Each year in May, we celebrate National Volunteer Week at Orange Sky. While we do our best to recognise the hard work and dedication of our volunteers year round, this week is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our wonderful vollies and the incredible impact they have in the community and the connections they’re building with our friends. And what better way to do that than by sharing some of their incredible stories?

Today, we’re turning to Phil who’s been volunteering at our Cannon Hill YMCA shift in Brisbane for the past eight months. Phil started his journey with Orange Sky as a donor, but since retiring as a medical director, he’s been able to join the team on the ground as one of our much-loved volunteers.

Behind the conversations, loads of laundry and laughs that Phil’s regular shift brings are stories of hardship that drive his desire to make an impact.

“It’s not just the clothes that people bring down [to shift]. If they find themselves in a house that doesn’t have a washing machine… they can’t put a big load on. We get a lot of sheets and doonas – that’s a big advantage for people to have clean bedding.

It’s easy for us [to say] ‘oh, just throw that in the wash’, but not if you don’t have that facility. It’s down to the laundromat, 14 bucks for a wash. And then if it’s a miserable day, then you’ve got to put it in the dryer and that’s another six or eight bucks. All of a sudden, that’s your food budget gone for half the week.”

Phil’s no stranger to volunteering, having previously done so overseas in countries like the Philippines and Kenya performing medical procedures. For Phil, volunteering, both in a medical capacity and as part of the Orange Sky team, really puts his life into perspective.

“You get to understand where you are in society and what you can do for society and what the true nature of your contribution to life can be. So I think it’s getting out of your bubble and being able to engage and then being able to see yourself reflected back.”

As Phil points out, Orange Sky is so much more than a laundry or shower service. Coming from a medical background, Phil also recognises the massive health advantages of the Orange Sky service. For many people doing it tough, it can often feel like they’re on their own, which can be incredibly isolating. Phil says, “… it’s not only the physical health benefits. It’s also the mental benefits knowing that someone is actually out there and is caring for you and is willing to be there.”

“We have one mum who just says she just loves coming down and knowing that someone will help her with her washing. She’s on her own and doesn’t have anyone to help her.”

Phil described having access to clean clothes, fresh bedding and a nice hot shower as a fundamental part of life. “… it’s about having clothes to wash and wear and having the capacity to have clean clothes and that reminds you that you’re still part of society.” 

And for anyone considering taking the plunge and signing up to volunteer with Orange Sky Phil says, “if it’s something that you feel that you can do, you should be engaged. We’ve got lots of people from different walks of life, who are employed, who get a day off here or day there and come along, and it’s fantastic.

Don’t do it to make yourself feel better, do it to engage with people around you and to really be part of your own community. I think that’s where you’ll find the greatest benefit.”

Interested in volunteering with Orange Sky?

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