When something as monumental and visible as the wildfires in Australia take place, it unites people across the world who are all driven by compassion and generosity to help out in any way they can.
Quilters and crafters of all ages, experienced and novice, adults and children, have all pitched in to make small fabric pouches known as “Joey Pouches” for vulnerable, orphaned creatures (mainly kangaroos, koalas, and other marsupials).
And now, inmates from John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County, Florida, are doing their part, too. In what was once a rec room, inmates are not only helping out with a noble cause, but they’re learning a valuable life skill as well.
“Our O-Pod inmates are making ‘joey pouches’ for baby kangaroos orphaned during the devastating Australian wild fires,” the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office posted on Monday. “Joeys spend nine months in their mother’s pouches which are essential to their development.”
“Some pouches have a strap attached for rescue workers to wear while carrying the baby kangaroos. Keep up the good work!”
One commenter wrote she was so happy that the room, used for recovering opioid addicts, was housing such a lovely project.
“This is the best thing to ever happen to O-Pod, in which I spent enough time,” she wrote. “It was just a dorm room for inmates to hang out and watch TV. So incredibly happy to see such amazing things and progress coming from there now.”
A video was also made and shared by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, highlighting a few of the inmates’ handiwork and showing off their progress.
“Inmates here at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility are hard at work making so-called ‘joey pouches’ for marsupials orphaned due to the Australian wildfires,” they reiterated on Wednesday. “The pouches come from recycled material and inmates making them learn a new skill they can use upon their release. Take a look behind the scenes!”
Not only are the inmates learning how to use sewing machines, they’re making the pouches out of decommissioned uniforms, so the fabric is being recycled, making the project a win-win.
The Wildcare Australia Inc. group has been literally overwhelmed with support in the form of the small, fabric pouches — so much so, that they’ve asked generous crafters to please slow down production until they can get a chance to tally the gifts and see if they’ll need any more.
“Thank you to everyone in the Australian and international sewing communities who have made and sent us pouches for our orphaned joeys,” they shared on Jan. 16. “We have been so humbled by everyone’s incredible kindness and generosity!”
“We are now busy sorting and distributing your beautifully hand-made items to our wildlife carers as well as carers in other areas.”
“We would ask that if you haven’t already purchased the fabric, or started sewing them, that you hold off for a short time while we distribute what is currently arriving. We have a lot of people still in the process of sewing and sending pouches and once they arrive, we believe that we will have sufficient supplies to keep us going for the foreseeable months ahead.”
The wildlife care group has also received many other carefully handmade items, including “Possum Boxes” made by woodworking students. They’ve also asked for donations of pillowcases to create “Glove Box Buddies,” which they hand out to people who frequent fire-damaged areas, in case those people spot injured animals that need help.
“They are simply a pillowcase with a tie and instruction card affixed outlining steps on what to do if you see a sick, injured or orphaned native animal in need of help,” the page explained. “The pillowcase is used to help scoop up the animal and contain it for safe transportation to a wildlife hospital or vet clinic.”
If you would like to donate or find a way to support the group’s efforts, you can check out their page.
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