Giving back as a way of life for teachers turned alpaca farmers

Jan 24, 2019

Giving back has always been part of the lesson plan for Kathy Enright and Corinne Côté.

“All through our teaching years, we always did little projects with the kids, like bake sales, to raise money for different causes,” says Kathy, 57, who retired from teaching 5 years ago.

“There were the children of Chernobyl, and the hurricane in Haiti,” recalls Corinne, 57, who worked with students on the student council at the school to raise money for a variety of needs both locally, nationally, and internationally

While they instilled values of giving back in their students, they practiced what they preached at home.

Kathy, who currently sponsors a child from India, says over the years they’ve sponsored seven children between the two of them.

“We’ve been supporting World Vision for about 25 years now,” says Corinne.

As teachers, it was important to them that children be given the tools and opportunities to reach their fullest potential.

“Knowing that not all children are born into a society that allows them to pursue an education, it was important to us to try to facilitate this through sponsorship,” Kathy says.

“The most rewarding part of sponsorship is watching a young child grow up to have the opportunity to pursue his or her dreams, and seeing a child get to the point where they no longer need to be sponsored,” she adds.

This desire to give back inspired a trip to Peru in 2007 where Kathy volunteered at an orphanage.

And that same trip ultimately led to a dramatic career change for both women, from teachers to alpaca farmers.

“I thought we could buy maybe two or three, and we ended up getting six,” Kathy says.

“Eight,” Corinne interjects. “It was eight. And three were pregnant.”

 “I always say they’re kind of like potato chips, once you have one you can’t stop,” Kathy laughs.

alpaca and cria
A mother alpaca and her cria (baby) munch on some hay. They are just two of the close to 50 alpacas at Kathy and Corinne's farm. Photo: Alison Ralph

They have close to 50 alpacas now, which they breed and shear for the luxurious wool. 

“Everyone wants mittens, and we’ve got 300 pairs in boxes, waiting to be washed and then sewn,” says Kathy. 

Their products are sold online, at farmer’s markets, and in shops from Ottawa to the Yukon. 

In addition to the products made with the wool from their herd, they also offer fair-trade items from Peru to help keep traditional art alive and provide income for artisans. 

Last fall, their paths crossed with World Vision’s again when WVC staff called them seeking alpacas to help demonstrate how Canadian families can give back to families in need.

“When we brought the alpacas into the studio for the World Vision segment, we thought, this is almost like a promotion for us as well. What can we do to give back?” Kathy asked.

With the Christmas season coming fast, they decided to make ornaments in the shape of their logo – an abstract alpaca. They would sell them and use the proceeds to buy an alpaca or two from the World Vision Gift Catalogue to benefit a family in need.

alpaca ornament
Proceeds from this ornament go towards buying an alpaca or two from the World Vision Gift Catalogue. Photo: Alison Ralph

“By adding to their herd, a family can harvest the wool and make products for themselves, and eventually make products for a local market,” Corinne says. 

They saw this happen first hand on their visits to Peru.

“We saw a lot of people in the communities we visited taking their wares to the market,” Corinne says. “It’s something we hope will be possible for a family we can help.”

Kathy and Corinne are part of a world-shaping movement that knows no boundaries. From Ottawa to India, Peru, and beyond, they’re working to support educational opportunities for children - because every child should have the chance for a full life wherever they live.