Of the 2,000+ Orange Sky volunteers across Australia and New Zealand, no two volunteers are the same. Each volunteer brings with them a different perspective, a different experience, and a different idea on what it means to belong and feel connected.

Nineteen-year-old Elliot has been volunteering with Orange Sky for six months and has a unique perspective on what it means to be an Orange Sky family member. 

Elliot has Autism and an intellectual disability, which impacts his ability to read social cues and interact in social settings. However one thing that helps him to focus and calm his thoughts, is washing.

“Volunteering with Orange Sky means so much more to Elliot than what others could imagine,” Elliot’s mum Emma says. 

Elliot can find it hard to focus as sounds, lighting and other stimuli break his concentration and affect his mood in ways that most neurotypical people can’t relate to. 

As Emma explains, the sensory feedback Elliot receives from watching clothes spin around in the washing machine calms him.

“Since Elliot was a young boy, if we couldn’t hear him or he wasn’t in our direct line of sight, we would always know that he would be in the laundry watching the washing machine,” Emma said. 

Elliot’s passion is washing, with Emma telling us that going to shift is Elliot’s “favourite part of the week”. 

“Not only does it calm him down and bring him joy, but volunteering has also helped Elliot socially. His verbal and social skills have grown significantly since volunteering. It is a relaxed way for him to speak with other people and learn social skills, without it feeling forced.

“He is so excited to go to shift each and every week. It’s something he loves and it means so much to me and the rest of Elliot’s family that he is supported by Orange Sky to do what he loves.”

Elliot currently volunteers one day a week with our van on the Gold Coast, and plans to pick up a second shift with our permanently-fixed laundry pod later this month. 

Today is International Day of People with Disability, and we want to take this time to celebrate and thank Elliot for his contribution to the Orange Sky service.

Fellow Gold Coast volunteer, Melisa says the passion and energy Elliot brings to each shift really rubs off on the team. 

“Elliot and I have been volunteering together since he started with Orange Sky. We have built a really special bond and he’s certainly come out of his shell over the months – not only with the volunteering team, but with our friends too, which is really special to see,” Melisa said. 

“His passion for washing is like no other. Being able to see how much he truly enjoys coming to shift and being a part of it is really heartwarming.”

Melisa and fellow volunteer, Kerry have become so close with Elliot through volunteering with Orange Sky that they both attended Elliot’s graduation from Mudgeeraba State Special School last month (pictured).

International Day of People with Disability is aimed at increasing public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with a disability. It is a day to challenge the way you think about disability and help grow a more inclusive Australia. 

We are so proud to have Elliot as part of the Orange Sky team and want to thank him for his passion and dedication to supporting our friends doing it tough.

Learn more about International Day of People with Disability

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