By Jackson Russell
Two women have travelled more than 16,000 kilometres from Mülheim, Germany to help Riddells Creek group Ranges Rescue with their bushfire aid efforts.
Gertje Forlong, who owns a fabric and craft store in Germany, asked relatives in Echuca how she can help outside of donating money and was told displaced animals at wildlife shelters need pouches.
Just one post asking for help on her business’ social media gathered more than 17,000 clicks after three hours and Ms Forlong suddenly had 4000 pouches to send to Australia.
It wasn’t long before Ms Forlong needed help controlling the huge response on social media, recruiting friend and online marketing professional Daniela Sprung to assist and come to Australia with her with just four days’ notice to buy flights and get a passport.
The response to Ms Forlong’s efforts attracted coverage across German newspapers, radio and television and was also covered in Spain.
The swell of support became so much for Ms Forlong that she needed to find the right place in Australia to take all the pouches and found Ranges Rescue founder Kate Nabarro on social media.
“I was sure she was the right person because she’s in the middle of this thing and she can give it to several sanctuaries and I’m sure the pouches will be delivered to where they’re needed and that’s what my customers wanted,” Ms Forlong said.
Ms Forlong, Ms Sprung and Ms Nabarro have been travelled across Victoria visiting wildlife sanctuaries, learning about native wildlife and visiting fire-affected areas to get a sense of the disaster’s scale.
“We drove through some of the areas that are completely burnt and it was hard to see,” Ms Forlong said.
“We drove more than 1000 kilometres and we saw two kookaburras and one dead kangaroo.
“When you hear that 1.5 billion animals died, that’s the thing that makes you feel really small in the world.”
After seeing Ms Forlong’s efforts, one animal rescue group in Germany jumped on board and raised $5000 in just one day to support Australian wildlife sanctuaries.
Ranges Rescue founder Kate Nabarro said she’s planning to visit Germany to personally thank the community for their support.
“I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to have Gertje support us the way she has. We didn’t know each other at all three weeks ago and I feel like have two new sisters,” she said.
“We’d like to do some sort of collaboration of a fabric together and we’ll use it for fundraising to tie our stories together.”
After coming together to craft pouches for fire-affected wildlife, Ranges Rescue’s first fundraising event raised more than $4500 with $3000 to be donated to Vets with Compassion.
“Vets with Compassion is an organisation on the front line so when the animals are coming out of the fire-affected areas, they build triages and treat them there,” Ms Nabarro said.