Arya Bochantin, left, irons a pattern while Rio Goette, right, cuts out patterns.

Arya Bochantin, left, irons a pattern while Rio Goette, right, cuts out patterns.

Whidbey activists craft pouches to help orphaned baby wildlife in Australia

In some cases, social media really can serve as the great unifier.

When Kaili Slate and Denice Bochantin saw the devastation wildfires had been causing in Australia, they wanted to use their resourceful sewing skills to help the suffering wildlife.

They learned from Facebook groups Animal Rescue Craft Guild and Relief Crafters of America that they could sew nests and pouches for the joeys and other orphaned baby animals to live in.

“I’ve been wanting to donate in some way,” Bochantin said, “but I didn’t have a lot of available money. But I have a lot of available fabric.”

Bochantin, a mother of children at a local community arts school, encouraged other parents and their kids to get involved with the rescue efforts, inviting families into her own home and teaching them how to sew. Bochantin’s daughter Arya, who likes sewing, has helped make pouches for the wildlife.

“The patterns are really pretty,” Arya said about her favorite part of the project. The 7 year old added that they probably have “every single fabric there is.”

The Facebook groups share information about patterns, everything from hanging bags for baby kangaroos to wraps for bats to tiny pouches for sugar gliders.

Requirements for the materials are also posted. Fabric and thread must be from natural fibers, such as cotton, wool or bamboo. Pouches are typically sewn inside-out, so the softest part of the fabric touches the baby animal.

A kangaroo lover since visiting Australia at a young age, Slate volunteers as a point of contact for people on Whidbey looking to get involved. They can contact her through the Facebook pages mentioned above.

“There are so many people that value handmade items,” she said, “so it’s not surprising that there’s been so many people interested in this on the island.”

The first batch of sewn items have been sanitized and “quarantined” in clean plastic and sent to a contact in Bellevue, who will send the pouches to Australian relief groups.

“Animals and this kind of work transcends political views, transcends borders,” Slate said. “It’s really been bringing people together for a common purpose. I’ve met a lot of really amazing people.”

For Bochantin, the crisis in Australia and the response of volunteers across the world has been a teaching moment for her kids.

“These animals are ambassadors for other species that are facing extinction on a daily basis,” she said. “If we can garner this type of passion for animals halfway around the globe, how can we draw that back to local rescues?”

She mentioned they are looking for ways to move their energy towards helping local animal rescue groups.

The Australian Facebook groups have asked the crafters to cease sewing while they evaluate what is needed for further animal rescue efforts.

Bochantin said the greatest demand now is food, because many animals lost it in the fire in addition to their habitat.

Bella Bond, left, and Arya Bochantin, right, work on the sewing machine together.

Bella Bond, left, and Arya Bochantin, right, work on the sewing machine together.

Arya Bochantin displays a finished sewn pouch, big enough to fit a sugar glider.

Arya Bochantin displays a finished sewn pouch, big enough to fit a sugar glider.

More in Life

Frances Schultz, holding a picture of her younger self, recently turned 100 years old. Her daughter, Connie Van Dyke, right, said her mother’s photo looks like one of actress Barbara Stanwyck. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
At 100, Oak Harbor woman reflects on busy life

Frances Schultz turned 100 years old on March 30.

Joel Atienza’s uniform’s USAF/USSF patches prior to transfer. Photo provided
Oak Harbor 2010 grad selected for U.S. Space Force

Joel Atienza’s advice to Space Force hopefuls? “Remember, ‘The sky is not the limit.’”

The Oystercatcher’s owner and chef, Tyler Hansen, prepares a dozen 3 Sisters beef bolognese lasagnas to go on the shelves at 3 Sisters Market. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Chef liaises with other business owners

A Coupeville chef has expanded his partnership with local business owners to… Continue reading

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Third grader Laszlo McDowell gets up close and personal with a gray whale skull.
Students learn about being ‘whale-wise’

South Whidbey Elementary School students got a taste of what it would be like to live as gray whales.

Tim Leonard, owner of the Machine Shop in Langley, hangs a purple neon star he made on the wall of his arcade. Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group
Neon art show colorizes Machine Shop’s reopening

A cacophony of happy buzzers and bells and a riot of glowing… Continue reading

Color Guard Capt. Mike Hutchins, at left, and John Kraft present the Sons of the American Revolution Bronze Good Citizenship Medal to Bobbi Lornson, center. (Photo by Teresa Addison)
Oak Harbor woman awarded ‘Good Citizenship’ medal

Bobbi Lornson, past president of the Oak Harbor Lions Club president and volunteer, was recently recognized for her contributions to the community.

Rockin’ A Hard Place | All aboard for my big, post-jab Rock adventure

All aboard for my big, post-jab Rock adventure!

Rishi Sharma checks levels in his camera before interviewing WWII combat veteran Frank Burns of Freeland last Saturday. Sharma travels the country interviewing WWII combat veterans for his oral history project and nonprofit, Heroes of the Second World War. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Recording for posterity tales of WWII vets across the U.S.

Rishi Sharma has met more than 1,100 World War II combat veterans to document their stories.

Viggo Cerrato, 6, pets a young Shamo rooster named Baby Boy. Cascadia Heritage Farm is currently in the midst of a project to “invigorate” a rare breed of chicken. Photo by Kira Erickson/Whidbey News Group
Farm promoting genetic diversity, a flock at a time

North Whidbey’s Cascadia Heritage Farm focuses on preserving critically endangered breeds.

An Anna’s Hummingbird feeds from a red-flowering currant on Whidbey Island. Photo by Martha Ellis
Native plant habitat a wild bird’s best friend

Spring couldn’t come soon enough this year, not for just the birds, but for the nature enthusiasts.

Teaser
Jason Blair, owner of Red Fish, Blue Fish, nets an angelfish.
Finny business: ‘Fish Nerd’ opening new shop

The store is coming to Greenbank Farm this spring.