Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Local crafters answer call-out to aid Australian bush fires’ wildlife

By Diarmúid Pepper

The Australian fires are continuing to blaze, leaving destruction in its wake, especially for the animal population.

Over half a billion animals have perished in the fires, which are expected to rage for weeks, if not months, to come.

In response to this tragedy, Newry’s Sticky Fingers has issued a call-out for materials and helpers to deliver animal aid to the country.

Sticky Fingers has issued an appeal via Facebook for all “crafters, sewers, knitters and those who can to donate fabric, thread and – most importantly – time” so that they can donate items to Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild in Australia.  

Sticky Fingers is setting up a temporary textiles room in its centre and the public is encouraged to donate fabrics and time to help with the appeal.

Mark Revels spoke to The Examiner about how the appeal came together.

“Every week we try to tailor workshops to fit the needs of the children and the young people we work with,” explained Mark.

“There has been a lot of talk about what has been going on in Australia and everyone has been feeling quite desperate and helpless about what is going on. There has been a lot of discussion amongst the children about this.

“One of the artists suggested that we did some arts and crafts which relate to Australia and it was a natural progression from there.”

Revels says the staff “thought about making artwork to send out to charities in Australia”, something which they hoped would give aid workers a morale boost.

But then the staff came across an appeal for beds and for wallaby and kangaroo pouches which caught their attention.

“So that was it,” says Mark. “The ball started rolling and it became a juggernaut. We have had so many people come in and phoning up asking where they can donate the fabric to.

“We have different sewing clubs in schools and other organisations asking if they can come down during the week. So hopefully we will end up with a mini-production line to put these items out, which they are in desperate need of.”

Revels says the children feel “empowered” by their efforts and are delighted to be able to get involved: “They are watching from afar, and it can feel like another world, but the children have jumped on this idea and have ran with it.

“Children are possibly more affected by the images we are seeing on TV than adults would be. As an adult, you maybe learn to shift it to the side but the young mind is not desensitised to it.

“As an organisation, our ethos is about early child development. We believe that the children and teenagers getting involved in stuff like this, it sets a good precedent for the future and they will always remember getting involved in projects like this.

“It brings them into a community setting where they are helping other people and doing something collective that is not for their own gain. They are helping people in a country that they may never even visit, so it is a wonderful thing to watch unfold.”

Revels says the staff have been in “awe” of the immediate response of the local community to his Facebook appeal.

“The interaction on this Facebook post has far exceeded our expectations and we are humbled by the generosity of the local community.

“There are so many people who have jumped on board the initiative and are helping us out. It is wonderful to see everyone come together for this and the staff are in awe of the amount of people who have got in touch and who have said they will come down and help engage in the project.”