A Dubai crafter has lent a vital helping hand to a global effort to aid animals affected by devastating bushfires sweeping across Australia.
Katrina Van Dinter is putting her sewing skills to good use to make mittens and pouches to provide much-needed comfort for native wildlife injured and left homeless as blazes continue to rage.
Rescuers use the mittens to cover koalas’ charred paws, while the pouches provide comfort for marsupials which have lost their mothers.
People touched by Australia's plight from all over the world have been busily creating everything from bat wraps and birds nests to possum boxes in order to do their bit for the cause.
After hearing of the pressing need through an Australian network in the UAE, Ms van Dinter, who owns a handmade children’s clothing company, knew she had the time, skills and will to help.
Ms van Dinter started sewing mittens for koalas and pouches for orphaned joeys and other marsupials earlier this week. She has since clocked up around 100 sets of both and counting.
“I saw that someone had posted something for a callout to make items.
“I asked a few more questions and said what can I do? They said make mittens, make pouches.
“Just after Christmas it slows down anyway, so I would normally be restocking the shops but I thought I would take some time off to do this.”
She posted on the Instagram and Facebook pages for her company, Petite Lamb, about what she was doing, and offers to help came flooding in.
“I have had a school group contact me today to see if its students can help. I have had people asking if they can donate. Obviously I can’t take donations,” said Ms van Dinter, originally from Melbourne.
“I could take fabric, but to be honest, I don’t need it because I am using offcuts anyway. It’s just my time that I’m utilising. But if anyone is sewing out there I’m happy to share the information I have.”
Initially she focused on mittens but has since put this one-woman production line them on hold as rescue centres have asked crafters to concentrate on the joey pouches.
“The pouch is comforting, soft and secure for them,” she said.
“We need different sizes because there are different sized babies too, so they are calling for extra small, small, medium and large. The liners get dirty throughout the day, so we need several liners for each pouch.”
Ms van Dinter has had several offers from people willing to carry them over to Australia, including from the wife of a UAE firefighter who is being sent over to help.
“I’ll just keep going until they say they don’t need them anymore.”
Ms van Dinter is not alone in her bid to provide assistance from the Emirates to Australia.
On Tuesday, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, pledged his support to the crisis-hit country in a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
He said the UAE would deliver crucial equipment, expertise, manpower and financial aid to help combat the fires and assist the rebuilding process to come.
Etihad Airways this week announced that it would waive all flight change fees for Australian residents affected by the devastating blazes sweeping through the country.
The national carrier has pledged to work with Emirates Red Crescent to raise funds within the UAE to help support bushfire relief.
At least 25 people have died, millions of animals killed, thousands of home destroyed and towns evacuated as record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought fuel fires which have been burning for months.
Mr Morrison warned the fires could continue to burn for months, while Gladys Berejiklian, premier of New South Wales, one of the Australian states most badly affected, said the country was in "uncharted territory".