Hey, my name is Joe and I’m the team leader for the Orange Sky free laundry service at Musgrave Park. I’ve been doing some type of volunteering with Orange Sky since 2015, so coming up to four years now. I love it.
I find that since I finished university and starting work full time, I can get a pretty narrow focus on work and life. Coming out on shift with our friends and having genuine conversations with people that have a different life experience helps me after a busy day to get a bit of perspective. I go home feeling a bit lighter, feeling like I can sort of check in with my life and my place in the world and it just puts me in a better mood I think. That’s what keeps me coming back.
Before starting to volunteer with Orange Sky, I had a pretty stereotypical view of people experiencing homelessness. I would see the people on the side of the street begging for money or people who looked like they’re down on their luck, and that was the extent of my exposure to the issue. Coming out on an Orange Sky shift, you learn that everyone who comes to shift is very easy to chat to and there’s plenty of characters. Hearing their stories always highlights to me that most of our friends are really just one or two bad breaks removed from my own experience. They have made me see everyone, no matter how they appear at face value, as real people and part of the community just like anyone else.
In 2010, 36.2% of people aged 18+(6.1 million) had volunteered.
In 2010, formal volunteering(excluding travel) was worth $25.4 billion to the Australian economy.
96% of volunteers say that it“makes people happier.”
Sustained volunteering is associated with better mental health.
I first met Ros at Musgrave Park on this shift. She was probably one of the first washes we did and has been a constant presence ever since. She’s a real connector on shift between volunteers and friends. She knows everyone, checks in with everyone and helps build this sense of connectivity and empathy for everyone. I think she’s someone who really brings everyone together and creates a big sense of that community. She knows everyone by name and has a specific little question for everyone to make them feel welcome. I think she really fosters that sense of community that we have going here now. She’s a big part of getting that going and a reason why people come back.
I don’t necessarily have any idea of what our friends have been through to get to this point, but I know that Christmas can be a difficult time. Personally, I really look forward to catching up with my family and people I haven’t seen in a while. It reminds you that you’re part of a bigger group of people who all care about each other and a lot of our friends on shifts don’t have those connections. They don’t always have people around them they can go and be with over the holiday period. I think that could make someone feel pretty lonely, and I’d like to think that the sense of community that friends like Ros help create goes some of the way to filling that void. Everyone can be there for each other and say g’day and catch up. We’ll try and operate right through the holidays so we can maintain those connections and be there for our friends.
Coming out around the Christmas period is always a highlight of my year. I came out last year and just felt like I was part of Orange Sky’s mission to be a consistent presence for our friends. It’s a good feeling to be able to come out with the team at a time like Christmas to show our friends we really are committed and it’s no skin off our back. I mean it’s a couple of hours a week or fortnight and I think it is much more powerful to be consistent and reliable then just come when you can. It’s good that Orange Sky works hard to operate right the way through and it really helps strengthen how genuine the community is.
I get a lot out of it for myself, to be honest. To come and spend time with our community down here was a great way to finish Christmas for me. I got a lot out of it to come and say Merry Christmas to everyone and put a smile on all their faces and it puts a smile on my face. I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t get a lot out of it. I think something that the volunteers and supporters can take comfort in is that you’re getting out what you put in. If you come along and get involved, you really do create genuine connections and it’s no longer just an obligation to turn up to a shift. You want to go and catch up with friends like Ros and I think just knowing that you provide a bit to them makes you feel good for coming.
Support our friends on the street this holiday period