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.
Help to positively connect some of the 116,000 Australians doing it tough.
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
Picture this; it’s a cold night in May, it’s raining, and you’ve just finished your first volunteer shift with Orange Sky at 9.30pm. You’re happy to be in a nice, warm car with the heater on and you’re already thinking about that cup of tea you’re going to have before hopping into bed tonight. But before you can do that, you bring yourself back to the friends you’ve just said goodbye to on shift and the 116,000 people who tonight, don’t have a place to call home.
A few months ago, we partnered with Harcourts in Brisbane and asked a few of their staff to do something out of their daily routine. We asked if they could give up a few hours of their day – before or after work – to go on an Orange Sky shift, sit down on our orange chairs and chat with some of people whom we have the privilege of calling our friends. It’s what 1300 of our volunteers around Australia do each and every week, and on that cold and rainy night in May, they got to experience first-hand the tough realities for our friends on the street. But more than that, they got to experience the power of connection and conversation.
Until you have been to an Orange Sky shift, it is hard to fully understand the importance of our six orange chairs. It’s where barriers are broken down, stereotypes are challenged, relationships are built and connections are formed. When you’re sitting on those orange chairs, you’re not thinking about the hundreds of emails that you have sitting on in your inbox or the life admin that you have to do on the weekend. You’re focused on the unique individual sitting on the chair across from you and what is happening in their world. At Orange Sky, we’ve seen how a positive connection can transform a person’s life, and that’s why we’re so passionate about helping to connect people all around Australia – and soon the world.
Before volunteering with Orange Sky, many people tell us they’ve never had any connection with a person experiencing homelessness. Or at least they think they haven’t.
In Australia, there are one in 200 people who are doing it tough. Only five percent of those who are classed as ‘homeless’ by the Australian Bureau of Statistics are actually sleeping rough. The other 95 percent are staying in shelters, boarding houses, temporary accommodation or severely crowded homes.
Most of us don’t know what it’s like to spend a night on the street, but nearly all of us could relate to being cash strapped at one point or another. An unexpected bill, a medical emergency or maybe the breakdown of a relationship – it doesn’t take long to be in a situation where money is tight.
Each week, at 26 locations around Australia, we see new volunteers jump out on our vans for the very first time. People get involved with Orange Sky for all sorts of reasons – they might have time on their hands, be looking to give back to the community, or in some cases, are after some sort of human connection themselves. Just like our friends, our volunteers are interesting, complex and extraordinary people who give up their time each week to help make someone else’s life just that little bit better.
Caitlin was one of the staff from Harcourts who came along to shift and met some of our friends. She told us she was overwhelmed by positivity and resilience of a friend she met out on shift that night.
“He’s had such bad luck and he’s such a nice guy… I couldn’t believe all the stuff he did. He lost his housing because he was paying rent to someone who wasn’t paying the real estate. He’s built his own little house and coffee table and created all this stuff from kerbside pick-up. He’s a really good guy.”
You can check out the full video below to see what happened when Harcourts staff met our friends.
Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page to find out more and register to get involved.
by Megan Groundwater
Tell us a little about yourself
Hi, I am Joel and I am 23 years old. I am a Mechanical Trades Assistant at Orange Sky Australia and I specialise in anything carpentry or technical drawing related.
What are you building at the moment?
We are in the final stages of building a laundry van that is headed to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Palm Island in North Queensland. We are using a Mercedes Sprinter like we use for our hybrid vehicles, but this time we started with a cab chassis [a truck body]. The canopy was custom made and built off site.
What was it like planning the build?
We got the news that we had to build a vehicle for Palm Island and white-boarded the pros and cons against our current fleet. We then looked at our hybrid vans and laundry vans; how they function, how they can be maintained and how future-proof they are. A few options became clear when discussing the Lockhart River truck around the mechanical quality of the vehicle. It has not always been the easiest of vehicles to maintain so we made the decision to purchase a new vehicle. When everything was drawn up on the whiteboard, we landed on the purchase of a box body cab chassis; the first of its kind for Orange Sky.
What were some of the most important parts of the build process?
A lot of planning goes into this type of build but all of the systems already in our other vehicles stay the same. We have a great base to start with but there is a lot of research and design that needs to happen before the build starts and throughout the whole process. I did a lot of research on the spacial layout of the van and how different components fit inside. Damien specialises in the weight restriction, Nic M looks after the systems, Nic P the mechanical and Steven the electrical. We map all the dependencies on on a little pie chart and get to work.
How do you work together?
Usually we will have a big catch up at the start of the build and try to forecast what the week looks like. We will then try to estimate any times that the van is going to be inaccessible for example, when it goes to get exhaust done or if we have an electrician in to work on something specific. In terms of the actual HQ staff, it is pretty organic as a result of us building a lot of vans together.
What was the hardest thing about the build?
The weight restrictions. It’s a tight payload so we don’t have a lot of weight to work with before it has to be converted to a light ridged license. This would restrict the number of volunteers that could drive and gets in the way of our flexible volunteer models. Other restrictions are space and format for the onboard water.
Did you take a lot of ideas from other Orange Sky vehicles?
A lot of the build followed a similar format to other Orange Sky vans. All of the different workable sections of the van like the burner that heats the water, the pumps the water around and washer manifolds are still in their separate components. It was potentially easier to lay out all of the parts because it does not have the restrictions of the other vans, it is a box shape and a lot easier to square off and design flexibly.
Why do you think it is important for Orange Sky to offer laundry service in Palm Island?
