Written by Sudsy Challenger, Gillian Kerr
As I write this, I’m a little over halfway through my Sudsy September Challenge; wearing the same kit and raising awareness about homelessness for a full month. I have been reflecting and want to share why I have taken on this challenge for the past three years.
In March 2019 I was scrolling through Facebook when a comment in a suggested post caught my eye – ‘Who Is Sudsy?’ My curiosity got the better of me, so I clicked on the post to find out more. It was then that I first found out about The Sudsy Challenge, Orange Sky and the work that they do.
Co-founders Nic and Lucas had an idea in 2014 – to give back to the community by helping our homeless friends doing it tough. It started small; one van with washing machines and dryers in the back, visiting Brisbane parks to provide free laundry. That first van was, of course, SUDSY. Over the years their vision has grown, as has their service. Orange Sky now has vans across Australia, have expanded into New Zealand, and the vans now have showers! This is even more amazing when you realise that Nic and Lucas were 19 years old when they started with Sudsy!
What struck a chord with me was when they spoke about the orange chairs. On the orange chairs is where the real difference was made in the conversations had with our homeless friends. Helping people feel connected, creating community, reminding friends that they are valued, and that people care about them. I know only too well what a difference a single conversation can make.
Over the years I have chosen different charities to fundraise for – until I joined the first Sudsy Challenge. Why have I stuck with them? Well, for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, there are many common misconceptions about how someone ends up homeless. Truth be told, it could happen to any one of us. There is clear research indicating that many of us are only one or two paycheques away from homelessness.
Secondly, people experiencing homelessness face the same challenges as everyone else, only they do so without a roof over their heads. In supporting Orange Sky, I’m hopeful that no matter what other challenges people have in life, they at least have their dignity, human connection and support.
Lastly, supporting the cause is the most suitable option for me right now. I would love to volunteer with Orange Sky, but I have my own challenges with anxiety and depression. This makes conversations with new people not easy for me and I would hate to let the team down if I was scheduled on a shift on one of my wobbly days. My fundraising still challenges me, as people inevitably want to know about my vibrant orange t-shirt and who Sudsy is. But I can cope with that, and that’s what it’s all about for me! It gently pushes me to have conversations and make connections I wouldn’t normally make, and while fundraising is important, I believe it’s equally important to raise awareness of this great work and the community that has grown around it.
This year I wanted to do something a little bit different to increase awareness of this amazing charity and of course to extend the FUNdraising.
For Year 3 I am doing Sudsy September! I have worn the same outfit for all three Sudsy weekends. Plus, between challenge weekends I will wear my t-shirt from previous years until the end of September!
Doing The Sudsy Challenge during lockdown in Sydney is another reason I have decided to do a full month. While I’ve not had the usual interactions with people outside, I’ve still had the opportunity to spread the word and raise awareness. This lockdown has also given me a deeper understanding of what it’s like to feel isolated. I don’t pretend that my circumstance is in any way comparable with our homeless friends, but living alone through lockdown has given me a tiny glimpse of what it can be like to have no one to talk to. The phrase ‘the silence is deafening’ has taken on a whole new meaning for me.
Thank you to anyone who has supported me through sharing my page, interacting with my posts and stories, sending me a message, having a conversation with me, or donating. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.