My time so far as an Orange Sky intern has been one of the most rewarding experiences, both personally and professionally. After hearing about Orange Sky through a family friend, I was immediately intrigued by the organisation and their focus on creating a more inclusive community while supporting those doing it tough. I knew I wanted to get involved with Orange Sky and gain experience in this area – what I didn’t realise at the time is that it would take seven months to come to fruition.

After meeting with Orange Sky’s Chief Operations Officer, Mike Duggan in February, we developed a project and planned for me to start an internship. Unfortunately, like most things in 2020, it was put on hold due to COVID-19. In June, I emailed again with hopes to get things moving, but this time doing it alongside an internship subject for my final semester of my dual Social Science and Political Science degree. With a skill-based volunteering stream project needing to be explored, I began my internship in August (finally!).

Most of my time in the office has consisted of meeting the team and understanding how the organisation operates, working on the project, and continuing with my university research project. While I have learnt so much from my time at Orange Sky, I want to share the five major lessons I will take away from this experience.

1. No two days are the same, so being flexible is vital.
Orange Sky’s environment is certainly vibrant, and every team and employee works on an array of tasks. A revolving door of meetings, reports, presentations and communication with stakeholders creates a fast-paced and ever-changing environment. My methodical approach to uni – where I could plan out the progression of assessment – was turned on its head upon starting. I realise this is not limited to Orange Sky and is common in any job, so learning how to be adaptive but staying on top of tasks is highly beneficial.

2. It’s okay not to know the answer, so long as you know where to go to try and find it.
With many employees saying it took them months to find their feet at the organisation, my 12-week internship became slightly more daunting as it dawned on me that I would need to understand a lot in a short space of time. However, I soon realised the only way to feel comfortable and confident during my internship was to ask questions. I think most people in the office now have seen my head pop up as I start a conversation with “hey, I’ve got a quick question for you!”

3. Nothing, including almost four years of study, compares to real-life experience.
My answer to the question “Do you enjoy your degree?” has always been the same. “I love it, but it lacks real life experience”. My understanding of community development and non-profits stems from literature, theory and whatever teachings my university lecturers thought was necessary for us to know.  However, upon starting my internship with Orange Sky, I soon realised how different theory and practice were, and how important real-life experience in your area of study is. My degree has helped me grow confidence in my researching and communication skills, but after just three weeks at Orange Sky, I already felt like I was building on transferable professional skills that I could use throughout my career.

4. Passion can be discovered.
During my project that focused on volunteering, I was unsure whether I would genuinely enjoy this research topic for the three months. However, after initial meetings with the Operations team and independent research, I quickly became quite passionate about this space. I continually wanted to explore more about how we could create the most positive environment for volunteers to ensure services are delivered to the best of their ability. I feel more confident now that I can find interest in topics I might have otherwise dismissed and make the most of opportunities that come my way.

5. When in doubt, remember the underlying goal of what you are doing.
As I tried to understand what decisions were necessary to make during my project, I quickly adapted the mindset of keeping Orange Sky’s mission, positively connecting communities, as my guiding light.
It’s simple, yet significant (and one that I feel passionate about myself) – so asking myself “How are my decisions contributing to this mission?” helped me when I was in doubt. For any task that might otherwise seem mundane, I found greater meaning and was determined to work hard because I knew it was contributing to something much larger and more meaningful.

For four years, I have learnt from textbooks about community development, about theories and theorists, and models of best practice when it comes to development. Yet for the entirety of my degree, I had no certainty that this space was really for me. This internship has helped me realise it is. Knowing each day that I am supporting an organisation that truly helps people has made these past few weeks the most rewarding of any job or experience I have ever done.

So, my advice for anyone thinking about interning? Do it. Put in the time to find a place that is meaningful to you and soak up the experience every day you are there.  My internship was seven months in the making, but I can wholeheartedly say that every email, call and meeting to make this happen was worth it. Nothing in life worth having comes easy, so you need to work hard for the things that matter to you and make the most of it when it’s yours.

Want to learn more about what it’s like working at Orange Sky? Check out Alice’s reflection on her first month as part of the Volaby team. 

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Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

On shift in Melbourne during stage 4 restrictions

“It’s been challenging for everyone going back into lockdown in Melbourne, but even more so for our friends that we see on shift. Leading up to the lockdown, we were having lots of conversations with friends about what might happen, the uncertainty and where that would leave them with access to services, and the impending social isolation.

