As Australia grapples with rising living costs, unemployment, and homelessness, there are growing calls for schools to highlight ways in which their students can be part of the solution, rather than passive bystanders.
Fortunately, new research shows the majority (87%) of Australians recognise the importance of teaching children the value of helping others and agreeing it’s important to teach children to be compassionate towards people in their community (81%).
The research, conducted by Orange Sky, also shows, however, that there is still work to be done, with only a little over a half (58%) of Australians saying it’s important to engage with the local community and break down stereotypes (58%).
With under half (46%) of Australians believing in the importance of proactively encouraging children to get involved in fundraising, and to volunteer to gain a sense of social responsibility (49%), former Young Australian of the Year, Nic Marchesi, and Orange Sky are hoping to encourage more schools and universities to take park in this year’s The Sudsy Challenge.
Best mates Lucas Patchett and Nic Marchesi, founders of Orange Sky, wanted to foster a community connections and support by creating a safe environment, and initiated The Sudsy Challenge to raise awareness and promote conversations about homelessness through encouraging Australians to keep their clothes on for three days.
“Lucas and I were lucky enough to volunteer with a charity organisation, through one of our high school initiatives. The charity we volunteered with provided free meals to people experiencing homelessness, or doing it tough financially,” Nic Marchesi, co-founder of Orange Sky, told The Educator.
“It was during this volunteering opportunity that Lucas and I, at a young age, became more aware of the challenges and hardships many people were facing in our community.”
Marchesi and Patchett continued to volunteer with the charity until they graduated high school, with the values and lessons learned, and through the passion they had for helping people in need fostered during that time, Orange Sky was born.
“Over the last eight years we have learnt a lot and hope that through people understanding and learning, we can change stereotypes and inspire more people to care and look out for those around them,” Marchesi said.
“For Lucas and I, this all started in school and we feel very honoured to be able to support so many people across the country through our amazing team and volunteers at Orange Sky. We are very hopeful that by schools participating in the Sudsy Challenge, it will further educate them on the state of homelessness across the country and encourage the students to learn more about empathy and social responsibility.”
Giving students the chance to make a real difference
Prestigious high school, St. Rita’s College, is one school whose students are benefitting from the initiative.
“At St Rita’s College, Rosa House is the Orange House, so we support Orange Sky and have been growing this partnership steadily for many years. We are gaining momentum each year and allow the team spirit that is the foundation of our Sudsy Challenge campaign to promote the very important work of Orange Sky,” Michelle Siddiqui, St Rita’s Head of House (Rosa) told The Educator.
“Through education and awareness of the issue of homelessness, students are able to see that there is a human face to our fundraising efforts. The Sudsy Challenge is a permanent event on our school calendar and every year we are reaching out to a wider proportion of our community to not just donate but to sign up and be part of our team.”
Siddiqui said the College Pillars of compassion, simplicity, hospitality, courage, justice and hope are actioned by supporting the work of Orange Sky.
“For me the most satisfying outcome is watching young women hear the story of Nic and Lucas, who had an idea and used their privilege and education to act and support vulnerable people in our community. It empowers our students to think ‘maybe this could be me, so why don’t I have a go at making a difference’. What more important lesson could there be in this life?”
‘Even a small, simple idea has the potential to change the world’
Francesca Turnbull, St Rita College’s 2023 Rosa House Co-Captain, said through raising awareness within the school as well as the outer community, the Sudsy Challenge helps young people develop new perspectives and look deeper into the real and overlooked problem of society – increasing homelessness.
“This challenge instills appreciation for how fortunate we are to be able to help such an important cause, while highlighting awareness that things that are bare minimum for me, like a shower and clean clothes, can mean everything to others,” Turnbull told The Educator.
“Through my role as Rosa House captain, Nic and Lucas, starting as orange house captains themselves, have inspired both myself and my co-captain immensely, that one day that could be us; proving to me and my peers that even a small, simple idea has the potential to change the world and lives around us; allowing us to believe that anything is possible and encouraging us to participate and support such a great cause.”