First-year politics and governance student joins thousands of people across the world donating handmade items to rescue groups
This semester, either before class or when he gets home, Leo Olkhovikov sketches a template on a piece of yellow fabric. The first-year Ryerson politics and governance student then cuts it out and leaves it for his mom to sew into a pouch. The fabric, which he had lying around his house, is strong; and it has to be, because it’s going to hold a joey — a baby kangaroo — in Australia.
Since Jan. 10, Olkhovikov and his mom have made six pouches for animals displaced by Australia’s wildfires. Crafters around the world have been knitting, sewing and crocheting for a cause through the Animal Rescue Craft Guild, a volunteer-run collective that donates crafted items for animal rescue efforts. The group originated in five Australian states, but has members from around the world.
The pair will bring their pouches to another member’s house, where collected items such as pouches, wraps and blankets will be sent to Australia and distributed to animal rescue centres, where they will be used to aid rescue efforts.
Both Olkhovikov and his mom have been sharing photos and links on social media to raise awareness of the extent of the fires and the steps they’re taking to help. But when Olkhovikov posted a photo of himself wearing a yellow pouch in a Ryerson Facebook group, it got over 30 likes — more than most of the posts of people buying or selling textbooks.
“I didn’t think I was able to do something somewhere that far, but now I know that I just wanted to inspire others,” Olkhovikov said.
As of Jan. 10, the wildfires have burned about 10 million hectares, killing dozens of people and an estimated 1.25 billion animals, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said on its website. Some of the species affected include koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, potoroos, cockatoos and honeyeaters, according to the WWF.
As the fires have worsened, more crafters have joined the cause. The Animal Rescue Craft Guild’s Facebook group reached over 100,000 members in early January and now has over 200,000.
A post pinned to the top of the group’s page encourages sewers, crocheters and knitters to make a variety of items, including bat wraps, bird nests, animal jumpers and blankets. Instructions and tutorials are posted online.
However, the craft guild is currently holding off on accepting new donations while it takes stock of existing items and assesses the demand, according to its Facebook group.
Other than donating to NGOs, Olkhovikov has never been involved in a community activity like this. He said it’s special to make a “physical object that is actually helping [to] save the lives of little animals.”
If there is more demand, Olkhovikov and his mom plan to continue sewing pouches.
“We’re saving maybe a few extra animals,” Olkhovikov said. “But even if it’s just a few extra animals, it’s still better than [saving] none.”