I didn’t realise the need for a vehicle in remote communities in Australia until I had the opportunity to visit Orange Sky’s laundry truck in Lockhart River. I now know that it is not just individuals doing it tough, it is entire communities that don’t have access to these facilities. By going there and seeing the impact that out first remote vehicle is having in Lockhart River, it is a no brainer that we need to be in as many places as possible. Palm Island is just one of the many remote communities across Australia where we can have a massive impact.
What is next for the build team at Orange Sky ?
Next is working out all of our safe working instructions for the Palm Island vehicle. Before vans launch, we need to have a set of work instructions that someone in Palm Island can use, i.e. easy to understand guides for someone in Palm Island to change the detergent drum or clean a washing machine.
At this stage we also take a lot of documentation for ourselves by troubleshooting and diagnosing issues over the phone. I will do a lot of drawing and documenting so we can leverage the success of the build and replicate for further vehicles. We can then have a lot of the parts pre-fabricated before the next chassis arrives.
What makes Orange Sky special as part of the build team?
The freedom to make suggestions. I have never been in a workplace where I have felt like a senior member of a team as a 23 years old. You don’t feel like you are limited by your experience or your age. That is the coolest thing for me.
Interested in joining the team?
Check out our volunteer page to find out more and register to get involved.
The feature video will now be playing on SBS and across Foxtel channels as community service announcements for at least the next year. We hope that the people watching will spend some time chatting with their family and friends about their own ideas around homelessness and ways that we can all play a part in supporting everyone to feel positively connected.
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 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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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 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.
“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.
The truth is, there are a thousand different ways to do it! We’ll give you a toolkit with some fun and out of the box ideas, so it won’t even feel like you’re hosting a fundraiser. We’ll also be here to support you the whole way through and keep you going when you just don’t think you can wear those socks for a third day in a row!
You’ve hooked people in with your clothes, but what next? A big part of experiencing homelessness is feeling disconnected from the community, and that why conversations are so important. The idea is that your outfit starts conversations – and in turn, raises some much needed funds for Orange Sky.
Your choice of clothing is totally up to you. You can keep your kit on in one of our event t-shirts (that we’ll send you when you sign up), the comfiest outfit in your cupboard or something that screams ‘I am doing The Sudsy Challenge!’ like a space suit or tutu.
Receive an impact report quarterly, detailing how your partnership has positively impacted the community (ie number of washes, showers and conversations)
As National Partner, we can create customised partnership T-shirts for your team, promoting our engagement and joint branding. These can be our uniform for joint events, fundraising and promotion.
At Orange Sky HQ, we will provide a dedicated co-working space for your team. This is an area for your team to feel part of the Orange Sky journey, collaborate on hack-a-thons and deliver customer meetings that highlight the partnership.
Vehicle Partners support the capital costs (33 percent to 100 percent) of Orange Sky’s laundry ($110k), shower ($110k), hybrid ($140k) or remote vehicles ($140k), for which they receive partnership benefits in return as outlined in Partnership Benefits matrix.
National Sponsors commit to donating between $200k – $500k p/a for a minimum term of three years, for which they receive partnership benefits in return as outlined in Partnership Benefits matrix.
Principal Partners are businesses, individuals, institutions or organisations who commit to donating $500k and above p/a for a minimum term of three years, for which they receive partnership benefits in return as outlined in Partnership Benefits matrix.
State partners commit to donating between $100,000 – $200,000 p/a for a minimum term of two years, for which they receive partnership benefits in return as outlined in Partnership Benefits matrix.
An exclusive once a year Orange Sky event that brings together our network of partners, innovators and change makers in the business community. It’s an opportunity to network and collaborate with like-minded individuals as we tackle an Orange Sky challenge and hatch new ideas that will help Orange Sky continue to positively connect the community.
We will work with your corporate and social responsibility team to create a workplace giving program.
Working with your Orange Sky Partnership Manager, we will work to create a launch that encompasses your network, stakeholders, community, staff or all of the above. We have had immense impact in the media, industry and community through our creative approach to raising awareness – let us take you on that journey.
Through your unique partner portal login, you will also receive an Annual Impact Report which includes recognition of the partnership, statistics of contribution and how it has impacted the community.
We will supply you with ‘Proudly supporting Orange Sky’ or ‘Proudly supporting www.orangesky.org.au’ logos for your company marketing or event material.
Download a monthly newsletter with details on the direct impact that your contribution is making in the community. Your electronic report will arrive in the form of a co-branded email; a great tool to share with your staff, stakeholders and customers allowing them access to the most up to date information on how you are supporting our friends doing it tough.
Every partnership is a relationship and our mission at all levels is to stay connected. That is why your business will be assigned an awesome Orange Sky manager to keep you up to date on the partnership, our joint engagement and your impact. It’s important to us that you understand just how important you are! We will work with you and support you to identify and create beneficial opportunities to continue to maximize the relationship.
A regular communication on Orange Sky news, events, impact and growth. Can be sent to any number of your staff, customers, partners or community.
Access to leadership team and Orange Sky founders for professional development days, networking events or ideation sessions.
Tailored to your messaging needs, a video capturing our joint partnership produced by the Orange Sky creative team. This case study is a great tool to for internal or external use (ie. end of year reports, company functions, website, social promotion, reception loop etc)
Principal Sponsors are businesses, individuals, institutions or organisations who commit to donating $500k and above p/a for a minimum term of three years for which they receive sponsorship benefits in return, as outlined in Sponsorship Benefits Matrix.