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Enlisting crafts people to comfort rescued Australian animals

In this Rooted feature we talk to local crafts people who have mobilized to provide nests, pouches, blankets and other items to animals rescued from the wildfires in Australia

It is estimated that one billion animals have died as a result of the wildfires ravaging Australia and just as many or more baby animals have been orphaned. It is a staggering number, especially for the people and organization tasked with rescuing the helpless creatures and keeping them alive.

The situation has inspired a group of artisans from Guelph to join an international coalition to deliver care and comfort to the orphaned and homeless young animals.

“I was speaking with a friend of mine who is living in Australia in New South Wales,” said Guelph realtor, crochetier and campaign hub Terra White. “She was just devastated with what was going on and she felt like the government wasn’t supporting her and the world wasn’t coming to help. I felt at a complete loss as to what I could do to comfort her in a moment of absolute terror.”

White searched online for any good news she could share with her friend and ways she could help.

“I came across this group that was working with all the crafts and animals in Australia and it was positive post after positive post,” said White. “I linked her with that and it made her feel so much better. They ended up branching out to the Canadian art group and they were asking people to be hubs for local communities across Canada. I believe there are 38 right now.”

The Australian-based Animal Rescue Craft Guild and the Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Guild have mobilized more than 200,000 knitters, sewers, crochetiers and other craftspeople to provide a variety of items including nests and pouches for baby birds, kangaroos, koalas and others.

“I am teaming up with other girls, Melanie Baker and Christine Meadows in the Kitchener- Waterloo, Guelph area,” said White. “We have joined together because this is a massive task."

We are recruiting members and asking for donations and it has been incredibly successful. We are looking forward to what we can do and how we can help.”

They formed a Facebook group - KW-Cambridge-Guelph ARC Craft Hub – to keep track of supporters and keep people accurately informed about what is needed. The group has grown to nearly 240 members in the past 30 days.

“You can go there and join the group,” said White. “We will approve you right away. That is where you can get complete information about what is required donation wise and what is going on.”

The campaign caught the attention of local activist and artisan Charlene Downey.

“How often does the call go out to crafters,” asked Downey? “We need makers and your heart just swells because you know something you made with your hands is going to help a little animal be safe and survive.”

Downey sits on the board of the Victor Davis Tenant Group at 87 Neeve St.

“I was aware that they had a crochet and knitting class, so I connected with the instructor Jane Childs and asked if they were interested in helping,” said Downey. “They jumped all over it. I also connected with my supplier Estelle Yarns out of Toronto, Chris Peacock, and he said they are on board and whatever yarn we need they will supply it because a barrier in helping is the cost of materials.”

Wool and natural fibres are preferred.

“We want to use wool so it doesn’t hurt the little animals,” said Downey. “The acrylics serve a purpose and that is great but if the animals start eating it they will be ingesting plastic.”

Downey brought patterns to share with the knitting class and helped them prepare the yarn before they started making the items. She later delivered some of the finished items to White in a pillowcase donated by her grandmother and refashioned to hold rescued snakes.

“As a reptile lover that just made me so happy,” she said. “Instead of sending everything in plastic bags gather things up and put them in pillowcases.”

They are also looking for inserts to go inside the pouches and nests.

“The animals soil them and they are hard to wash all the time,” said White. “They usually ask for three inserts for every crocheted item so it is a quick and easy change for the animals so they stay clean and dry. We want to make sure everything has been washed in hot water only. No detergent with scents because scents can be very strong for some animals. Also keep pets off of items being donated because of fur and scents that might be transferred.”

Shipping to Australia can be costly and White was happy to announce they are getting help from Air Canada

“Air Canada has generously donated six airplanes across Canada,” said White. “We haven’t confirmed all the dates they will be flying out, but it will be within the next few weeks. They are giving us completely free shipping for anything we can get to their planes leaving for Australia.”

White is a realtor with Home Group Realty and they have allowed her to use their offices in the Guelph Junction at 5 Edinburgh Rd S as a drop-off point for donated items.

She said she is committed to the campaign for the long haul and the need for donations could last until December or longer.

“I am committed to be part of this group as long as they are asking for help,” she said. “If it takes you a month to make a pouch or a nest, you can always message me. I will do my best to make sure everything gets to where it needs to go.”