The wildfires in Australia have been relentless, burning for months. As of early January, more than 14.7 million acres have burned, and the fires continue to spread. At least 20 people and an estimated half a billion animals have lost their lives, according to CNN.
It's heartbreaking to read the stories and watch videos about the fires and the damage they've caused. For many, it's especially painful to see the animals that have been hurt or displaced by the blazes.
Morgan Leigh of Byron Bay, a coastal town in New South Wales, Australia, posted videos of injured koalas on Facebook and wrote, "Literally so consumed by this I can't sleep."
Feeling helpless, she started asking friends to donate soft flannel cotton sheets so she could make blankets and pouches for the animals being cared for by rescue groups. Word spread quickly, and she has been contacted by strangers from all over the world who want to help by either making items or donating money or supplies.
Because so many people wanted to help, Leigh created a group where people could get involved. The group, Rescue Craft Co., can be found on Facebook and Instagram. There, people can find detailed patterns as well as addresses where items can be shipped or even dropped off in the United States. (Canadian drop-off sites are being added.) In just one day, the group approved 1,000 new members in 30 minutes. Obviously, people want to find a way to help.
Many are sharing photos of the crocheted birds nests or hanging joey bags they've made. Some are from skilled crafters; others are from first-timers. They all receive plenty of praise.
"I cant sew or crochet, but I'd be willing to buy anyone who can sew all the materials they need," wrote a member named Tracy.
If you're like Tracy and don't know your way around a craft store, you can still help the animals and the people of Australia by opening your wallet.
How to help animals
If you want to donate to animal-based causes, here are a few groups that are helping to rescue and rehabilitate animals impacted by the fires.
The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital — More than 30 koalas have been brought to this New South Wales hospital. A Go Fund Me was set up to help build watering stations for thirsty koalas, but the response has been so great and the koala loss so overwhelming that now the funds will be used to help develop a koala breeding program. You can donate to the hospital here.
World Wildlife Fund Australia — The WWF is focusing on restoring koala habitat once the fires clear. Donate to WWF here.
RSPCA New South Wales — RSPCA is working to evacuate pets, livestock and wildlife and get them to safety, as well as treat those affected by the fires. Give to RSPCA here.
WIRES — New South Wales Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service is a nonprofit wildlife group caring for sick, injured and orphaned native animals. Donate to WIRES here.
How to help people in Australia
If you'd like to focus on the first responders or people who have been harmed by the blazes, here are just a few of the many groups helping them.
Salvation Army — Australia's Salvation Army is providing meals and support to evacuees and first responders. Donate to the Salvation Army here.
Australian Red Cross — The Red Cross is supporting thousands of people in evacuation centers and recovery programs across the country. Support the Red Cross here.
St. Vincent de Paul Society — This organization is providing food, clothing and household items for those who have been evacuated from their homes. They are also helping to pay bills and other expenses. Donate to the St. Vincent de Paul Society here.
NSW Rural Fire Service — Donations directly benefit firefighters in New South Wales who are battling blazes. Give to NSW Rural Fire Service here.