Knitters help animals injured in Australian bush fires

Knitted beds and baskets will be used in the rehabilitation of animals injured in Australian bush fires. Picture: Sarah Goswell

A  BARKHAM WOMAN is coordinating an effort to help animals injured by the Australian bushfires.

Bethany Calhoum has set up the Berkshire hub of UK crafters for Australia Animal Rescue. 

Knitting, making and sewing, the crafters are providing handmade items for kangaroos, koalas, birds and other animals injured in the bushfires.

Patterns include mittens for koalas, joey pouches, bat wraps and animal sweaters and are being used for animal rehabilitation. 

One of the handmade pouches. All items have been made following official patterns circulated by UK crafters for Australia Animal Rescue. Picture: Aimee Lester

Ms Calhoum is coordinating and sending boxes overseas in a bid to help. She is currently looking to recruit voluntary makers and set up multiple collection and drop off points all around the county.

So far, the Berkshire Hub now has almost 500 members and more than 25 drop-off points throughout the county. 

Ms Calhoum said: “I own a busy pet services business, and have a degree in zoology. I’ve worked in animal rescue for eight years here in the UK and I wanted to do as much as I could for this desperate cause.

“I figured that managing the goings on of this — now global — project in Berkshire was a good way to go about helping.

“It only took me an hour or so to set up [the Berkshire Hub] once I was approved by the overall project managers.

“All the UK Hub managers follow the same procedure, with correct information fed directly to us from our Australian contacts who then distribute the items we send to the organisations most in need. 

Already, many of the county-wide drop-off locations have received donations. 

“I am expecting an influx of items over the next two weeks prior to the upcoming global stocktake,” added Ms Calhoum. “This will help us to reassess which items are most in demand after this date.”

Before setting up the hub, Ms Calhoum was concerned about shipping costs — estimated at £22 per parcel. However the project has benefited from large companies helping them out.

“As a national project, we have been very lucky,” said Ms Calhoum. “Bentley Motorsport have very kindly offered us large crates to fill and take with them, and British Airways have also kindly given travellers going from UK to Australia an extra suitcase of luggage allowance for free, purely for the purpose of donated goods. 

“Also, the GB Hockey team have each have been given 23kg of extra luggage – that’s 345kg total.

Knitted items designed for Koalas, Kangaroos, bats and more will be donated. Picture: Elspeth Clode-Tuite

“These goods are then picked up at the airport by volunteers who distribute them to the organisations.

“We also have several local individuals who are travelling for holidays to Australia in the next few weeks, each who are taking an extra case full of items.”

The fires in Australia have been burning for months now. Bushfires are a natural part of the country’s ecology however their prolonged duration is causing concern internationally.

The country has seen its lowest rainfall on record for the last 32 months, with the South-East worst affected. 

So far, it is estimated that half a billion — 480 million — animals have been killed in this season’s fires.

Ms Calhoum added: “In the unfortunate event of a climate change-induced natural disaster, such as that in Australia at the moment, I feel the public can help by either donating [money] to genuine help organisations, or donating items in need.”

Residents are being urged to go through the official hubs set up by UK Crafters for Australia Animal Rescue Effort.

“As far as we are aware, we are the only people with direct engagement with the team on the ground at the Animal Rescue Collective and Animal Rescue Craft Guild — based in Australia,” added Ms Calhoum.

“All our official hubs are approved and under strict instruction on how to accept, check, and package the goods, as well as ensuring the correct declaration is made to the Australian Customs and Border Protection Agency, with the suitable bylaws included.” 

Wokingham knitters and makers who wish to help can follow the patterns in the social media group, and drop-off items at The Handmade Craft Company, Holme Grange Craft Village collection point.

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