Do Right Down Under

Bushfires are all too common in Australia, but this season has set a grim record. Fires have raged for months across the continent, devastating wildlife and their habitats. As a result, koalas, kangaroos and even bats are injured, orphaned or homeless. When one local family heard about the catastrophe, they knew they wanted to help. That’s why Rebecca Hughes and her husband, Chris, are sewing wildlife pouches for animals and collecting material, supplies and handmade pouches from local makers.


Davi: How did you become involved in the Australian wildlife relief effort?

Rebecca: Seeing such devastation happening from afar, I felt the need to help and support Australia at a time when it needs it most. I give Steve Irwin credit for fueling my love for animals, and this love motivated me to act locally and get our community involved in supporting the relief efforts.


What is your role in the relief effort?

My husband and I have volunteered to be a donation hub for Northeast Florida, including Jacksonville and surrounding counties. We will collect all donations and ship one massive package to Australia, so donors won’t have to bear the cost of shipping abroad.


Have you received a positive response from local supporters?

Yes! We have had several individuals reach out who are interested in helping but unsure how they can contribute. I often say, “Time is the most valuable resource,” so if you can put your skills to work, like making homemade items for wildlife animals or cutting materials for other crafters, this is more intrinsically rewarding than giving money.


How can locals help animals in Australia?

Donate! There’s a tendency to think that, if you don’t have money, you cannot make an impact, but that simply is not true. People can donate fabric, time and skills to craft pouches for displaced wildlife. They can also donate supplies.


What items can people make?

Volunteers can knit or sew a variety of wildlife pouches and animal blankets. If you are not crafty, you can donate soft fabric (cotton, fleece and flannel) and supplies that can be used to make these items.


What is one thing you’d want our readers to understand about supporting Australian wildlife relief efforts?

We are all citizens of the same world. Many of the firefighters and animal rescuers are volunteers, just like those of us who are making koala mittens and bat wraps. You may not think your wildlife pouch is significant, but to the animal who receives it, it is the most significant gift of all.


How can people contact you if they want to support the relief efforts?

Anyone looking to help the animals can contact me at [email protected] or Instagram @catharsis_creative. Our shipping date is January 30. If you can knit, crochet or sew, wildlife organizations want your help to create special pouches and blankets for injured animals.


Young wallabies, koalas and wombats require pouches to grow. Without their mothers, they rely on handmade products from donors. Other animals, such as flying foxes, also require pouches to help their recovery, and koalas need mittens for their burnt paws. Animals are always in need of these wraps, not just in the fire season. Despite the outpouring of supplies, experts say they do not expect to have an excess any time soon.