Between inspiring many at a multitude of conferences and talks across Australia, invitations to share their story over TV appearances, recently securing the Duchess of Cornwall as their first UK volunteer and continuing to positively connect communities daily with the brilliant work they do, Nic Marchesi, Co-Founder of the amazing Orange Sky Australia still found time to have a chat with TOWNHALL.
For those who haven’t heard, Orange Sky Australia, founded by Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett, is the world’s first free mobile laundry service for people experiencing homelessness. The initiative has gone from a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of their old vans, to a huge operation with 24 vans and 1000 volunteers who wash about 7 tonnes of washing for free every week.
Read on to hear how their journey started, and what advice Nic has for those of you in the TOWNHALL community who are starting out on your journey towards social good.
Skye: How did the idea start and what were the first things you did to turn the idea into action?
Nic: Orange sky started 42 months ago in Brisbane. Lucas and I grew up in Brisbane and our eyes were opened to homelessness at any early age through giving back on a variety food vans and school-based programs so something that we missed when we left school, was an opportunity to help people in our community.
What we wanted to do was to find a simple way to improve hygiene standards for the homeless by washing and drying clothes for free. We managed to convince a company to give us some washing machines and after a few weekends in the garage, we found a way to build our first van; Sudsy. We took the van to the streets of Brisbane and met a guy named Jordan, who agreed to let us wash his clothes. Lucas was firing the van up and putting Jordan’s washing in and without realising it, we actually broke both the washing machines. Jordan had been continually let down by people so we went back the second day and the same thing happened. On the third day we arrived, we put Jordan’s washing in and everything worked fine.
What we realised is that Orange Sky was nothing to do with washing and drying clothes – it was everything to do with sitting down and having a chat. Three and a bit years on, we’ve now got 24 vans in operation, 1000 volunteers and we wash and dry 6.8 tonnes of free laundry every week. We provide about 200 hot showers and most importantly, we can facilitate those 1200 hours of awesome conversation.
S: That’s amazing! And you guys have grown so quickly and had such awesome moments, but what would you say is your proudest moment with Orange Sky so far?
N: It is a remarkable privilege to be a part of Orange Sky. I think that what we get to do every day is be a part of a community of donors from all around the world, a community of volunteers from all around Australia and a community of friends from a diverse range of backgrounds who believe in sitting down and having a really awesome conversation. That’s what I’m most proud of – the fact that we’re able to deliver a really simple and safe way to help people.
S: Fair enough! And what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and what have you done to overcome this?
N: I think our biggest challenge when we started was actually getting the vans to work and people to believe in what we were doing. Now that we’ve found a way to help people, we face new challenges in expanding our fleet across the country – and soon, internationally. There are people all around the world who are experiencing homeless and we want to be able to positively connect people in more places than just Australia.
S: Who or what do you turn to for inspiration and encouragement? Mentors, events, podcasts, books?
N: Mentors; being able to work alongside incredible minds to find better ways to help people
S: What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt in the last three years?
N: That we can all make a positive impact on people’s lives. Through a really simple thing like washing and drying clothes and having a chat, the world can be a better place
S: What advice would you give to anyone starting their journey towards social good/social impact?
N: Find your passion, take the action and the magic will happen!
S: What’s next for Orange Sky?
N: To continue to find ways to deliver our mission of positively connecting communities all around the world!
To find out more about Orange Sky and the awesome work they do, visit their website here. The guys are always looking for volunteers to join the team Australia-wide – to get involved you can register here. Or to stay up-to-date with Orange Sky news and events, check out their blog here.