Orange Sky’s bright impact: Bringing hope to Auckland’s homeless

7 Jun 2024 | Articles


In the bustling city of Tamaki Makaurau, a dedicated team of volunteers has been working tirelessly to bring a sense of dignity and hope to those struggling with homelessness.

Orange Sky, an innovative non-profit organisation, has been making an impact with its unique approach to supporting our city's most vulnerable population and it’s volunteer workforce are the team that is making a front line difference to those needing some support.

Founded in 2014 by two Australian friends, Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, Orange Sky began as a simple idea – to provide free laundry services to people experiencing homelessness. The concept was straightforward: a mobile van equipped with washing machines and dryers would travel to various locations, offering a vital service that many of us take for granted.

Fast forward to 2024, and Orange Sky has expanded its reach to multiple cities across Aotearoa, including Auckland. The organisation's impact in the city has been nothing short of remarkable. With the help of a dedicated team of volunteers, Orange Sky Auckland has been providing laundry services and hot showers to hundreds of individuals every week, the impact of which goes far beyond clean clothes.

Orange Sky’s approach is built on a foundation of dignity and respect, recognizing that every individual deserves to be treated with kindness and compassion. This ethos encompasses the whole team and is evident in the volunteers who operate the striking orange mobile vans as they become a hub for connection, conversation and community; offering a sense of belonging and friendship to those who need it most.

For many of Auckland's homeless population, Orange Sky's services are a beacon of hope.

‘It's not just about the laundry,’ says Te Wharekura, a regular user of the service. ‘It's about being seen, being heard, and being treated like a human.’ Te Wharekura’s story is just one of many, highlighting the profound impact of Orange Sky's work.

The organisation's commitment to dignity and respect is reflected in its approach to service delivery. The team of friendly volunteers take the time to listen, to share a smile, and to offer a friendly ear. The atmosphere surrounding the vans is warm and welcoming and volunteer Nathalie Pham, who has been working with Orange Sky since she moved from Belgium over a year ago, describes it like ‘catching up with friends, I really enjoy listening to their stories’.

Nathalie decided to volunteer as she had lots of spare time and wanted to give some thing back to the country she was living in. She recalls being younger in Belgium seeing the homelessness and wanting to do something about it, seeing the volunteer opportunity at Orange Sky meant that now as an adult she was able to fulfil that childhood wish and do something of value to help those who live on the streets.

Te Wharekura (pictured), a regular user of the service, says: ‘It's about being seen, being heard, and being treated like a human.'

Nathalie says she was surprised at the diversity of homelessness noting that not all of those who sleep rough, live rough. It was through this realisation that the ethos of Orange Sky became paramount to her and she decided Orange Sky was the organisation she wanted to help, ‘it’s also really easy to volunteer with Orange Sky through their website. It was another reason I chose them, I felt like I was part of the team instantly’.

Nathalie spends a couple of hours on a volunteer shift that involves setting up that van so that the machines and shower can be used, then just helping and chatting with the friends who use the services. Nathalie concedes that at the end of a shift she feels pretty tired, ‘I come straight from work so it can be a long day but I find that I’m pretty energised by the good things that have come from the shift, it’s sometimes hard to sleep because I’m thinking of all the fulfilling interactions I’ve had.’ Nathalie has also learnt new skills through volunteering at Orange Sky; ‘I’ve never been good at delivering bad news but with this role sometimes I have to let our friends know that the service is closing even though they haven’t used the service, it can be hard but I’ve learnt how to deliver bad news in a way that isn’t so bad.’

In a city where homelessness is a growing concern, the work of volunteers for Orange Sky's work is a shining example of the power of compassion and inclusion. As the organisation continues to grow and evolve, its commitment to dignity, respect, and community remains unwavering but at its heart will always be the volunteers. As winter approaches and the need for dry clothing and warm showers become vital Orange Sky is looking for new volunteers to sign up so that it’s services can be extended to other regions and more services throughout the week.

In the words of Nicholas Marchesi, co-founder of Orange Sky: ‘We believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their circumstances. We're proud to be part of the Auckland community, working together to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.’

As the Orange Sky van makes its way through the streets of Auckland this winter, it carries with it a message of hope and humanity. It's a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always a chance for connection, for compassion, and for a brighter tomorrow.

Story: By Siobhan Kelly, Volunteer storywriter for Volunteering Auckland
Photo: Ruth Jackson

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