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Pouch Project answers call to aid wildlife devastated by ongoing Australian fires

Listowel Pouch Project organizers are rallying local crafters to help Australian wildlife affected by ongoing fires that have devastated the country on Saturday, Jan. 18. Pictured is The Scrapbook Shop owner Alana McEachern and Listowel Pouch Project organizer Linda Stewart (absent organizer Deb Cary). (Dan McNee Photo)

Local crafters gathering at The Scrapbook Shop Jan. 18 to assist in overseas relief effort

LISTOWEL – Local crafters slick with a sewing needle or crochet hooks may be surprised to learn that they can make a significant difference in helping some of the world’s most unique animals affected by the ongoing wildfires raging across Australia for the better part of two months.

Enter the Listowel Pouch Project, a local effort built off the momentum of a larger initiative to create crafted items to assist in the rehabilitation and treatment of Australian mammals, reptiles, birds, rodents and marsupials left severely burned or orphaned by the fires that have destroyed an area equivalent to the size of the countries of Belgium and Denmark combined. Australian animal aid agencies have been overwhelmed with the number of affected animals, and have put out the call for assistance.

Listowel Pouch Project organizers are rallying local crafters to that call on Saturday, Jan. 18, when the group will convene at The Scrapbook Shop to not only organize donated items for shipping, but to also create the pouches, jackets, blankets, nests and other comfort items requested.

“We’ve got the space, we’ve got the electricity, we can plug everybody in and away we will go,” said The Scrapbook Shop owner Alana McEachern, adding that volunteers are welcome to bring their own sewing machines.

It is not known exactly how many animals have been affected by the wildfire crisis, but there are online estimates as high as one billion, with millions of animals likely killed. McEachern offered her business to the cause after seeing Facebook posts asking for assistance, specifically responding to the local initiative established by Deb Cary and Linda Stewart.

“Once they’re allowed to go in and retrieve animals, they’re coming across parents and the adults,” said McEachern. “Because they’re marsupials, their young will be inside their pockets. They’re finding dead parents with live babies. It pulls at your heartstrings.

“It’s the least we can do, at least it’s something. As crafters, we all have supplies. We’re all like, ‘finally, something that we can do’, because we’re going to craft regardless. This is something with a purpose.”

Stewart has been crafting for four years, and got more involved with the pastime after surgery three years ago left her unable to re-join the workforce. She said that crocheting helps with her dizziness, and that the Listowel Pouch Project in particular gave her the opportunity to use her skill for a broader purpose.

“That’s something that I can actually do to be productive,” she said. “It’s frustrating when you can’t go out and be productive in society. When I saw this, I knew it was something that I could do.”

“This gives me something to concentrate on and feel good about doing it.”

The Listowel Pouch Project is accepting donated materials and financial contributions to help with the initiative as well as the costs associated with shipping, which McEachern added will be completed plastic-free, as the materials the group will be sending Down Under will serve as packing in itself. Donated crochet items must be ‘sock quality’, using G and H hook sizes. Sewing needles must be 3-5 mm, with a complete list of guidelines available through The Scrapbook Shop’s Facebook page.

“Anyone who would be willing to join us on Saturday is more than welcome,” said McEachern, adding that there are plans in the works to expand the initiative beyond the initial shipment that is being organized. “Not even strictly for sewing or crocheting or knitting, if they want to come help sort, by all means.”

“This will probably be an ongoing thing,” added Stewart. “As things settle down and get used over there, there’s going to be more call for it. The important thing is to follow the guidelines so it’s not a waste of the crafters’ time, and a waste of their time where it’s not what they need and have to chuck it.”

Domino’s Pizza will be providing food for Listowel Pouch Project volunteers on Saturday, and Life’s a Party is donating snacks. For more information on the initiative or to see how you can help or donate, contact Stewart via email at flyingcuda72@gmail.com or McEachern at thescrapbookshopca@gmail.com. The Scrapbook Shop is located at 163 Inkerman St. W. in Listowel, and will open its doors to volunteers at 10 a.m. on Jan. 18.