Kinburn crafter helping Australia

KINBURN – West Carleton residents are stepping up with their crafting skills to help those dealing with the devastation caused by nearly unbelievable forest fires in Australia as the country copes with one of the most brutal bush-fire seasons on record.

The beleaguered island country has been devastated by forest fires burning out of control dating back as far as last September. Dry, hot weather has made it nearly impossible for Australia’s forest firefighters, recently bolstered by Canadian and American firefighters, to control the blaze. Most recent reports suggest a pair of massive bushfires in southeastern Australia have merged in to a “megafire” engulfing some 2,300 square miles.

More than 23 people and one billion animals have been killed in Australia's wildfires. Photo by Matt Reeves/New York Times
More than 23 people and one billion animals have been killed in Australia’s wildfires. Photo by Matthew Abbott/New York Times

The megafire is in the country’s most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria and measures nearly 1.5 million acres. That megafire is just one of some 135 bushfires in Australia’s southeast claiming the lives of at least 26 people, killing more than a billion animals and damaging or destroying nearly 3,000 homes. Since September the bushfires have swept through an area larger than Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined.

In Canada, more specifically West Carleton, area crafters are doing their part to help the country on fire.

“Like many others, I find the devastating images of the wounded animals in Australia unbelievably hard to watch,” Kinburn’s Jennifer Griffin told West Carleton Online today (Jan. 10). “I’ve always believed in helping where I can within our community, I volunteer and organize charity events regularly, so stepping up and helping our international neighbours seemed natural to me.”

Griffin is knitting and volunteering to be a drop-off hub in West Carleton for crafters looking to help.

“I read an article a few days ago about crafters all over the world helping in any way they can,” she said. “Knitting, sewing and crocheting items for the animals such as bird/bat nests, joey pouches and blankets. Things like joey pouches are needed to help the orphaned baby kangaroos feel safe and secure, much like their mother’s pouches did. The koala mittens help protect the burnt paws so that they can heal. The bat wraps are used to house the bats who no longer have trees from where to hang. Each item is specific to the various animals’ needs and the details are coming from the Australians on the ground who know what those needs are. I volunteered right away as a crafter, but also as a depot for West Carleton crafters to drop off their hand-made items. We have planes leaving throughout January and February, and I will ensure that our items will be sent to Australia on the next available flight.”

Griffin is a member of the Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Guild and the local Ottawa chapter is called Ottawa ARC. “

The first flight Griffin plans to have some donated items on is Jan. 18 and is asking anyone interested to contact her through her Facebook post looking for volunteers here. She will provide the drop-off location via direct message.

“We created our own page so that Ottawa crafters can connect, craft together and support one another,” Griffin said. “We also noticed we were posting a lot of information and pictures on the national page which was beginning to get too cluttered. We’re a busy bunch, us Ottawans.”

Griffin says you don’t have to be a crafter to help Australia.

“Even if you’re not a crafter, there are so many ways to help,” she said. “We are looking for sheets and blankets made from natural fibers that can be repurposed by our sewers. If you have a dusty suitcase in your basement taking up space, we can use it to transport the items. If you or someone you know is travelling to Australia in the near future, please consider bringing our items. Many airlines are waiving the extra baggage fee if you’re bringing humanitarian items. I encourage anyone to check out the local Ottawa ARC Facebook page to see how they can help.  In the end, it’s about helping in any way that we can.”

Griffin says the predicted winter weather this weekend is the perfect time to pitch in.

“It’s going to be a mess of a weekend with scary weather on the way, so why not break out your knitting needles and make a few nests?” she said. “There are some sweet animals across the world that will truly appreciate your work.”

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