Eddie Uini: Orange Sky NZ: Westfield Local Heroes 2019
Laundromat in a van provides dignity and conversation
Compassionate. Generous. Kind
Edward (Eddie) Uini’s journey into full-time community service was inspired by a homeless many who passed away alone on the steps of a local church.
“He wasn’t particularly old,” Eddie recalls. “He could have been any one of us. We all make mistakes. Some of us are just luckier in the support we get.”
Knowing that people need dignity as much as they need food and shelter, Eddie created a laundromat in his van and began to offer a free laundry service at locations where people were sleeping rough.
A few months into his one-man operation he called Orange Sky, the Australian non-profit laundry and shower service, for advice. In the conversations that followed, Orange Sky New Zealand was born. Today the charity’s distinctive orange van, fitted with washing machines, dryers and a shower, restores self-respect to hundreds of homeless Aucklanders.
Eddie is Orange Sky’s sole New Zealand employee. He works seven days a week, supported by dozens of volunteers.
He’s delighted to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “It’s huge. The acknowledgement is amazing; it’s for our volunteers as much as me. For many of us, Manukau is our hometown, our place. It’s special, really moving, to get this support from our home community.”
Even more important than a shower and clean clothing, says Eddie, is the human connection that Orange Sky brings to its clients. At every location, Eddie and his team pull out six orange chairs. “We sit there and make a safe circle for conversation,” he says. “Sometimes, the people who join us have spent weeks without speaking to anyone.”
Westfield Local Heroes are nominated and voted for by their communities, with the three top finalists per Westfield centre each awarded a $10,000 grant for their affiliated organisation.
Orange Sky New Zealand will use its grant to maintain and expand its service across Auckland, where its range has been restricted by the cost of fuel.
“The funds will support hundreds of people doing it tough by covering our fuel, registration and insurance costs for a year,” says Eddie.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.