After officially launching our third service in Aotearoa in November 2021, we have been on the hunt for a fitting name to honour our newest bright orange companion. 

We hosted a nationwide van naming competition, which called on Kiwis to honour a New Zealander making a difference in their community by submitting their name. 

After receiving more than 80 submissions nominating worthy local heroes, ‘Whaea Debz’ was given the top honour by our judging panel! 

The Auckland-based hybrid laundry and shower van is named after local community hero, Debbie Munroe, who is affectionately known as Whaea Debz. 

Debbie is the founder of Waka of Caring – a drop-in centre in Manurewa that provides food, clothing, blankets, books and connection for those experiencing homelessness or hardship.

Alongside Debbie were fellow finalists Fiona Anderson, whose support and volunteering within the Piha community spans 15-plus years, and Judge Andrew Becroft, a long-time legal advocate for the underrepresented in his former roles as Children’s Commissioner for New Zealand and Principal Youth Court Judge. 

The competition judging panel included the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, Auckland City Mission Team Leader Homeless Service Wilf Holt, Orange Sky New Zealand Volunteer Nicola Kueh and Simplicity Charitable Trustee Frances Arns.

The naming of ‘Whaea Debz’ follows the Orange Sky tradition of honouring our vans with meaningful names – from inaugural Australian service ‘Sudsy’ back in 2014, to New Zealand’s first two hybrid vans: ‘Hugo’ in Auckland and ‘Hudson’ in Wellington.

‘Hugo’ honours The Hugo Charitable Trust, which allowed Orange Sky to start operations in Aotearoa. ‘Hudson’ is named after the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Wellington City Mission to acknowledge their generous support in launching the second Orange Sky service.

Local hero and youth worker, Debbie said it was heart-warming to be recognised by the community and have her name immortalised on an Orange Sky van.

“It was a beautiful surprise and an absolute honour to have one of the Orange Sky vans named after me. I don’t do it for recognition, I am just doing what I feel everyone should be doing – helping those who need our support,” said Debbie.

“I have been supporting the homeless, and those who are struggling, for 10 years now and it’s incredible to see how a meal and a warm, welcoming smile and kōrero can impact someone’s day.

“It is so simple to show someone kindness and turn their day around – the community is what brings us together,” she said.

The new van, supported by Simplicity Charitable Trust, enables Orange Sky to increase our availability in Tāmaki Makaura to support the nation’s most vulnerable communities.

Orange Sky New Zealand Operations Manager, Eddie Uini said the van naming submissions highlighted so many local heroes who are making an impact and creating a difference in their communities.

“In line with Orange Sky’s mission to positively connect communities, it’s an honour to recognise the individuals and organisations going above and beyond to support the community.

“The difference that Debbie and Waka of Caring have made in the last 10 years is nothing short of inspirational, and we’re pleased to be able to recognise all the incredible work by naming our third van after her.”

Read more about Debbie’s incredible community work here.

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