by Sandi Watson 

Have you ever seen a llama or alpaca up close? They are beautiful animals, with their big eyes, flirty eyelashes, long legs, and soft fleece.

alpacas in Pacchanta, Peru April 2010

For the Heifer project families who raise them, llamas and alpacas are also tremendously useful. After turning the fleece into yarn, families can create blankets, hats, ponchos, and other items. During our volunteers study tour in Peru, we learned that these beautiful weavings are also part of a rich cultural heritage. Special symbols such as condors, alpacas, mountains, and rivers honor Mother Earth.

Sometimes white fibers are dyed, using inks made from local plants. Other times, the weavers use only the naturally occurring colors – rich browns, pale taupes, creamy whites.

All these hand-crafted pieces are an important source of income for the families.

Llamas thrive at high altitudes, as we saw when we visited Pacchanta (over 13,000 feet above sea level). They are nimble and strong, able to carry loads to market. And because they are related to camels, they don’t need much water.

The next time you need a fun gift for a loved one, consider giving a llama in your beloved’s name. The person you honor will be thrilled and you’ll make a tremendous difference in the lives of the people who receive your gift!

This post originally appeared on the Heifer in Boston volunteer blog.

Author

Maegan Clark

Maegan Clark loves social media even more than Southern sweet tea. She is currently pursuing her master’s in public administration and has a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a specialized study in public relations. Since working at Heifer, she has deepened her appreciation for the urgency with which we must end global hunger and poverty.