Orange Sky is fortunate to be supported by an amazing community of leaders who volunteer their time to help us deliver our services. From rostering volunteers, to getting new shifts up and running, sending newsletters and making sure our vans get out on the road each day – our volunteer leaders are the backbone of our service, and we could not operate without their support.

On International Volunteer Managers Day – and every day in between – we recognise and thank each of our 101 leaders across Australia and New Zealand who work so hard to support our friends experiencing homelessness.

One of those people is Charlotte Robinson, who has volunteered for Orange Sky for the past six years and held a number of leadership roles across our Perth and Sydney services. A few months ago, she also joined the Orange Sky HQ team on a part-time basis to support our community impact team.

We sat down with Charlotte to find out more about her volunteering experience, and the impact it’s had on her life.

After almost six years of volunteering with Orange Sky, it’s safe to say that the service has followed me on my personal journey. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve stayed on; the adaptability, as well as the impact. Orange Sky understands the importance of people’s lives and their commitments.

I found Orange Sky when, in 2015, a friend had mentioned their mobile laundry service and I loved the ethos. I attended an ‘Orangentation‘ (Orange Sky’s version of an orientation session) and before I knew it, I was on shift and then a Team Leader in Sydney.

One year later, I moved to Perth for my postdoctoral research in oceanography. In addition to relocating my life, I was able to relocate my volunteering! At the time, Perth had just received a new Hybrid (laundry and shower) van to support areas south of Perth. I worked with the incredible Lisa Sprlyan from Orange Sky HQ to expand our service, which I proudly volunteered for as a Service Leader and Team Leader for four years, until recently returning to Sydney.

For me, family, sport, learning and community are really important. When I’m not working in marine research, in my role with Orange Sky or volunteering, I’m soaking up time with my family and playing water polo. But I also love the impact of the time my volunteering has. After six years, it still warms my heart that the simple act of volunteering for three hours can have a significant impact on people’s lives. Not just for friends, but for volunteers too.

Other volunteers might understand this feeling, but when I’m about to head out on shift I’m feeling a mixed bag of emotions. I’m excited to reconnect with friends, volunteers and service providers. As a Team Leader, I’m also operationally aware, ensuring our environment is safe for all. 

Most of all, I feel a sense of pride. Proud to wear the shirt, proud of the Orange Sky organisation, and proud of my teammates.

Any time someone asks me to recall a memorable moment on Orange Sky shift, I’m always brought back to meeting Bec in Sydney. I met Bec in my first year of volunteering, at our Kings Cross Wayside Chapel shift. Bec had endured immense hardship and instability. Life had been unkind to Bec in many ways, but she was kind to me and the Orange Sky team. Despite being let down a lot, she formed a trust in our service. Each week we were there – consistent and caring – which meant so much to her. I will always remember Bec’s motto, “It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, it matters where you’re going”. I think that sums up so much about the experiences in our lives. That our past, or the pasts of others, doesn’t always define us, and there is always hope for the future. 

Before volunteering with Orange Sky I don’t think I understood how quickly homelessness can happen to someone. It is painfully common for someone who has been economically or socially privileged to have a series of events that quickly unravel their lives and force them onto the street. The stereotype isn’t true, homelessness can happen to any of us. And that’s why community support is so important.

My volunteer work has indeed shaped my life. Though it has been unpaid, it is another career path that contributes skills and experience. My young adult years volunteering with St John Ambulance influenced the person I have become. This, and my work with Orange Sky, has given me the confidence to step into leadership roles. Volunteering has truly cemented my thirst for helping people and confirmed who I want to be.

Orange Sky reminds me that every little bit counts and simple acts can make a difference in people's lives. Sometimes the smallest actions can have a lasting impact. Saying hello, having a conversation, or washing someone's clothes can make a big difference to someone.

Become an Orange Sky volunteer today.

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