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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — A sewing machine hummed as King High School junior Paige Hart guided layers of flannel and fleece under the needle.
With soft fabric in maroon and pastel shades, she crafted a pouch recently that would hold a young orphaned or displaced marsupial affected by Australia’s relentless wildfires.
The project, a collaboration between student council members and fashion design students, was right up Hart’s alley. She hopes to study marine biology and cosmetology to make environmentally friendly makeup.
“I really love animals, so I was heartbroken when I heard about this, and I really wanted to do something,” Hart said. “When my teacher gave me the option of doing this, I was like, ‘Yes, I’m going to do it.’ And I love it.”
Australia’s bushfires sparked in September and intensified in November, according to Australian media reports. By January, the fires ravaged almost 17 million acres in New South Wales and Victoria. At least 33 people have died, more than 2,500 homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of millions of animals have died or are starving or dehydrated.
The students will send about 50 pouches in various sizes — capable of holding young kangaroos, koalas, bats, wombats and other creatures — to a nonprofit called Wildcare Australia, the Corpus Christi Caller Times reported.
About 15 student council members cut the fabric using a template from Wildcare Australia, and five fashion design students stitched the pieces together. The students plan to make another round of pouches in February.
Wildcare Australia is “always rescuing these animals, so it’s something they can use even after” the wildfires subside, student council adviser V.M. Zamora said.
Zamora brought the project to the students, hoping not only to help out suffering animals but also to “teach the kids that your carbon footprint really makes an impact,” she said.
The pouches are part of a two-pronged student council project focused on the environment. From early February until Earth Day in April, students will commit to environmentally friendly behaviors, such as eating a vegetarian meal once a week, carpooling more often and filling their gas tanks at a cool time of day to prevent the fuel from burning faster.
“We have to learn how to take care of the earth because we only get one,” Zamora said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone. So we have to teach them, and I felt like this would make a real connection, something real to them. … It takes all of us to take care of this planet.”