Nova Scotia

N.S. woman persuades Air Canada to send supplies to help injured Australian wildlife

A Nova Scotia woman has persuaded Air Canada to send six cargo planes full of handcrafted bat wraps, joey pouches and medical supplies to areas ravaged by bushfires in Australia.

More than 11,000 crafters are sending goods

Atlantic Canadian crafters are sending handmade joey pouches, bat wraps and nests for injured wildlife in Australia. Six cargo planes are leaving this month. (Brook Mitchell/Getty Images)

As the charred remains of bushland from Melbourne to Sydney flashed outside the train window, Brianna MacDonald became determined to help the injured wildlife she could barely see in the smoke.

It's been less than two weeks since that journey. But the Nova Scotia woman has successfully lobbied Air Canada to send six cargo shipments to Australia that will include medical supplies and handcrafted goods made across Canada.

While the story of the 10,000-strong Canadian Animal Rescue Craft Guild has made headlines this week, their efforts were hampered by shipping costs.

"A lot of people knew someone who was travelling to Australia and they were planning to put their donations in that person's luggage," MacDonald said.

"But that wasn't fast enough to meet the demand and it was also hard to get the incoming supplies to where they were most needed."

That's where MacDonald's mother, Cathy, came in.

Her garage in Bedford is filled with boxes of veterinary supplies, crocheted nests and sewn slings for injured and displaced bats. 

Cathy MacDonald's home in Bedford, N.S., has become ground zero for knitted goods and donations across Atlantic Canada. (Carsten Knox/CBC)

Her daughter, meanwhile, has met with wildlife groups and humanitarian agencies near where she now lives in Cronulla, Australia, to co-ordinate the distribution on the ground.

Although MacDonald had initially just requested that Air Canada fly out a shipment from Halifax, the airline agreed to send out five other shipments, according to an Air Canada spokesperson.

The first cargo plane will leave Halifax today. It will be filled with goods sent from all over the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

Cargo planes will also leave from Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver in the next few days.

Brianna MacDonald opened her home in Cronulla, Australia, to collect soft goods and medical supplies to help injured wildlife. (Submitted by Brianna MacDonald)

Lauren McCann helped collect knitted goods and donations in the Amherst area, putting down her thrummed mittens to crochet nests instead. Her colleagues at Oxford Frozen Foods donated funds so she could buy wool and material after seeing her work in the lunchroom.

She knows that other people will continue to drop off other handcrafted goods after the plane flies out so she's planning to use the last of those donations to send a shipment to Australia later in the month. 

"If you've already started making that pouch and it's not done, don't worry about it," McCann said. "This is just the beginning of the burn season."

After bushfires decimated bat habitats, volunteers sewed pouches and nests for them to hang in. (Submitted by Lauren Darby/Shoalhaven Bat Clinic)

MacDonald said the level of generosity from fellow Canadians like McCann has overwhelmed her. 

"Not everyone is capable of financially donating, which is 100 per cent fine, so they're finding what skills they can offer — and that is incredibly moving," she said. "A lot of them have never been here and they may never be here and they're just like, 'I will do whatever I can.'"

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Laura Fraser

Social Media Editor

Laura Fraser is an award-winning journalist who writes about justice, health and the human experience. Story ideas are welcome at laura.fraser@cbc.ca

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