The silver lining of people power

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Written By Maureen

Our family has spent the holiday season in the US, with showers in San Francisco. snow in Chicago and sunny days in Dallas. I was proud that no one got shot, the arguments were over saving (virtual) space penguins and that I ended the 22-day jaunt the same weight that I started. Our holiday was set against a back-home scenario of fires, lives lost and anguish over animals.

We received alerts every day from the RFS app warning us of a new danger. We worriedly checked on the whereabouts of family, work colleagues and friends in every state in the country. We lamented the air quality in Canberra (where I would usually be working, at least part of my time).

Every Uber driver we encountered in three US states passed on their sympathy for the loss of life, habitat and our iconic animals.

One thing we did that gave us some comfort, was drive to Kalamazoo in Michigan to meet up with a sister crafter who spent her Christmas crocheting birds’ nests, making bat wraps and sewing joey pouches. She has churned out half a large suitcase of items for me to bring back and donate to the Australian Rescue Craft Guild (188,000 and growing), of which we are both members.

One of the wonderful things about ARC Guild is how it is changing people’s lives. It gives us something practical to do that helps animals and their carers. We believe that our work will help as many animals as possible survive this terrible fire season. Sewing bees have sprung up all over the country, and the world. People have posted images of fabric that cost them 35c from Target in 1975, that is as good as new and is now gracing beautiful baby bats. If the fires have done nothing else, they have cleaned out the crafting stash of at least 100,000 women around the world.

The group has quickly developed to deliver craft items, food for displaced animals, and supplies for carers. Many of the members are wildlife carers and they daily post images of the beautiful animals in their care. All this work is voluntary. The admin team are volunteers, the delivery team members are volunteers, the crafters are volunteers. People from more than 20 countries are spending their time (and money) making things for birds, bats, reptiles, macropods and more.

I read of 100 people who got together in Reykjavik to knit and crochet nests and pouches. There are independent groups in Singapore, who knit, sew and crochet and then coordinate holidaymakers and ex-pats to ferrythe goods to Australia. One woman in the Netherlands has become a local celebrity after coordinating hundreds of people to make koala mittens (we now have more mittens than koalas). Crafters in Sao Paulo are busy with bat wraps. The list goes on. It’s the most amazing phenomena I’ve ever encountered.

In the early days of my membership (way back in November 2019) there were only 8,000 members and I was keeping up with the posts – liking every newbie’s first nest or pouch or commenting on the work of the carers. Now, I keep up to date with what is needed, the changing addresses for drop offs and answering the latest call for *urgently* needed items (one callout was for 5,000 bat wraps – cue dozens of cute baby bats wrapped, some with dummies in their mouths).

My crafting journey from November to January has seen me produce dozens of joey pouches with dozens more cut out waiting for me to sew this weekend. It’s meant I’m now on the permanent volunteer list of crafters for Wildcare on the Gold Coast. I have two homes and two sewing machines with matching stashes of 100% cotton sheets and joey pouch patterns spread over the dining tables.

I’ve gained so much from giving of my time and skills. I now have a new friend in Michigan, I have met some wonderful women and assuaged at least some of the anxiety that comes from daily disaster updates. TCC is now sponsoring, on an ongoing basis, one wildlife carer. In the scheme of things, our efforts individually – or for a small business like ours – are little. Yet, we are glad to be doing what we can.

TCC has always been carbon neutral – it’s something that we’ve worked on for nearly 12 years now. And we’ve always supported diversity and minority groups. Our commitment to the environment and human rights is partly why we were national finalists for the Australian Human Rights Awards for Business in 2018.

2020 is shaping up to be the year that climate change may, finally, get the airtime it needs to implement the structural change to cope with our new normal. The power of apps and social media has been so evident during this crisis. Whether it’s the $200 million plus that’s been donated via various crowd-funding platforms, or the development of groups like ARC Guild, the results are awesome.

And the power of women has been showcased for the world – from the 40% of RFS volunteers who are women, to the 140 plus wild life carers (just on the east coast that ARC Guild supports), through to the crafters on every continent who are committed to helping save our iconic animals.

Happy New Year, happy new decade. Now, where’s that joey pouch pattern?