Those conversations were particularly important – hearing their concerns, acknowledging them, and staying upbeat and positive, reassuring them that whatever challenges lockdown would present, they would eventually pass and life would return to some version of normal.  Many were agitated and anxious, but listening to them and acknowledging their perspective seemed to give them some comfort.

What we have noticed since stage 4 lockdown is that every week, we get a solid contingent of regulars who come.  For many, we are their only social interaction for the day, or even the week.  They come to ‘shoot the breeze’, have some ‘normal’ conversations and then of course the ‘all encompassing’ conversations about COVID and lockdown  – which is the key topic of conversation in Melbourne at the moment!
They come to get their laundry done. To see us and to see each other. They ask about us as much as we ask about them, and on both sides of the discussion, it is reassuring to hear how others are coping with what life is presenting, and calming to have a listening ear to air the frustrations. It feels like it is more important than ever that we are there every week, greeting them with a warm smile (hard to detect behind a mask!) and a wave! We ask how their week has been and they are eager to engage and share what’s been happening.

Some of our friends have told us they have been moved into hotels – which they have appreciated, but it is not without its challenges. Being around many other vulnerable people in the hotels has affected their anxiety levels, so ‘escaping’ that environment for a different type of social interaction has made our shifts and conversations they offer, a welcome experience.

I really feel a strong connection to the friends we serve on shift at the moment. There is a mutual understanding that we are all going through tougher times than usual, but that the conversations, the chatter and the jokes we share is so important to all of us to give us the strength and courage to get through to the other side – whatever that may look like!

We love seeing them every week, and knowing that they are in good spirits and doing ok. And I think they feel the same about the volunteers and each other!”

Denise has volunteered with Orange Sky in Melbourne for the past year and a half – normally with our shower van, Monty, but during COVID, she’s jumped on a laundry shift at Cleve Gardens on Wednesday evenings. We’re very grateful to have people like Denise as part of the Orange Sky team who not only support our mission to positively connect communities, but have empathy and understanding for our friends doing it tough.

Help us continue to ensure that our friends in Melbourne have a place to connect. 

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Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office

Four years of haircuts and conversations with Epic Hair Designs

Q: What does a hairdresser, a washing machine and a big orange van have in common?
A: You can find all three at Ivory Street in Fortitude Valley on a Friday morning!

For the last four years, Orange Sky’s Friday morning shift has taken place alongside a team of stylists from Epic Hair Designs. This means that as well as having access to clean laundry and warm showers, our friends can also sit down for a haircut. With 15 different salons across Brisbane, the team at Epic Hair Designs know a thing or two about conversation – and they fit right in at an Orange Sky shift!

“Conversation is everything. Our stylists always have such a positive experience connecting with staff, friends and volunteers of Orange Sky. Our staff’s main focus at work is always connecting with our guests and the same goes for when our staff are supporting Orange Sky.

“We see a real difference being made when our hairdressers are able to contribute to positively impacting Brisbane’s homeless.”

Four years of cutting hair on shift at Ivory Street has meant that the team at Epic Hair Designs have a made a difference in the lives of more than 6,000 friends.

A haircut might not seem like much, but it can make the world of difference to how our friends feel about themselves. Walking away from a shift in clean clothes, after the chance to have a shower, a haircut and a conversation, can mean so much to a person who might often miss out on everyday basics and human connection.

As with Orange Sky’s volunteers, Epic Hair Designs acknowledges the special relationships that form between their stylists and our friends on shift.

“Our stylists have such strong relationships with their guests, so being able to make sure our guests continue to be looked after is fantastic. Our teams also have such a strong bond with each other, Epic Hair Designs is a big family so we are grateful our teams are continuing to learn and do what they love.”

In fact, some relationships are so strong that friends will often stop by for a chat, even if they don’t need a haircut. The team told us, “There’s always a bloke who sits down for a haircut every fortnight despite not needing one just to take advantage of a chat – which we think is lovely.”

The Epic Hair Designs team loves that they can make such a difference, doing what they love and supporting Orange Sky and our friends on the street along the way. Although they haven’t been able to get out on shift since the COVID-19 pandemic, they are hoping to be back later this month – watch this space!

You can learn more about Epic Hair Designs here.

If you enjoyed reading about how the Epic Hair Designs team supports Orange Sky, we think you’ll love this story about The Streets Barber in Geelong

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Orange Sky Australia • 2020 • 17 Dover Street, Albion Queensland 4010 • (07) 3067 5800 • ABN/Charity ID: 85890622990 • We are a registered charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) All donations over $2 are fully tax deductible as a Deductible Gift Recipient by the Australian Tax Office