I learned about Orange Sky during a conversation over our family dinner table. My brother had come home from school beaming after hearing about a laundry and connection service for people doing it tough. He told me about the two young speakers – Nic and Lucas – who spoke to his school. Looking back, it’s fitting that a special conversation was the way that I learned about Orange Sky. After volunteering for four years and becoming part of the head office team over the past year; I’ve learned that ‘conversation’ is what it’s all about. 

I had just graduated high school when my brother told me about Orange Sky’s work. At that time, I was seeking something that would push me out of my comfort zone. I’d always been quite reserved and played it safe, but I was looking for a new opportunity. Something that would improve my mental health and actively help people.

When I registered for Orange Sky, I loved the flexibility and array of shifts I could join. I was leading a pretty busy lifestyle, so the Fortitude Valley morning shift worked really well. What I quickly learned was that the laundry service was merely a footnote of an Orange Sky shift; the main aspect is the sense of community. Whether that be conversations happening on the semi circle of orange chairs, or people standing together chatting over a warm breakfast and cuppa. Others may be sitting alone or reading a book. What I saw was people from all walks of life, enjoying time in each other’s company in a safe space.

Four years into my volunteering, I’m now lucky enough to work in the Head Office Team in operations. Also, I get to visit schools, and talk to kids about homelessness and the work that Orange Sky does. Given the impact the school talk had on my brother and my life, this is particularly special to me. Now, I get the chance to learn from and share with young minds about such an important aspect of our community. 

From these school presentations, I’ve learned more about the stigmas of homelessness. At the start of each talk I ask kids to share words they associate with homelessness. Most often, I hear “dangerous”, “dirty”, “scary”, or “alcohol”. When I explain that these are people like us, who didn’t have the same support networks, or that tough instances occurred that changed the shape of their lives; the kids respond so well. By the end of a talk, often children are sharing how wrong it is that people have to be in this situation. Other kids ask me how to sign up to volunteer. It’s so heartwarming. 

What I’ve learned during my time with Orange Sky is that there are some very inaccurate and heartless stereotypes that exist around homelessness. I understand as I had these same stigmas. Fortunately they were quickly reversed since joining Orange Sky. Now, I see the importance of reconnecting people in the community and the power of a conversation. 

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