You may have seen Orange Sky’s brand spanking new laundry van around town. It’s been a project in the making for a while, and now it’s a reality, providing those without access to a washing machine or drier in our community with a way to keep their clothes clean – and to bring back a little dignity to those who need it most. Rachel Nolan is one of the volunteers with Orange Sky and treasures the special moments she’s experienced as a part of the crew …
Hi Rachel. Tell us a bit about yourself, your family and your association to the Greater Port Macquarie area …
Hello, my name is Rachel Nolan and almost two years ago, my husband, two dogs and I moved to the Greater Port Macquarie area from the Far North Coast, first living in Port Macquarie before settling in beautiful Wauchope. I am an Early Childhood Educator at Wauchope Preschool Kindergarten and have just finished my first year studying Social Work.
I love the outdoors and spend a lot of time in the forest close to my home or at the many beautiful parks and beaches in the area. I love connecting to the community through volunteering, which has enabled me to establish relationships with a wide variety of people, and throughout my time here I have volunteered with REAP, at the Port Macquarie and Wauchope community gardens, local clean ups, with the Boomerang Bag crew and now with Orange Sky Laundry.
When (and how) did you find out about the Orange Sky Laundry Van Service?
I have been following the Orange Sky Laundry journey with admiration since the concept was first developed through different media platforms, which is also how I heard about the plans for a van here on the Mid North Coast! Since then I have been following the progress and was exceptionally excited when the van started gathering momentum in recent months.
Why did you decide to become a volunteer with the service?
I decided to become a volunteer with Orange Sky because I really related to the concept behind the van. I saw it as a simple opportunity to connect with people whom I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise, and it reinforced my belief that all people have a story and deserve to be heard, all the while accessing a simple service that restores a sense of dignity and boosts their self-esteem.
It also helps me to put perspective on life for all kinds of people and feel grateful for the access I have to the simple things such as a washing machine and drier.
What’s your current role with Orange Sky – and what’s involved?
I’m currently a general volunteer, however, will be moving into the team leader role for one of the Port Macquarie shifts in the next couple of weeks.
Both of these roles involve supporting the other volunteers to set up the van – connecting the electricity and water, preparing the machines, setting up the six orange chairs and ensuring everything is turned on. Throughout shift, volunteers support friends to load the machines, document each load and fold the clothes once dry.
The most important part of the role is the genuine, non-judgemental conversations we have with friends accessing the service or those passing me. We laugh, joke and talk about all sorts of things. Once shift is finished, volunteers support each other to pack away the van before bidding each other farewell for another week! The van is very well designed, which means the process is very easy to follow and you feel well supported to fulfil your role.
Since the service launched recently in the Port Macquarie area, what are some of the benefits you believe it’s brought to the community?
Even though the van is in its early stages of servicing the area, the benefits are so visible already! Our friends (some of whom have become regulars) and volunteers genuinely look forward to seeing each other weekly, and this shows through the smiles that greet us. Friends also have a chance to chat about how their week has been, what they have been up to, their hobbies or families, all the while with a friendly volunteer listening. It really does provide a connection between friends, volunteers and other service providers in the community.
Friends are also able to come and use the washing and drying service, meaning they leave with fresh and warm items, as well as other toiletries they might need.
Can you share a story or two about the people you’ve met?
It is hard to pick just a couple, as each week I walk away feeling so privileged to have had the company of our friends. I have heard stories ranging from hobbies such as choirs and Star Wars to stories about their family, places they have travelled and jobs they have had. A frequent occurrence is the utmost gratitude when they see we have taken the time to fold their clothes – such a simple gesture, but one that is met with a surprised face, a smile, or even a tear.
Moving forward, what do you hope Orange Sky will be able to achieve?
In the future, I hope Orange Sky can continue to service the Greater Port Macquarie area, establishing friendships with people who are marginalised, lonely or who just may need a hand. I hope we can continue to connect friends with other services in the area, all the while providing a simple service of washing and drying clothes.
Are you currently looking for more volunteers – and where can we find out more info?
Yes! Absolutely! As Orange Sky is relatively new to the area, we are looking for a core group of volunteers to ensure consistency of the service and regular faces at each shift. Anyone interested can find out more information at the Orange Sky website: http://www.orangeskylaundry.com.au/get_involved
Final say …
Anyone out there looking to get more involved should definitely jump on board! For only a two hour commitment a week, you will be rewarded and humbled by the friendly, genuine people in our community.