Innovation is in our DNA at Orange Sky and we are always looking for ways to improve our services and help more friends. Our van generators did a fantastic job supporting many thousands of washes and showers over our first four years! After working hard to support our friends it was time however to innovate and think big about how we could make our fleet more reliable and environmentally responsible.

We are always challenging ourselves to stay innovative and make sure our services have the greatest impact for our friends. By upgrading our fleet to solar battery power, we became more reliable for our friends, cut maintenance costs and reduced our environmental footprint by using cleaner more efficient energy. Upgrading the vans was no small feat, as we removed all of their diesel generators, replacing them with solar-powered battery banks!

Part of the upgrade involved replacing the old washers and dryers, but don’t worry those weren’t wasted! We set up our first ‘internal laundromat’ at Kairos Free Food Store in Christchurch, who are one of our amazing service partners. The friends who come to their food rescue service sit down with our volunteers and have their laundry done too.

Two members of our team, James and Rylan went out on the road to get the hard work done on our vans. After six and a half weeks of work, the upgrade was complete. We spoke with James about working on this project, the people he met and the experiences he had.

“We kicked off this exciting project in Christchurch, picking Eddie the van up at midnight as the first in line. With many weeks of work ahead of us, it was daunting to know we would be away from family and friends for so long. But at every place we visited, Rylan and I were continually amazed by the care we received. The Orange Sky whānau welcomed us with open arms. Our volunteers showed us how proud they are of the service and how they give such a personal experience to our friends.

Among the many hours of stripping and rebuilding the vans, Rylan and I had some special moments. Driving from South to North, making our way up through the North Island and Tongariro National Park, we had a chance to park Hugo up with Mt Ruapehu standing clear in the background. We were amazed at the striking beauty, stark contrasts and incredible diversity of Aotearoa.

In Auckland, we got to spend some time on shift in Onehunga. It was inspiring to see how close-knit the volunteers are. Humility is encouraged, and the team start and end each shift with a huddle, discussing their personal goals and challenges, encouraged to push the limits of their comfort zones. You can tell that everyone looks forward to their time on shift, building trust and relationships with the friends who use our service.

As our volunteers and friends tried out the new vans across the country, they noticed the benefits straightaway. It’s quieter, cleaner and more sustainable than ever.

We were overwhelmed by the care, compassion and generosity of the community. We received endless assistance from workshops, suppliers, volunteers and service partners. There were so many people to thank!

As we look to the future, there are some tough times ahead for our friends. We will continue challenging ourselves to stay innovative and work on exciting projects to grow our team of volunteers, ensure our vans are in the best shape to run efficiently and expand our services for friends where the need is greatest.

All of this would not be possible without the many supporters who make up our amazing team. We are continually amazed by the generosity and compassion of the community who are there for our friends doing it tough.

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