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Monday, March 1, 2021

Orange Sky soaps up in Swansea

It may be a chore for some, but for Orange Sky volunteer Jacqui Dann, washing is a way of connecting with those in need.

As a member of the charitable group providing access to washing machines, dryers, warm showers and genuine conversation to those experiencing homelessness, Jacqui says the task itself is simply a bi-product.

“Washing is just an excuse to show you care,” she said.

“It’s about listening and being genuinely interested in another human being.

“The orange chairs are more important than the machines.”

The chairs, bright orange in colour, are the tools for what the group like to call “genuine, non-judgemental conversation with friends”.

While the machines mounted in the vans wash loads in order of arrival, Jacqui and her fellow volunteers lend an ear to anyone who feels like a chat.

This weekend marks the group’s final Sudsy Challenge, a call-to-alms tasking supporters to wear the same clothes for consecutive days to raise awareness of the plight of 1 in 200 Australians experiencing homelessness.

The challenge began in 2019 as a way to raise awareness and drive donations for Orange Sky.

This year the three-day challenge took place across four weekends from September 3 to October 4.

Having washed 3,165 loads of washing and provided 6,277 hours of genuine conversation since its arrival in Newcastle in 2017, The Sudsy Challenge is a way of recognizing need within the Hunter.

The Sudsy Challenge is named after the first Orange Sky vehicle that launched an idea founded by two 20-year-olds in a garage in Brisbane.

Orange Sky is the world’s first free mobile laundry and shower service for people experiencing homelessness.

The charity services 31 locations across Australia and New Zealand.

On Thursday, the Newcastle team returned to the streets.

Six months after COVID-19 parked all of its vehicles, the orange van referred to as ‘Hunter’ opened its doors to those in need at the Swansea Community Cottage.

Orange Sky Team Leader and long-time volunteer Peter Kincaid said although the number of volunteers was down, the need was no less than he’d experienced during the three years he’d been with the not-for-profit group.

“We had 240 shifts pre-COVID and now it’s down to 150,” he said.

“We also had nine vans in operation and that’s down to just the one right now.”

Drawn to the group’s ethos, Peter said he liked its simplicity.

“They’re not trying to change the world over night, they’re just helping people in need and it’s all about those friends on the street.

“Basic hygiene is a human right but so is connection.”

For more information go to www.thesudsychallenge.com

The Orange Sky van will be parked at the Swansea Community Cottage each Thursday between 11am and 1pm.

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