Armed with scholarship backing and an innovative idea, ACU graduate David Tubb and two mates created a valuable service for those in need.
ACU graduate David Tubb was beaming with pride as he saw his mates, co-founders of Orange Sky Laundry Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi, receive the Young Australian of Year Award, drawing further recognition to a project having an impact on thousands of homeless Australians.
Since 2014, Orange Sky Laundry has been providing free mobile laundry services to homeless people in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne through their distinctive orange vans containing two commercial washing machines and dryers.
On the journey from the beginning as a Board Member and Operations Manager, David said that to see the expansion of the service and recognition it is receiving, both at home and abroad, is having a significant impact.
“It gives us a really big platform for people to become aware of the project. That sort of exposure is absolutely priceless, both in terms of attracting volunteers, and in terms of further fundraising and sponsorship to assist with the purchase of news vans and equipment,” David said.
“It means we are going to be able to do more washing and have more conversations with additional vans helping our homeless friends. Allowing us to positively connect more of the 105,000 Australians who are homeless, as well as our volunteers; which is what the project is all about.”
Striking up a friendship during their school years, David, Lucas and Nicholas found themselves drawn to helping disadvantaged people in the community – identifying hygiene as an area that would benefit from their attention.
“All three of us were involved in food vans for our homeless friends when we were at school and realised that hygiene wasn’t something that had really been thought of before, and that’s where the idea of a laundry came from,” David said.
“We often say the laundry itself is just a catalyst for conversation in that once the laundry is in the machine there isn’t much to do aside from having a really positive, genuine and non-judgemental conversation with our homeless friends.”
ACU was among numerous organisations that have demonstrated their support of this important project through the Sophia Scholarship, awarded to students and alumni for outstanding contributions to the common good.
Initiated in 2011 by ACU Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students, Learning and Teaching), the Sophia Scholarship funds assisted with the: ongoing costs of maintaining the Orange Sky Laundry vans, training of volunteers in crisis management, and working with alcohol and drug addictions, and mental illness.
“The financial support of the Sophia Scholarship came at a really good time for us, it allowed us to continue to grow the project from two vans from the start of 2015 to seven vans by the end of the year. The $5,000 went a really long way to helping us get these new vans on the road,” David said.
As part of his role, David oversees the operational aspects of the project, coordinating volunteers in locations around Australia. This role continues to grow as increases in support (financial and resources) and volunteers drives expansion to new locations.
“We have a really talented group of volunteers who operate the vans, and are so incredibly generous with their time and energy, which really characterises the organisation,” David said.
“The numbers do get a little bit exciting and scary sometimes – every week in Australia we wash more than 3,000kgs of laundry, with more than 300 volunteers involved. So we have managed to scale the project very quickly, which is fantastic as it is allowing us to positively connect more and more people within the community.”