MAKE A GIFT TO PROTECT THE ONLY BEAR IN SOUTH AMERICA
The tools of an artist are spread across the table – a spool of thread, wool in different hues curled beside a foam block. With a puff of white wool in her left hand and a needle in her right, Corina begins to felt. With each poke of her needle into the wool, there is a tiny transformation.
Just like this wool will be shaped into something beautiful, the Felti Program has shaped Corina’s life in a way she couldn’t have imagined.
Born and raised in Batan Grande, the home of SBC’s conservation center, Corina learned to knit when she was a child. She remembers being drawn to the beautiful colors of the wool. Her family home, where she still lives today, is a short walk from the Leche River. The Leche irrigates the expanse of agriculture in the valley – lentils, yucca, sugarcane, corn, mango trees.
In rural Peru, it was typical for girls’ education to be limited. Women in this region were taught their role was to raise children, manage their households, and work in the fields. But Corina always knew she wanted something more for herself and often dreamed of being part of something bigger. When she finished school, Corina bravely left home in search of new opportunities. She worked in coffee plantations, planted rice, and eventually found work with the government. But life brought her back to Batan Grande in 2006.
As in most rural communities, there was limited employment for men and no opportunities for women. Motivated by her fighting spirit and love of textiles, Corina supported herself by making and teaching embroidery. She was also concerned about the social injustice she observed in her small community. She became actively involved in bringing government attention to the need for clean potable water and other basics.
But one Saturday afternoon in 2010 changed Corina’s life.
She had heard of SBC’s work to protect spectacled bears and wanted to be involved, so she attended the official opening of the conservation center. She learned an alternative livelihood program was starting. The first needle-felting workshop was full, but Corina wasn’t discouraged. She volunteered with SBC and met with the artisans to learn more about the felting process.
In 2012, she was thrilled to be invited to the second workshop. Needle-felting came naturally to her after so much experience with textiles. After four years as an artisan, Corina joined SBC as Felti coordinator to manage training and quality control for the growing program. With her income, she was able to pay for her son’s education.
When SBC expanded the Felti program into high-elevation indigenous villages, Corina’s natural talent as a teacher began to shine. Ever since, she has led the workshops for new artisans. She also pours her creativity into designing new products, which are often animals she has never seen, such as sea otters from North America and pangolins from Africa.
In 2019, Corina was recognized as a Disney Conservation Hero for her commitment to the Felti program. She loves knowing that Felti not only supports conservation but is a benefit for other women in the program. This inspires her deeply and is evident in her work each day.
“The Felti program has changed my life, made me a strong fighter and an independent woman,” Corina says. “The group of people I work with is excellent. They really are like part of my family. Thanks to the program I have also experienced other communities with different customs and traditions, which I respect and love very much. My motto is: Work with love.”
Changing lives and building community, this is the power of Felti.