It’s not every day that teenagers are encouraged to wear the same clothes three days in a row.

Last week, however, Hillbrook was a sea of orange as more than 70 students and staff took on the Sudsy Challenge set by Orange Sky Australia.

The challenge? Wear the same clothes for three days, through PE lessons, Project Active and everything in between. The goal? Raise funds and start important conversations about homelessness. 

Orange Sky is a not-for-profit organisation that provides free laundry and shower services to people experiencing homelessness. After rigging up a couple of washing machines and dryers in the back of an old van, co-founders Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett quickly realised that the true value of their service was found in the genuine conversations that were being had while the machines were running.

We were grateful to welcome Nic to speak at our Celebration Evening last year, and heard how the connections made between Orange Sky volunteers and people doing it tough continue to make an enormous impact in the community. The Sudsy Challenge, named after the very first laundry van that Nic and Lucas built, encourages participants to start their own conversations about homelessness whilst raising money for Orange Sky. 

According to the ABS Census 2021, on any given night, over 120,000 Australians will be experiencing homelessness. The hardest part of homelessness is often the loneliness and lack of human connection, which is why Orange Sky focuses on nurturing non-judgemental conversations between volunteers and people using their service. 

Community is something that we understand well at Hillbrook; it is, in fact, the most valuable resource that we have. The importance of a strong community is buried in our foundations, and taking part in the Sudsy Challenge was the perfect opportunity to extend our community that little bit wider.

We asked some of the participants to reflect on the experience and discuss how it affected them.

Why did you want to take part in the Sudsy Challenge?

Glenn, Technologies & Engineering Coordinator: “To raise awareness, funds and to make a bigger collective difference.”

Miranda, Year 9: “I wanted to raise money for an amazing cause and help others.”

Andy, Head of Outdoor Education: “I like the idea of helping an organisation that supports people in difficult circumstances maintain a sense of personal dignity. There was also the added bonus that I didn’t have to think about what to wear for 3 days.”

How did you find the experience? What did you learn?

Lilly, Year 12: “The challenge bonded me to fellow Sudsy fundraisers, and I felt a sense of community amongst other orange-shirt-wearers. It became clear to me that giving doesn’t always mean losing. It can be a gift to yourself just as much it is to those you’re giving to.”

Heidi, Year 8: “The experience taught me that it really isn’t that difficult to step out of your comfort zone and try something different to raise awareness for good causes.”

Iona, Year 8: “I found the experience really motivating and when I felt a bit nervous I would remember why I was doing it – to help people experiencing homelessness feel more comfortable in their situation.”

Mark, Acting Principal: “The experience was one where we still had the comforts that those experiencing homelessness would not normally have, however we were able to put ourselves in their shoes in this particular aspect. From this experience, I have a much greater appreciation for what I have and how to help those who are doing it tough.”

Over $13,800 was raised by Hillbrook during the Sudsy Challenge, but more importantly, countless important conversations were had around the school. Whilst the students and staff were glad to finally put the orange t-shirts in the wash, tolerant conversations will continue to be an important part of life at Hillbrook. Congratulations to all participants for such a fantastic fundraising effort, and thank you to Orange Sky for facilitating this important challenge.